UK Teens Tired Of Waiting For Climate Education, So They Drafted A Law To Require It
British high school students would very much like to have a human-friendly planet when they're older, thank you very much. So instead of just waiting for Parliament to finally get funkadelic with teaching about climate in the nation's schools, they've produced their own bill that would mandate a climate education program and other steps to make sure their voices are included in UK climate policy. Seems a reasonable demand, since they and their kids will be living with the consequences of decisions being made right now.
The "Teach the Future" campaign was launched by 17-year-old Joe Brindle, who the Guardian reports "is preparing for his A-levels in Devizes, Wiltshire" — which we believe has something to do with graduating from wizarding school. Brindle's motivation is pretty straightforward: He says he's "angry about the injustice that is allowing the most vulnerable people in the world to suffer from the actions of the richest and most powerful."
Isn't that just typical of the selfishness of youth? Not a single bit of empathy for investors in fossil fuel companies.
But, what with kids these days being incredibly smart and able to network like crazy, the climate education bill that Teach the Future put together isn't just some little let's put-on-a-show-in-the-old-barn petition signed by angry teens. Hell nah. The group ran a successful crowdfunding campaign to hire a "professional parliamentary draftsperson," which is how legislation gets written in countries that don't have the Koch brothers (or brother, we guess) and ALEC to block climate legislation.
Brindle told the Guardian it's all about presenting a serious proposal and being taken seriously:
"We didn't want our demands to be half met, so we thought we'd show them exactly what we want," says Brindle. Hiring an experienced drafter was a nifty move to quash any notion that young people's ideas are unworthy of serious consideration. Brindle hopes the bill will be taken forward by the government, "or it could be a private members bill".
It all sounds like a remarkably savvy strategy to at least blunt some of the inevitable "what do stupid teens even know" reaction that crops up whenever the Right is reminded that Greta Thunberg exists.
Later this month, the bill will be formerly introduced by Nadia Whittome, who appropriately enough is the UK's youngest member of Parliament. Beyond the proposed legislation, Teach the Future has a list of six demands for action, starting with a call for a
government commissioned review into how the whole of the English formal education system is preparing students for the climate emergency and ecological crisis.
In addition, the group wants the climate emergency to be included in all teacher training, and for all new public school buildings to have a net carbon-zero footprint starting in 2022. After that, all parts of the UK's education infrastructure should be retrofitted to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2030. Teach the Future also identifies several ways to boost youth voices in the debate over how to address climate; the group also has a more complete description of its "asks" in this document, which is a hell of a lot more detailed and clearly written than most official press statements from the White House since 2017. Almost makes me wish I was teaching college writing again, because it's a hell of a good written argument.
The Guardian piece also looks at what other UK educators are doing to get climate into the schools, particularly a group of educators allied with the Extinction Rebellion youth movement, as well as a thoroughly pathetic response from the Conservative government's Department for Education:
The DfE says it understands the importance of students learning about climate change and "relevant topics are included in the national curriculum for both primary and secondary schools". However, when asked if there were plans for new guidance, a spokesperson could offer nothing specific.
And just as virtually all the Democratic presidential candidates in the US have been pledging to make climate central to all policy considerations in their administrations, Brindle says he doesn't want climate education to be shunted off into a specialized course of study for secondary students:
Rather than pushing this aside so that only a handful of students learn about it, we should be making it a key aspect of all parts of education.
We don't just want future ecologists to understand sustainability. We want bankers, builders and everyone else to consider it in everything they do.
Hell of a fine young man, you ask us. And young people like Joe Brindle and his young American counterparts in the climate strike movement are going to need all their networking and communication skills, because the pushback from friends of dirty energy will be intense. Today, the rightwing super PAC "America Rising" launched an effort to frighten Americans about the Green New Deal, saying it would eliminate "8,000,000 jobs," which sounds scary, at least until you consider the National Climate Assessment's forecast that if we keep burning fossil fuels at current rates, the US GDP will drop ten percent by the end of the century, with losses of "hundreds of billions of dollars per year" in property and infrastructure. Plus, there's the whole thing where the whole point of the Green New Deal is about job creation and strengthening workers' rights.
By contrast, the US Department of Energy estimated there were already 6.4 million jobs in the clean energy sector as of 2017, and that's before we even start talking about new energy plants and the massive number of workers needed to rebuild infrastructure and buildings. A 2019 Brookings Institution report forecast that the energy sector alone would see huge growth, with new jobs being created in "320 unique occupations spread across three major industrial sectors: clean energy production, energy efficiency, and environmental management." Plus higher wages for workers than in the overall national economy.
Allow yourself a little optimism today. And make damn sure we all have the teens' backs.
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