Greta Thunberg’s testimony before the United Nations has sparked a renewed discussion of the world we are handing our children, and it caused me to reflect on the role of our educational systems and myself as a teacher. There is no question that climate change will define the lives of our students. Addressing it will require a series of complex decisions the likes of which humanity has never faced before.
There may be technological advances that save us, but these will not be easily found. No technology will, by itself, save us from the consequences of our societal decisions. Climate change is a consequence of our inability to adapt our institutions and our economic and political thinking even as the science has become clearer and clearer. If we had had the political will and foresight to face mounting evidence that dates back for decades, then perhaps we would not be in as dire a situation as the one we are heading into now.
Blame for this failure is often directed at our political institutions, but we should not underestimate the role our educational processes and priorities played in the formation of the individuals and ideas that underpin these systems.
Education is also central to meeting these unprecedented challenges, but this will require that we rethink some of our basic priorities and approaches to teaching and learning.