Children already have the facts. Now they need the tools to fix the climate crisis

(The Guardian, 16 Sep 2021) A recent poll has shown that young people are justifiably anxious about the future of the planet, but also hopeful

There was a rare nugget of hope in the assorted news and polling on the climate crisis last week: 18- to 24-year-olds in Britain are the most optimistic that the planet is still salvageable, with 73% agreeing with the statement presented by YouGov: “We are still able to avoid the worst effects of climate change, but it would need a drastic change in the steps taken to tackle it, and fast.” Only two-thirds of older cohorts held the same view.

Young people’s positive outlook stands in contrast to the actual state of the environment, to which they are extremely attuned: sure enough, the under-30s are much more worried about the climate than any other generation. While, overall, the differences don’t look stark – three-quarters of the young versus two-thirds of those over 65 fall under the umbrella “worried” – twice as many young people as any other cohort described themselves as “very worried”. We should note one quirk of the fieldwork: “very” was the strongest word in the poll. Who knows what depths of anxiety would have been uncovered if the poll had included “extremely worried” or “climbing the wall”. This generation, lacking a retiree’s capacity for denial, has the clearest sense of what its crisis-ridden future might look like. So these young people have to believe that environmental collapse can be averted. The alternative is despair.

It ought to continually surprise us to see very young teenagers engaging in direct climate action, such as school strikes across the globe, and even younger children trying to change their diets to minimise their carbon footprints. Yet political awakenings now happen earlier and earlier. This is not an accident or a consequence of “wokeness”: these anxieties are the unremarkable result of education, of curricula that diligently scope anthropogenic climate crisis and chart its course.

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The Guardian, 16 Sep 2021: Children already have the facts. Now they need the tools to fix the climate crisis