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Climate Change: Young People Striking From School See It for the Life-Threatening Issue It Is
By David Rousell and Amy Cutter-Mackenzie-Knowles
Students around the world are walking out of school once more, as part of ongoing strikes to protest governments' inaction on climate change. Since August 2018, tens of thousands of young people have taken part in strikes across Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium, Germany, Canada and Australia. The movement continues to grow, with fresh protests occurring in the UK and elsewhere.
Today's young people are the first generation to have lived their entire lives under the threat of catastrophic climate change. They're now positioned as future leaders, forced to take urgent action on an issue which older generations have lacked the political will, organization and authority to address.
Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January, 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg called on the young people of her generation "to hold the older generations accountable for the mess they have created, and expect us to live with."
During the school strikes, young people have emphasised their concerns about the Earth's future. But the fact is, many children and young people are already living with the effects of global climate change, which include forced migration, food scarcity, drought, rising sea levels, extreme weather events and toxic contamination of water catchments.
Political debates about climate change manipulate environmental facts, values and concerns, which is contributing to a state of fear and anxiety among children and young people in many parts of the world. For example, neo-conservative and populist movements in the United States, Europe and Australia spread messages denying the scientific evidence for climate change, and challenging attempts to address it on moral, religious or political grounds. At the same time, young people are exposed to apocalyptic visions of the disastrous impacts of climate change through the internet, social media, literature and films.
Overlooked and Underestimated
As far back as 2007, an Australian study of children aged ten to 14 found that half were deeply concerned about climate change, while a quarter were worried that the world would end within their lifetimes. In spite of all the anxiety and divisiveness in the world today, the climate strikes reveal a growing international movement of young people, committed to political resistance and hope for a better future.
Political leaders have scolded young people for skipping school to strike. And while it's true that education can and should help young people to engage with the environmental, social and political dimensions of climate change, our new review of academic literature from around the world suggests that this vital issue is rarely addressed with any depth, nuance or rigour in schools.
In many cases, climate change only makes a brief appearance as a minor topic in the science curriculum. What's more, we found that schools, communities and governments rarely engage with young people's ideas, experiences and understandings of climate change. In many cases, young people are simply left to cope with the overwhelming threat and responsibility of climate change, without support from the wider community.
A Creative Response
Another research project called Climate Change and Me, which ran from 2013 to 2017, helped to establish a platform for children and young people to express and connect their attitudes, awareness and understandings of climate change in New South Wales, Australia. We worked with 135 children and young people, aged nine to 14, and encouraged them to generate their own lines of anthropological and creative research.
Making a statement. Climate Change and Me., Author provided
Their responses ranged from ethnographic studies within their own communities, to artworks, photo-essays, science fiction stories, poetry and films. Through this project, we found that young people's lives were deeply affected by climate change, and that they were politically and creatively motivated to take action. As one 11-year-old said, in an interview with one of their peers:
It's quite scary, the effects of climate change are occurring now and it's very devastating. It's selfish and horrible how humans are causing animal and plant species to die.
This sense of a combined ethical and existential crisis was echoed in young people's interviews, stories, poems and films over the course of the project. One ten-year-old envisioned a near future "in which humans fulfil every one of their selfish desires, a world that I would not want to live in". Another created a photo-essay featuring felled trees in her local neighbourhood, with the caption:
We kill many things. We are malicious killers. We do not realise that we are destroying our homes and the homes of all other organisms.
Yet these dark perspectives were accompanied by expressions of empowerment and calls to action. A 12-year-old participant in the research argued:
The difference must begin with us. We must change our values and what we believe is important to us. We must make drastic changes to how we think and make choices about our everyday activities.
As one nine-year-old in our study simply put it, "only people who care can help". Our study helped young people translate this sense of ethical care and responsibility into social actions, including a travelling exhibition viewed by over 10,000 people, and an interdisciplinary Climate Change Curriculum which has since been adopted by over 30 schools in Australia.
This contagious sense of young people caring and daring to stand up against climate inaction became one of the most salient and hopeful findings of the Climate Change and Me project. And now, we see this finding playing out on a larger scale: while climate change is darkening young people's lives, along with their prospects for a liveable future, we see children and young people using powerful and creative tactics to claim a voice and a political platform in society, and confront the greatest challenge of our age.
Reposted with permission from our media associate The Conversation.
- Greta Thunberg full speech at UN Climate Change COP24 ... ›
- 15-Year-Old Greta Thunberg Calls for Global Climate Strike ›
- Youth Climate Strike Coming to U.S. Next Month - EcoWatch ›
- Thousands of Australian Students Strike Over Climate Change ... ›
- 12,000+ Belgian Students Skip School to Demand Climate Action ... ›
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Global Banks, Led by JPMorgan Chase, Invested $1.9 Trillion in Fossil Fuels Since Paris Climate Pact
By Sharon Kelly
A report published Wednesday names the banks that have played the biggest recent role in funding fossil fuel projects, finding that since 2016, immediately following the Paris agreement's adoption, 33 global banks have poured $1.9 trillion into financing climate-changing projects worldwide.
By Patti Lynn
2018 was a groundbreaking year in the public conversation about climate change. Last February, The New York Times reported that a record percentage of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by humans, and there was a 20 percentage point rise in "the number of Americans who say they worry 'a great deal' about climate change."
England faces an "existential threat" if it does not change how it manages its water, the head of the country's Environment Agency warned Tuesday.
By Jessica Corbett
A new analysis revealed Tuesday that over the past two decades heat records across the U.S. have been broken twice as often as cold ones—underscoring experts' warnings about the increasingly dangerous consequences of failing to dramatically curb planet-warming emissions.
By Madison Dapcevich
Ask any resident of San Francisco about the waterfront parrots, and they will surely tell you a story of red-faced conures squawking or dive-bombing between building peaks. Ask a team of researchers from the University of Georgia, however, and they will tell you of a mysterious string of neurological poisonings impacting the naturalized flock for decades.
The initial cause of the fire was not yet known, but it has been driven by the strong wind and jumped the North Santiam River, The Salem Statesman Journal reported. As of Tuesday night, it threatened around 35 homes and 30 buildings, and was 20 percent contained.
The unanimous verdict was announced Tuesday in San Francisco in the first federal case to be brought against Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, alleging that repeated use of the company's glyphosate-containing weedkiller caused the plaintiff's cancer. Seventy-year-old Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa, California said he used Roundup for almost 30 years on his properties before developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
"Today's verdict reinforces what another jury found last year, and what scientists with the state of California and the World Health Organization have concluded: Glyphosate causes cancer in people," Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in a statement. "As similar lawsuits mount, the evidence will grow that Roundup is not safe, and that the company has tried to cover it up."
Judge Vince Chhabria has split Hardeman's trial into two phases. The first, decided Tuesday, focused exclusively on whether or not Roundup use caused the plaintiff's cancer. The second, to begin Wednesday, will assess if Bayer is liable for damages.
"We are disappointed with the jury's initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer," Bayer spokesman Dan Childs said in a statement reported by The Guardian. "We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto's conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman's cancer."
Some legal experts said that Chhabria's decision to split the trial was beneficial to Bayer, Reuters reported. The company had complained that the jury in Johnson's case had been distracted by the lawyers' claims that Monsanto had sought to mislead scientists and the public about Roundup's safety.
However, a remark made by Chhabria during the trial and reported by The Guardian was blatantly critical of the company.
"Although the evidence that Roundup causes cancer is quite equivocal, there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue," he said.
Many regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have ruled that glyphosate is safe for humans, but the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer found it was "probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2015. A university study earlier this year found that glyphosate use increased cancer risk by as much as 41 percent.
Hardeman's lawyers Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff said they would now reveal Monsanto's efforts to mislead the public about the safety of its product.
"Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup," they wrote in a statement reported by The Guardian.
Hardeman's case is considered a "bellwether" trial for the more than 760 glyphosate cases Chhabria is hearing. In total, there are around 11,200 such lawsuits pending in the U.S., according to Reuters.
University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias told Reuters that Tuesday's decision showed that the verdict in Johnson's case was not "an aberration," and could possibly predict how future juries in the thousands of pending cases would respond.