To Prepare Climate Strikers For The Future, We Need To Rewrite The History Books

To Prepare Climate Strikers For The Future, We Need To Rewrite The History Books

Indigenous ways of living, including farming methods, are often more sustainable than their modern industrial equivalents. Blog de Historia General del Perú

If radical action to reduce emissions isn’t taken in the next decade or so, many of today’s schoolchildren could live in a world that’s 3℃ or 4℃ hotter by the time they enter their later years. Their working lives would be defined by routine weather extremes, widespread crop failures and catastrophic sea level rise.

With such grim prospects, the natural question facing young people is how did we get here? School climate strikers and the student-led Teach the Future campaign have called for wholesale reform of the education system to help answer this, and prepare the younger generation for facing a future of intensifying climate and ecological crisis.

But the UK currently has no formal training or support for teachers to carry out “climate education”. There is so little space in the curriculum that some schools teach it in PSHE, along with sex education, or “British values”. Without clear guidance, schools might use materials designed to mislead students about the science.

The situation is now so bad that simply telling the truth about the climate crisis in the classroom also raises serious questions about the effect on a child’s mental health. Parents could be forgiven for not wanting their children to hear it.

But even a curriculum that offers a better grasp of the facts of climate change and opportunities to reconnect with the natural world might not be effective on its own. Climate action will require fundamental and rapid changes in all spheres of life. Children need to know why we are in this situation, and what must come next.

Teachers have a crucial role to play in this process. They will have to help young people critique and rethink the deeply ingrained assumptions, attitudes and expectations that run throughout history, and now endanger much of life on Earth.

To Prepare Climate Strikers For The Future, We Need To Rewrite The History Books The industrial revolution is often considered the starting point for mankind’s deviation towards destruction – but the roots go far deeper. Samuel Griffiths/Wikipedia

Climate in the classroom

The history curriculum in the UK doesn’t list climate change among its examples of “challenges for Britain, Europe and the wider world 1901 to the present day”. Human history isn’t considered to have significant environmental contexts or consequences, despite the fact that modern life is a product of the energy bonanza provided by fossil fuels.

A major problem with public understanding of the current predicament is that most information and interpretation comes from the sciences. Scientists can explain what is happening and make projections for what might happen in the future. It isn’t part of their discipline to know why human societies have made the choices that have taken us to this point. Yet contemporary climate and environmental crises are the products of human activity.

History is usually taught and imagined as a sequence of events through which human societies advanced from primitive technologies and patterns of social organisation to their current, highly complex and sophisticated state. These events are usually described as “developments”, or even as “progress”.

When history is taught like this, students are left without any way of understanding why human societies and ecosystems are suddenly on the brink of collapse. There is no frame of reference for what, by any standards, is actually a vast, escalating failure of human choices.

To Prepare Climate Strikers For The Future, We Need To Rewrite The History Books The road to progress? Workers lay the first North American ‘macadam’ road in Maryland, US, 1823. Carl Rakeman/Wikipedia

Many large-scale human societies have failed to grasp the realities of life on a finite planet. Much of what these societies have done has been based on wilful blindness to the effects of exploitation. This fundamental ignorance has persisted and in some ways grown over the centuries, even as technology has advanced.

A climate history curriculum should unpick concepts like “development”, and basic assumptions about what “progess” looks like. When the climate crisis is taught as a byproduct of the modern world, it hides the deep history of human activities and value systems that continue to shape the present day.

How we got here

Over the centuries, powerful states tended to exhaust the resources of surrounding landscapes, producing sharp social hierarchies and celebrating the “victories” of male warrior elites. Written accounts of these battles and wars, and their politics, are the traditional core of historical study.

Students could instead think about how societies over the centuries have obtained, organised and used resources, and what the consequences have been for human inequality and the environment. They should learn about modern European empires through their vast capture of human and environmental resources by conquest and colonisation. They need to understand how this related to industrialisation, and how exploiting racialised slave labour, and increasingly, fossil fuels, generated the energy that fuelled modernisation and the affluent lifestyles of today.

Accompanying this should be a much clearer view of what was lost in these processes. European ideas about land management displaced localised and ecologically appropriate practices, with disastrous, ongoing consequences for indigenous populations and colonised ecosystems. The greatest biodiversity today is found in areas managed by indigenous peoples.

Students could learn from the ways of living, thinking, and gaining knowledge of different indigenous communities around the globe. Existing topics, such as the slave trade and the civil rights movement, would resonate differently to students who knew the continuing costs and consequences of empire.

History teaching could also look at climate change in the past and investigate how societies weathered environmental stress. Modern science could be recast as a tool that helps societies mitigate problems like climate change, rather than an engine of progress.

If today’s children are equipped with a deep and complex sense of how humans have inhabited environments, and the consequences for people and other species, they will understand the present situation far better, and make informed decisions about the future. They will be more resistant to arguments that prioritise economic growth over sustainability and social justice, and will have a clearer sense of how old power structures perpetuate modern problems. All of this is crucial to educating – and preparing – the climate strike generation.The Conversation

About The Author

Amanda Power, Associate Professor in Medieval History, University of Oxford

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Related Books

Climate Leviathan: A Political Theory of Our Planetary Future

by Joel Wainwright and Geoff Mann
1786634295How climate change will affect our political theory—for better and worse. Despite the science and the summits, leading capitalist states have not achieved anything close to an adequate level of carbon mitigation. There is now simply no way to prevent the planet breaching the threshold of two degrees Celsius set by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. What are the likely political and economic outcomes of this? Where is the overheating world heading? Available On Amazon

Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis

by Jared Diamond
0316409138Adding a psychological dimension to the in-depth history, geography, biology, and anthropology that mark all of Diamond's books, Upheaval reveals factors influencing how both whole nations and individual people can respond to big challenges. The result is a book epic in scope, but also his most personal book yet. Available On Amazon

Global Commons, Domestic Decisions: The Comparative Politics of Climate Change

by Kathryn Harrison et al
0262514311Comparative case studies and analyses of the influence of domestic politics on countries' climate change policies and Kyoto ratification decisions. Climate change represents a “tragedy of the commons” on a global scale, requiring the cooperation of nations that do not necessarily put the Earth's well-being above their own national interests. And yet international efforts to address global warming have met with some success; the Kyoto Protocol, in which industrialized countries committed to reducing their collective emissions, took effect in 2005 (although without the participation of the United States). Available On Amazon

enafarzh-CNzh-TWdanltlfifrdeiwhihuiditjakomsnofaplptruesswsvthtrukurvi

follow InnerSelf on

facebook-icontwitter-iconrss-icon

 Get The Latest By Email

{emailcloak=off}

POLITICS

India Finally Takes Climate Crisis Seriously
India Finally Takes Climate Crisis Seriously
by Nivedita Khandekar
With financial losses and a heavy death toll from climate-related disasters constantly rising, India is at last…
Russia Moves To Exploit Arctic Riches
Russia Moves To Exploit Arctic Riches
by Paul Brown
As the polar sea ice vanishes faster, Russia unveils plans to exploit Arctic riches: fossil fuel deposits, minerals and…
Will Billionaire Climate Philanthropists Always Be Part Of The Problem
Will Billionaire Climate Philanthropists Always Be Part Of The Problem
by Heather Alberro
Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO and the richest man alive, recently made headlines after pledging to donate $10 billion to a new…
Schools For Girls Can Help To Answer Climate Crisis
Schools For Girls Can Help To Answer Climate Crisis
by Alex Kirby
Educating both halves of humankind seems a no-brainer. Schools for girls could transform climate protection − and so…
To Prepare Climate Strikers For The Future, We Need To Rewrite The History Books
To Prepare Climate Strikers For The Future, We Need To Rewrite The History Books
by Amanda Power
If radical action to reduce emissions isn’t taken in the next decade or so, many of today’s schoolchildren could live…
Why The Whitest Communities Most Benefit From Flood Buyouts
Why The Whitest Communities Most Benefit From Flood Buyouts
by Amy McCaig
The federal flood buyout program disproportionally benefits at-risk homes in the whitest communities of America’s…
Why Australian Labor’s Climate Policy Is Too Little, Too Late
Why Australian Labor’s Climate Policy Is Too Little, Too Late
by Will Steffen
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese’s announcement on Friday that a Labor government would adopt a target of net-zero…
Stories Of When Your Kids Make You Feel Old! | The Curls
Old Conservative White Men: Pass The Football To Someone Who Will Try To Score
by Robert Jennings, InnerSelf.com
We have had important US elections but this one in November 2020 is undoubtedly the most important. Why? America and…

LATEST VIDEOS

To Reach Zero Emissions Government Must Address Hurdles Putting People Off Electric Cars
To Reach Zero Emissions Government Must Address Hurdles Putting People Off Electric Cars
by Swapnesh Masrani
Ambitious targets have been set by the UK and Scottish governments to become net-zero carbon economies by 2050 and 2045…
Spring Is Arriving Earlier Across The US, And That's Not Always Good News
Spring Is Arriving Earlier Across The US, And That's Not Always Good News
by Theresa Crimmins
Across much of the United States, a warming climate has advanced the arrival of spring. This year is no exception.
The Last Ice Age Tells Us Why We Need To Care About A 2℃ Change In Temperature
The Last Ice Age Tells Us Why We Need To Care About A 2℃ Change In Temperature
by Alan N Williams, et al
The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that without a substantial decrease…
A Georgia Town Gets Half Of Its Electricity From President Jimmy Carter's Solar Farm
A Georgia Town Gets Half Of Its Electricity From President Jimmy Carter's Solar Farm
by Johnna Crider
Plains, Georgia, is a small town that is just south of Columbus, Macon, and Atlanta and north of Albany. It is the…
Majority of US Adults Believe Climate Change Is Most Important Issue Today
by American Psychological Association
As the effects of climate change become more evident, more than half of U.S. adults (56%) say climate change is the…
How These Three Financial Firms Could Change The Direction Of The Climate Crisis
How These Three Financial Firms Could Change The Direction Of The Climate Crisis
by Mangulina Jan Fichtner, et al
A silent revolution is happening in investing. It is a paradigm shift that will have a profound impact on corporations,…
Investing In Climate Change
by Goldman Sachs
“Top of Mind at Goldman Sachs” Podcast – In this episode, we dig into what may be the most important issue of our time:…
Climate Change: Briefings from Southern Africa
by SABC Digital News
Climate change affects us all, but it can be a confusing business. Three leading South African scientists who have…

LATEST ARTICLES

5 Ways To Teach Children About Climate Change
5 Ways To Teach Children About Climate Change
by William Finnegan
Climate change is an interdisciplinary subject that both school children and adults think is important. And as we deal…
This Is The Arctic's Recent Carbon Emissions We Should Fear For Climate Change
This Is The Arctic's Recent Carbon Emissions We Should Fear For Climate Change
by Joshua Dean
The Arctic is predicted to warm faster than anywhere else in the world this century, perhaps by as much as 7°C.
Why This Is A Once In A Lifetime Chance To Reshape How We Travel
Why This Is A Once In A Lifetime Chance To Reshape How We Travel
by Marcus Enoch and James Warren
This isn’t a normal period of disruption, which is usually caused by failures in supply such as road accidents or…
Why A Better World Needs Better Economics
Why A Better World Needs Better Economics
by David Korten
Science warns us that the 2020s will be humanity’s last opportunity to save itself from a climate catastrophe.
How Plants And Animals Share Response To Climate Change
How Plants And Animals Share Response To Climate Change
by Daniel Stolte
Plants and animals are remarkably similar in their responses to changing environmental conditions across the globe,…
Why Poorer Suburbs Are More At Risk In Warming Cities
Why Poorer Suburbs Are More At Risk In Warming Cities
by Jason Byrne and Tony Matthews
The many reasons for this include urban densification policies, climate change and social trends such as bigger houses…
A Second Us Dust Bowl Would Hit World Food Stocks
A Second Us Dust Bowl Would Hit World Food Stocks
by Tim Radford
When the US Great Plains are hit again by sustained drought, the world’s food stocks will feel the heat.
Rising Seas: To Keep Humans Safe, Let Nature Shape The Coast
Rising Seas: To Keep Humans Safe, Let Nature Shape The Coast
by Iris Möller
Even under the most conservative climate change scenarios, sea levels 30cm higher than at present seem all but certain…