CLIMATE change became a talking point nearly 30 years ago. So why are we still arguing whether it’s real or not?
The evidence is pretty irrefutable, see NASA’s temperature graph below. Yet, people still seem to think this is a political talking point that they can choose not to acknowledge as an emergency, calling it one of the extremes – either an “overreaction” or a “hopeless situation”, neither of which are productive responses.
While many of these deniers are adults who likely won’t live to see the extreme effects of the climate change, we’re happy to report, fortunately for the planet, children and young people are stepping up in their place.
Recently teenaged climate activist, Greta Thunberg – best known for her school strike for climate in front of the Swedish parliament – addressed the French parliament, asking them to “unite behind the science” of climate change. “You don’t have to listen to us, but you do have to listen to the science,” she said.
Asian countries lead the charge
Thanks to a revolutionary new law, students in the Philippines must now plant a minimum of 10 trees in order to graduate from high school or college. With nearly 5million students graduating high school and nearly 500,000 graduating college annually, this means at least 175million trees would be planted each year.
In a country with two-thirds of the population under the age of 20 and the lowest GDP in ASEAN, this has not held Cambodia back from tackling the climate crisis. Climate change and environmental policies have been expanded within earth science curricula to teach secondary school students about “key approaches and technologies to adapt to the impacts of climate change and to reduce emissions of greenhouse effects”. Universities are also incorporating the topic into programmes and encouraging research.
Across India, schools and governments are finding innovative ways to combat the effects of climate change and inculcate new behaviours to slow the impending consequences of human activity on the environment.
Students from Ooty Government Arts College in Tamil Nadu, announced last month that they would celebrate birthdays by planting trees rather than elaborate parties.
Planting trees is now a pre-requisite for graduation at state-run engineering colleges in Rajasthan. Students will plant the tree upon joining the university and nurture it until graduation. They have also instituted mandatory volunteer hours for students to work with the college, utilising the skills they are being taught to contribute to rainwater harvesting and other methods to replenish the groundwater table.
School fees at Akshar school in Guwahati, Assam, are paid solely in plastic waste. Students must bring at least 25 plastic materials each week, which are then recycled into eco-bricks to be used in construction projects across campus. They have also incorporated solar technology with physics and other eco-friendly ideas in their unique, skills-building curriculum.
Climate movement small but strong
In North of Tyne, England, a newly elected mayor declared a climate emergency on his first day in office and announced that his first order of business was to “put a UN-accredited climate change teacher in every state-funded primary and secondary school, making his region the first in the world to do so”.
In 2017, the USDA signed a memorandum of understanding with Future Farmers of America that committed to working collaboratively to connect young people with agriculture. According to EcoWatch, “the movement to institute required agriculture classes in American public schools is small, but strong”.
A new three-year pilot project launching in Georgia, USA, will start with 20 elementary schools that will incorporate lessons on where food comes from, plant and animal science, environmental conservation, and the agricultural industry into their curricula.
Supporters call it “a great start towards making sure that the next generation understands what agriculture is, so they can continue taking it forward”.
Hoping to make a dent in the 450,000 megatons of plastic dumped in Lagos’s waters annually and reduce the number of school dropouts, a school in this Nigerian city, lets parents and students collect plastic bottles and recyclables to help cover school fees. They, in turn, sell the waste to a social enterprise, Wecyclers, who converts it to reusable products.
SRADev Nigeria, a non-profit thinktank on environmental issues, praises the initiative for incentivising Nigerians to recycle and raising awareness of how doing something good for the environment can also generate income.
-by Micah Branaman-Sharma