Teaching the injustice of the world climate crisis
“Who leads the fight on climate change, who’s bearing the brunt and impact of climate change, what has contributed to our world being in decline, and how we tell the real stories behind that about who caused that destruction in the first place.”
Yvette Williams MBE from the Justice4Grenfell Campaign
This year, Mahmoud Makkawi of SCOREscotland and the Education for Climate Justice Programme Team held a series of workshops to explore the relationship between climate change and social justice. Their conclusion? A more radical vision for climate education that tackles the role of colonialism and capitalism in climate injustice.
Earlier this year, a series of three-day-long workshops focusing on Education for Climate Justice was co-organised by a team from Glasgow Caledonian University, Learning for Sustainability Scotland, SCOREScotland, Teach the Future, the Third Generation Project (University of St Andrews), and the University of Edinburgh.
These workshops focused on centering anti-racist education in climate justice education, on a just transition, and on building hope in the face of climate anxiety. They were developed in direct response to demands from youth climate activists to make education for climate justice a priority and each brought together a diverse set of stakeholders, including youth activists, educators, practitioners and academics.
They also brought together a set of keynote speakers – Yvette Williams MBE from the Justice4Grenfell Campaign, Ikal Ang’elei from the Friends of Lake Turkana, and Jayden Foytlin, a youth climate activist from Louisiana – who all highlighted how climate injustice, as well as racial, gender and other injustices are rooted in histories of oppression.
The workshops have acted as a catalyst for long-term conversations about the need for, and the scope of, such learning. What was clear from the responses of workshop participants and attendees was that education for climate justice should highlight the ongoing impact of colonialism; recognise the role that capitalism has played in the climate crisis; and identify how injustices of all types are rooted in those legacies of colonialism and capitalism. As Ikal Ang’elei noted in her keynote speech:
“The knowledge that is produced now, from a lot of young people’s work, who are seeing this thing [climate change] but also linking it to food systems, to water systems, and the role of gender in all this.”
This conclusion chimes with international research on the ways that education for climate action requires a more radical vision for climate education than currently exists. It was also clear from the workshops that across Scotland – in ways large and small – pupils and educators are already thinking about how this vision could be activated, meaning that the workshop series has been able to serve as a resource for further exchange and mutual learning.
Throughout the workshops the role of youth work in facilitating young people’s informal learning about the relationship between climate change and social justice was paramount, as was the importance of highlighting the need to collaborate with youth activists. As youth climate activist, Jayden Foytlin said:
“I think a key message would be to actually listen to the youth and actually hear what we have to say... actually talk to us about what we have experienced and what we are going through in our communities and … really show us that you care about youth.”
Young people are already thinking creatively about climate solutions in their own communities. They are also arguing forcefully for the space to learn about alternative economic models that address the tension inherent in the notion of ‘sustainable growth’.
Models like Morocco, for example, which has changed the way that they produce energy and now leads by example in the green energy revolution.
Iceland, Albania, and Paraguay who lead the way in generating all of their electricity without the use of fossil fuels. Like the further eight nations (five in Africa, and three in Latin America) who use coal, oil, and gas for less than 10% of their electricity; and like Scotland, where work is being done to develop a wellbeing economy - “an economy which delivers social justice and environmental health’ - via the Wellbeing Economy Government’s (WeGo) group.
Education for climate justice should be central to such initiatives and what this workshop series highlighted very clearly is the urgent need, not only for such educational opportunities to exist, but also that they be fundamentally based on three radical principles: voluntary engagement; a curriculum based on lived experiences; and an intergenerational dialogue where young people act as ‘educators’ themselves.
View the workshop content: https://bit.ly/3BLU7Nk