Is teaching sustainability in schools important?
5 Minute Read
Wanna hear something f***ed up?
Learning this little fun fact literally made my blood boil. And I’ve begun to shift not only the type of educational materials I’m creating, but also who I’m focusing those materials on. At the beginning of this year, I started to divert more of my focus towards teaching sustainability in schools.
Last year, I was binging on one of my favorite climate podcasts. And as I dove into the season on “The ABCs of Big Oil“, I started to learn about how the fossil fuel industry had been subtly putting pro-fossil fuel propaganda into the US school system for about a century. And I’m not just talking about little tidbits here and there. I’m talking about kindergarten all the way through higher education.
In addition to that, fossil fuel lobbyists have played a heavy hand in removing climate education from schools throughout the country. One could argue that “climate change is the defining issue of this century, but in 30 states, climate change doesn’t show up in any civics class” (Drilled).
When I was in school, we learned about science, hypotheses, data, and experimentation. It wasn’t politicized. It wasn’t questioned. On the contrary, it was a method that helped you get to the truth.
And it blows my mind that questioning something as basic and fact-based as science is even a thing these days. But when you have big corporations subtly and strategically planting seeds to sway people from a young (sponge-like) age, it’s no wonder we’re in such a state of climate denial. This is short-term linear thinking at its best. And it’s a complete disregard for the future and well-being of the people who live on this planet.
But there’s more. . .
Sustainability in higher education:
Did you know that some of the biggest climate research programs, like the ones at MIT, Stanford, and Harvard, are largely funded by fossil fuel companies? Know why? Because they can control the narrative, what gets out, and what stays locked deep inside their big fat pockets. And what’s so messed up is that people look to these institutions for information because they believe they’re doing research with integrity. But just like most things in our capitalist society, anything and anyone can be bought.
With all this in mind, I can’t just stand by and let the big boys control the narrative. And by narrative, I’m talking about facts. You know, those things that used to have objectivity behind them? Just in case you’ve also forgotten what “fact” is, here’s the definition: “something that is known to have happened or to exist, especially something for which proof exists” (Cambridge Dictionary).
Ok, so now that we know what facts are again. Let’s talk about why it’s so important to have sustainability education embedded into our school system. The fact is: climate change is already happening. And we’re all gonna have to adapt. But before we can adapt, we have to acknowledge that there’s a problem and that problem is going to affect everyone. Which is why we’re gonna need all hands on deck and it’s why sustainability education programs need to be implemented at all levels.
We need to be teaching sustainability in primary schools. We need to be teaching sustainability in high schools. Heck, we even need to be teaching sustainability to preschoolers. I’m serious! It may sound extreme, but we need to be building a future generation that’s prepped with the knowledge, education, and creative problem-solving skills to tackle the climate crisis from all angles.
We need to equip teachers with hands-on sustainability activities that are engaging to their students. And we need to offer sustainability lesson plans that are steeped in fact, but also in hope. There are so many ways to solve climate change and we need all of them. We need the industrial composting, the carbon capture technology, and the regenerative agriculture. And we need to get the entire planet to shift towards a circular economy.
We need it all. And there’s no magic bullet.
So, what’s the first step? For me, it’s actively getting sustainability education in schools. And that first step has involved building out a course to educate students on why it’s so important for them to care about sustainability and climate change. Think about it. . .
In the past few years, have you (or someone you know) experienced any forest fires, droughts, water shortages, flooding, extreme heatwaves, intense hurricanes, or ice storms? Think those are just a coincidence? Think again. This is our new reality and we need to start tackling the problem and adapting from the ground up.
Environmental sustainability education is crucial for us to adapt as a species. And it’s important for us to implement that education at all levels, from preschool all the way through higher education. The kids of today need to be objectively educated when it comes to sustainability in order to actively adapt to climate change and to have the tools to create structural change: from the government to big corporations, to global organizations like the UN.
And we need to start by counteracting the century-long effort of fossil fuel companies to create a narrative that climate change isn’t real or important. Climate change is real. And it’s steeped in fact. So let’s bring fact and data back to the forefront of how we evaluate the world and what the next best step is.