How do we inspire young people to respond to climate change?
February 4, 2013 at 1:01 pm #4311
There was a time when a large portion of the American nation rose up and roared . . . against the war in Viet Nam. Hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated in cities from San Francisco to Boston. Universities were shut down, so that students could attend seminars on Vietnamese history, the weapons industry, and the university’s investment portfolio. Song after song rose to the top of the charts, denouncing war.
Today, when the complex catastrophe of climate change is about to dumped into the laps of young people around the world . . . we hear barely a peep. Europe has installed roughly 1,500 offshore wind turbines, an enterprise which created a multitude of long-lasting jobs. America has installed zero offshore wind turbines and worries about unemployment . . . but there is barely a stir in the universities.
If the older generation–Congress, the captains of industry, the Woodstock generation–were going to rise to the challenges of climate change, they would have by now. We are still taking baby steps, when we need huge bold strides.
Only the young generation, the ones who will live with a century of hurricanes and droughts and desperate refugees, can tackle these challenges. But their enormous energy, their bright minds, their sense of fairness and justice, and their determination to build a better world . . . remain all but dormant. Having spent a lifetime as a teacher, in America, the Caribbean, Norway and Russia, I have great respect for the first global generation in human history. But I wonder: How many more summers of record heat must we endure, before all that talent, and outrage, finally change the course of the 21st century.
I want to hear those young people ROAR. I want to hear their plans for where we will be by mid-century, and by the year 2100. I want to listen to the dreams of clean energy engineers; I want to listen to the dreams of architects of peace. I want to hear their music, from songs to symphonies, quickening our heartbeats.
But this time, a movement from San Francisco to Boston will not be enough. Global challenges require global solutions. I know from my experience in many classrooms that the kids in the Caribbean are ready; the kids in Norway are ready; the kids in Russia are ready; the kids in India and Nepal and Viet Nam are ready.
At some point, as the result of some spark, they are going to begin. They know, despite their quietude now, that they face a choice: to live through unprecedented catastrophe, or to create an unprecedented renaissance.
As the Creator set no limits to his own creativity, so he set no limits to ours.
Thus I ask, and welcome your thoughts: How do we inspire young people to respond to climate change? How can we best enable them to create a future that is not the lingering wreckage of the 20th century, but an entirely new way of living together with each other and the Earth, in the 21st century?
How do we let young people know that the greatest adventure in all of human history . . . is waiting for them to begin?
Stanford B.A. 1969, PhD in literature, 1974
Author of “Climate Change and the Oceans”
- This topic was modified 8 years, 4 months ago by Erika Gavenus.
February 6, 2013 at 1:31 pm #4337Jose AgutoMember
Hi Mr. Slade,
The following two people might have good responses to your question.
Valerie Serrels, Associate Director, Kids vs. Global Warming, firstname.lastname@example.org
Adam Greenberg, UNFCCC COP18 Youth Delegate | SustainUS http://www.sustainus.org | http://www.youthclimate.org, email@example.com
March 19, 2013 at 8:19 pm #4489Claudia Perry-BeltrameMember
From small things, big things grow. Reconnect with your students and call them to action. The students would already know and trust you. As an Associate you have an interest in this topic and having student trust means you could take the lead.
March 20, 2013 at 10:37 pm #4505
Thank you for roaring. I write to you from northern Norway and can hear you across the sea in England.
Every great movement began when people themselves disrupted the flow of daily life. Gandhi encouraged people to use their spinning wheels and make their own clothing, rather than buy material from England. The American Civil Rights movement poured out of a church and marched up the street. The war in Viet Nam was stopped by thousand of people who marched.
At some point, your generation will say, “Enough with oil. Enough with coal. We want clean energy, and the jobs that come abundantly with clean energy.” You will pour out into the streets, and only electric and hybrid cars will be allowed to pass on that day. So it begins.
Thank you, Bryan. Please keep roaring. Your country is building offshore wind turbines in great quantities, and that is excellent.
Very grateful for your thoughts, John
March 20, 2013 at 10:48 pm #4507
Thank you very much for your thoughts. You are exactly right about working with students.
As an author, I write for students and their generation. I weave research into fiction, with young characters in various places around the world. With these books, I hope to reach beyond one classroom. When this global generation responds together and acts together, the world will leap forward and become a much better place.
You might look at “Climate Change and the Oceans” at http://www.johnsladebooks.com All of the characters are at first young: a teenage girl, a student in New York, a veteran just back from the war in Iraq, a young mother from the Maldive Islands. We then meet them twenty years later in a changing world.
Thank you, Claudia. I am very grateful for your thoughts.
May 5, 2013 at 3:07 pm #4803Ezra NiesenMember
Here’s a good article I just found, about why it’s so hard to get young Americans to respond to anything: http://www.filmsforaction.org/news/8_reasons_young_americans_dont_fight_back_how_the_us_crushed_youth_resistance/
May 6, 2013 at 5:41 am #4813
Thank you, Ezra. I teach in Norway and in Russia, where students are entirely different from American students. They are polite and motivated, and very aware of the world outside of their own countries.
May 6, 2013 at 10:19 am #4815Ezra NiesenMember
I’m pretty disappointed by education in the U.S. I have a video on my website about how 10 scientific discoveries make up the philosophical foundation of the Occupy! movement, and make up the foundation of a unified education system. Also on my website I have the text of a book I wrote in which I expand upon those concepts. www.newbookforanewworld.org
One way I can see to make ideas in the U.S. evolve is to start an educational revolution somewhere else in the world.
May 8, 2013 at 2:01 pm #4823
I have looked at your website and am glad to tell you that I visited the Occupy site in New York while it was still flourishing. I was heartened. I went to college in California during the vibrant period, 1967-1973, when Occupy movements were everywhere.
Your thought in your post is exactly right: “to start an educational revolution somewhere else in the world.” I am a teacher who has taught in the United States, the Caribbean, Norway (including on the tundra with the Sami reindeer people), and Russia. I would encourage you to read about the educational system in Finland, and even to visit Finland if you can. They are decades ahead of us, with extremely successful schools.
Keep speaking, Ezra. Your country needs your voice.
May 17, 2013 at 8:47 am #4857Earl BabbieMember
I think we need to reframe the term “challenge” in reference to climate change. At present, it is probably heard as a threat to the quality of our lives, an obstacle that will be difficult to overcome. Although that is, of course, true, I think we can frame the challenge of climate change as an opportunity for brilliant creativity that will make the quality of life on the planet even better, which is also true. Young people (of all ages) should respond more enthusiastically to the latter view of the challenge we face. And they could get excited about a life with renewable energy, smaller, sustainable populations, adequate food supplies, etc.
May 18, 2013 at 5:53 pm #4859
You are absolutely right, that young people must see the challenges as exciting opportunities. I am just finishing a novel in which two sixteen-year-olds view the world with their young eyes. They are honest about the challenges, but immensely excited about the opportunities. Johan Erik, a boy who lives on an island above the polar circle in Northern Norway (where I have lived) has been out on his grandfather’s fishing boat since he was a little kid. He is very aware of the melting polar ice cap and other changes in the northern sea. Rashida, a girl who fled the war in Syria with her mother and brother, becomes a refugee in Norway, in the same village. Like Johan Erik, she is passionate about wanting to build a better world. The find each other, and the story takes off.
I have been a teacher of English in the United States, the Caribbean, Norway and Russia, and have deep faith in the young generation (and little faith in my own generation).
Take a look at http://www.johnsladebooks.com especially the YouTubes, “Who is John Slade?” You will find the positive guy that you so rightly asked for in your comment.
Thank you, Earl.
May 30, 2013 at 9:03 pm #5275Sean RooneyMember
It may be too late to expect much from American youth. US university students now shoulder a $trillion in tuition debt; unemployment in the 18-24 year demograhic is above 20 per cent and above 30 per cent in many ethnic comunities. Naionwide, income inequality has never been worse and it’s growing worse by the day; the top two per cent now control nearly half the wealth and take in 2/3 of all income. Four heirs to the Walmart fortune hold more wealth than the entire bottom half of the population.
All that comes out of Washington is petty political bickering in a very mean spirited milieu, certainly enough to turn most youth off. Heck, it turs me off and I’m an adult! The Occupy movement was met with police state tactics at nearly every turn and now seems to have disappeared. After all that pepper spray, can we blame them?
The antiwar movement in the mid-60’s and early 70’s didn’t spring up from nothing, it was an outgrowth of the Civil Rights movmennt of the early 60’s and itself spawned the environmental movement, which thrives today. The youth of today have no precedents to call upon or to emerge from. Many of them have been dumbed down and have retreated into computer gaming, gang bangiing, drug abuse and have been captured by an exceedingly selfish “me, me, me” attitude, the social awareness of a lower class monkey.
I read two or three days ago about four teenagers who were killed when driving at high speed in Newport Beach, California, went off the road and hit a tree, which broke their Lexus in half and set it afire. Utter irresponsbility. Utter waste. Utter stupidity and neglact. They thought they were “exceptional.” It’s hard to generalize the condition of youth in a country like America, in which people under 20 years of age make up over a quarter of the population (27.3%), which works out to be about 86 million youth. Many of them are socially conscious and aware and engaged in one way or another with progressive movements, they just don’t ever get any media attention to speak of. But there’s no national organization or even a loose coalition such as we had in the Vietnam era.
Leadership is sorely lacking. We had Dr. King and H. Rap Brown and Stokely Carmicael and Cezar Chavez and Joan Baez and Bob Dylan and Neil Young, and a host of others. Today? Pretty close to zero. Youth need heroes, people they can admire and emulate and point to. But in their hour of need, they are largely absent. Justin Beiber isn’t him.
At least we still have Willy, Springsteen, Dylan, and Mick Jagger, and Paul too in his way. The last half-decent role model in America was probably Garth Brooks or Joe Montana, both of whom have disappeared from the radar screen now.
Our only hope is that perhaps before it’s too late, some leaders will arise to spark our youth into the rebellion they need to take on if were to stand a ghost of a chance of finding our way to some kind of decent solutions to what ails us.
- This reply was modified 8 years ago by Sean Rooney.
May 31, 2013 at 4:02 am #5279jack willardMember
“Europe has installed roughly 1,500 offshore wind turbines”
That’s all nice and every thing but our main problem is storing all this energy, many Australians have solar (due to our rebates), much like other countries. We feed it back into the grid, but most of that is lost. Our government continues to increase the amount of coal burnt each year, i fear we in Australia will never overcome to strength and ‘money’ in the mining industry, as you might know we have quiet the boom over here with the mining. I myself am just a 1st year university student (Environment Science and Management) i want to work under mining not for the money but for habitat rehabilitation, many mining operation still have decades of old problems with their environments, however this is not what i wish to argue (just a little about myself).
perhaps you might know someone to contact about Australia’s hope, or the global hope for energy storage, i’m only 20 years old and i worked in electrics for a year full time (40 hours weeks) I know our battery technology is crap, even at its best and we really need to push for better battery technology…
June 6, 2013 at 5:55 pm #5597
Hello Sean Rooney,
Thank you for your long and thoughtful letter. I am 66 and deeply glad that I was in college in California from 1967 to 1973, when people were truly engaged in the big challenges, from the war in Viet Nam to the first Earth Day in 1971.
You are absolutely right that we had leaders, primarily in the Civil Rights Movement, but also in the American Indian Movement, Women’s Liberation, Black Power, and the early Earth Day movement. The days were rich and vibrant, whereas now, America is limp.
As a teacher of English (PhD in literature, Stanford, 1974), I left the dreary American classrooms to teach first in the Caribbean, then in Norway and Russia. What a vibrant difference! I worked with students who were motivated, polite, aware of the world.
Now I am just polishing a novel written not for the American audience, but for the young generation around the world. The two main characters are both 16 years old: Johan Erik, a Norwegian boy who lives in a fishing village on an island north of the polar circle, and Rashida, a Syrian girl who has fled the war in Syria and is now a refugee in Norway. They look at our world today with the eyes of two highly motivated 16-year-olds. I hope to reach the young generation in Russia, in China, in Brazil, in Syria; the Americans will be the last to bother looking at such a story.
Thank you again for your letter, Sean. If you ever have the opportunity, spend a couple of weeks in Norway: it is a different planet, and your soul will be profoundly refreshed. the same is true of Ireland in the field of clean energy; little Ireland is one of the countries leading the world in wind turbines.
June 6, 2013 at 6:03 pm #5599
Hello Jack Willard,
Thank you for your letter. You have two callings, Jack: habitat rehabilitation and clean energy batteries. Good for you!
I suggest some online research into companies and organizations which are working with advanced batteries. Do not limit yourself geographically as you search. Consider Europe, especially northern Europe, where so much is happening now. (America is still bumbling along without government support and with huge resistance from the oil and coal companies.) Japan would be closer to home for you. Look for a company that would help you to continue your education while you work. You sound like a person who would greatly enjoy spending the day with a team of vibrant professionals.
Please keep me posted, Jack, on your progress.
June 7, 2013 at 7:10 am #5601
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