Climate Voices

November 17, 2017
By: John Olson, Window Into COP23 Delegate

Education Day

Today (Thursday) was Education Day at the Climate Conference and hence there was a strand of UN sponsored sessions and other organizations that had education presentations at their pavilions. The day included speeches of encouragement from eminent officials, examples of programs and accomplishments, and importantly, the voices of youth in music, advocacy, and video.

The kick-off to the event featured Bonn children singing “The animals went into the arc”, followed by a young Los Angeles climate advocate whose voice has been so strong that she has met with several prime ministers. The Executive Secretary of the United Nations for Climate Change noted that a survey concerning the strategies for combatting climate change had 77% of respondents list education as a high priority. Princess Lalla Hasna of Morocco, who chairs the country’s Foundation for Environmental Protection, described the investment in Eco-Schools and Young Reporters for the Environment. The schools investigated forest fires during drought periods and developed model nurseries inside their schools to grow drought resistant trees.

Panel discussions and other presentations during the day brought out some of the following comments:

  • Children want quick action and not delays. They prod their parents into action.
  • Focus on education for global citizenship, not just local actions.
  • Use local and global issues.
  • Trainer programs are needed to spread the message. India has a program that reaches 100,000 villages
  • Focus on current disasters can spark interest, but often there are not long term benefits.
  • Teach children to be good stewards in their daily lives.
  • Use whole school approaches that include education, facilities, and practices.
  • Combine the head (knowledge) and the heart (actions).
  • Turn the first connected generation into the first climate-aware generation…through the use of technologies, including social media, gamification, and video.
  • Include intercultural learning and relevant content

Youth expressed their ideas at a session in the Talanoa (dialogue) space. They put their slogans on cards and presented them to one of the German ministers. The mayor of Bonn and UN dignitaries presented awards to winners of the Global Youth Video Contest. Entries came from across the globe. The program and awarded videos are available here.

Here are some of the exemplary programs that teachers and youth leaders may find helpful:

Earth Day Network for Climate Literacy – They have developed a climate change Angry Birds game, and will soon post an iBook of stories on climate change. They have a Indian youth engagement program and are organizing activities for Earth Day 2020. Though U.S. based, they have links to many international programs. – Uses “crowd-learning” methods to engage youth world-wide in environmental learning and action. Youth report on local problems and actions, provide feedback, and earn badges. Sweden based.

Environmental Education Research – A new free online journal that launched in Bonn focusing on climate change education. Canada based.

As the conference comes to an end, I am optimistic about the energy of people from many lands, and especially youth, around making a better world. I have been immersed in their enthusiasm. However, my visits with people involved in the negotiations have been less optimistic. They report frustrations, anger, shouting and tears, but progress on some issues. I will be interested to learn with other the outcomes of their deliberations.

I am truly thankful to Climate Generation, colleagues, and others who have made this learning experience possible. I hope I can translate a bit of this when I’m back home.