VIEWS & OPINION Education in an age of

protest Comment by FELICIA JACKSON, Chair of the Learn2Think Foundation

Coverage of Greta Thunberg and other young activists has pushed the thorny issue of young people’s role in climate action to the top of the agenda. They will be most affected by the decisions we make today, yet they have no say in the agreements that are made. 2020 has been called a ‘Super Year’

for increased ambition across governments and across society and

nations are being asked to submit enhanced national climate plans known as NDCs under the formal UN process. Climate is an intergenerational challenge of awesome proportions and one that will not be solved by a short term technological fix but rather requires a long-term socio-economic behavioral change. This means, many experts believe, that there is great urgency to

increase the coverage, depth and quality of climate education if a new generation is to cope with the challenges of climate and environmental change that are rapidly emerging world-wide. Linking environmental education with civic education is a way of

linking teaching to real experiences and could prove a powerful response to children and citizens around the world who are agitating for action. The importance of a change in our overall thinking and praxis could underpin a step-change in the need for action on climate change. Yet climate is taught in a piecemeal fashion and what does exist

is hidden in different silos across science, geography, history, social and more. Environmental literacy used to be a big deal - in the US in the 70’s it was considered critical as part of national security. Today however, education around the world uses different facts and figures dependent on political affiliation. The challenges children face are too important for this not to be

addressed. Nick Nuttall, Strategic Communications Director at the Earth Day Network warns that we have already lost a couple of generations since the original introduction of environmental education and says, “Don’t lose more to muddled thinking and incoherent information.” As it stands, few countries offer climate education at a level

sufficient to support long term change. There is however a critical momentum building, with both Italy and Mexico having announced that climate education will become compulsory in 2020. In Mexico it has even been added to the constitution, putting its implementation beyond the political cycles of government. In December 2019 at the Madrid climate negotiations, the Earth Day Network, the UN, education NGOs and such countries announced plans to promote the idea that all countries adopt compulsory climate education. Italy’s Minster of Education Lorenzo Fioramonti said that rather

than teaching students about isolated subjects, climate education should encourage students to think in systems. “We need more and more systems thinkers and fewer erudites who know very well one thing but completely ignore all the rest,” said Fioramonti. “[Education is] about connecting knowledge and being able to see the interconnections across different types of knowledge.” In the UK, where the next climate change conference is to be

held in Glasgow in late 2020, it’s something that all educators should keep in mind. Nuttall said plans should be in place by Earth Day 22nd April so that by the Glasgow negotiations in 2020 all countries will have adopted this as a critical outcome and central to addressing climate change. If that plan succeeds, it’ll be time to rethink the way that we teach as well as the way that we think.

Editor’s Choice 2020 Tolerance in a time of

coronavirus Comment by FELICIA JACKSON, Chair of the Learn2Think Foundation

At Learn2Think, much of the work we do through our Tolerance Day programme is around understanding how to prevent conflict, the importance of mutual understanding and dialogue. This ability to feel and express empathy is a vital human skill, never more important that when the world is facing a crisis like COVID-19, which lays bare the inequities of our current system.

Earlier this year the World Economic Forum warned that the global

economy was at risk. In an economic mindset where growth is the one and only goal, the WEF warned that the world faces many challenges. The report said, “climate change is striking harder and more rapidly than expected, and a fragmented cyber space threatens the full potential of next generation technologies — all while citizens worldwide protest political and economic conditions, and voice concerns about systems that exacerbate inequality. The challenges before us demand immediate collective action, but fractures within the global community appear to only be widening.”

Those fractures, the separation between the haves and the have

not’s, those with access to healthcare or not, those with legal residency or not, are worsened when people have no empathy, no tolerance for others. The ‘otherisation’ of those outside one’s own social group is the first step, and the placing of blame another. In the US, the president has been calling COVID 19 the Chinese virus, while Chinese media have reported rumours that the virus was brought to China by the US military.

What matters here is not who is to blame. Global pandemics

appear in cycles and warning of our unpreparedness was released in a study as recently as September 2019. Given the encroachment of humanity into nature, it’s not surprising that a new disease has taken hold. What does matter is how we respond to it. Does the US rethink a model which leaves 26 million without access to healthcare? Do the world’s top 1% think about the redistribution of some of their wealth? Will pharma giants like Gilead be stopped from profiteering during this global blight?

With around 20% of the global population under quarantine and

up to 40% under restrictions, and potentially millions of people around the world now unemployed, we need to work together more than ever. This has been recognised to an extent by governments, who are putting economic stimulus in place to ensure that work continues for as many as possible. There has been a recognition that our societies are interconnected and interdependent, as are our economies. What the coronovirus crisis has highlighted is that if people can’t pay their rent, buy food, service debt, pay bills, the economy will collapse. Money runs throughout the economy like water through an ecosystem – if one part of that system fails, then a cascade effect can occur. What we need to do is ensure that every member of society is taken care of.

The first step towards taking care of each other is ensuring that we

value each other. That means empathy and that means tolerance – giving to others the rights we demand for ourselves. We stand at a pivotal point in our development as a global society and it’s important that we move forward in the right way. A focus on what we have in common, from responding to emergencies, doing no harm and building a peaceful future together, can transform the way our societies work. Mutual understanding and dialogue underpin a better world. 19

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