There have been some recent demonstrations by young people, pupils and students, who are taking radical action to make their feelings about climate change and the politics surrounding it, known to the wider public. In particular, the lack of priority the government – and educational policies – give to this vital issue.
They are drawing attention to how strongly they feel by striking from schools and lessons, in line with their contemporaries across Europe and Australia.
The young people are demanding that the seriousness of climate change, and the time we have left to alter its course, be acknowledged and immediate changes in politics and education reform are undertaken to address it.
Some people have criticised their demonstrations as unnecessarily dramatic and disruptive. For example, Damian Hinds, the education secretary, was reported to have said that they shouldn’t be neglecting their education by striking from lessons. But the irony of these remarks is not lost on the youngsters who believe their education will be of little use in a world that is struggling to survive.
However there are many others, celebrities included, who support their actions, the naturalist and presenter Chris Packham, environmentalist George Monbiot (who wrote about it here), and the green MP Caroline Lucas among them.
There exists a general atmosphere of disrespect by many in our society towards the views and feelings of young people simply because of their youth and inexperience. And there have been inevitable comments about the youngsters using it as an excuse for skipping lessons. However, it seems obvious that there could be no lesson more vital than the understanding of this important issue and how everyone needs to contribute to a solution.
It also seems acutely ironic that the current generation of adults who created the problem of climate change in the first place, are criticising attempts to try and rectify it by the generation who are going to suffer for it.
As with any protesters and strikers in our history there will be plenty of criticism and derision aimed at these pupils and students. Even more so simply because they are young, which many of the older generation wrongly interpret as meaning inferior. But if these young people manage to ignite real change in ways which we who have caused it have so far been unable to, then maybe we should be supporting them.
Skipping lessons for a day will not harm their overall educational development, a situation which they’ve been threatened with. In fact believing in a course of action, being involved and doing the research that goes with it, is more likely to develop intelligence and consequently educational achievement, along with various life skills. However, it might harm scores in schools which often seem of more political importance than the dire consequence of polluting the planet to extinction which is where we’re heading.
So, whether parents or teachers, we’ll need to decide how, and if, we want to support the youngsters and look more honestly at our responses to their actions within the wider context of the kind of planet we’ll be leaving for them in our wake.
Climate change, and how we are all responsible for altering its course, is a real and pressing issue the seriousness of which we all need educating about, however young the people doing the educating are!
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