Labour is right: it’s crucial that children are taught about climate breakdown in school

(The Guardian, 24 May 2019) Today I am climate striking with my pupils. This policy puts the greatest threat to their future at the heart of their learning.

It’s no longer possible to deny or ignore: we are in a climate crisis. The truth of the emergency announces itself regularly in our papers, on our phones, tablets and TVs. A headline about the world’s leading scientists declares millions will suffer drought, floods and be plunged into deeper poverty if carbon emissions aren’t halved by 2030 and global heating remains within 1.5C. Another reports that climate breakdown will likely increase the destructive power of storms like Cyclone Idai, which devastated Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe earlier this year – 2 million people were affected by what, according to the UN, may be the southern hemisphere’s worst weather-related disaster. And yet another reveals the destruction of coral reefs while calculating that 1 million species already face extinction. The silver lining, however tarnished, is that now we can do away with the noxious denial that has brought us to the edge of this precipice.

This week the Labour party has announced that it will make the climate crisis a compulsory element of education from primary onwards. It is one example of how our leaders can be proactive in the face of catastrophe. It is the kind of forward thinking that acknowledges the energy young people have brought to our streets. A generation frustrated with umming and ahing from those who really should know better but refuse to accept the woods are burning around them (literally in some cases), have begun to act for themselves. They came to the conclusion that the adults running the show would continue to drag their feet. And who could blame them?

In the same week the UK experienced its hottest ever winter day, only a handful of MPs bothered to attend a Commons debate on climate breakdown, one inspired by the thousands of schoolchildren who had gone on strike to protest about the climate crisis weeks earlier.

Labour’s policy highlights how little credit we have given the young thus far. An emergency that threatens their futures is not as readily taught as the history of the Tudors. In the yawning silence, young people like the Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, and an estimated 1.4 million students across 150 countries who lead the school strike movement, have created momentum. Their resilience and resourcefulness has made the argument a simple one: human activity is choking our planet. In place of the deep inertia that has lead us here, the young have created an inventive rebellion.

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The Guardian, 24 May 2019: Labour is right: it’s crucial that children are taught about climate breakdown in school