By Nate Stratton
People in their teens and early 20s across the world have a major question when it comes to planning their futures: Will we defeat climate change? The answer to this question is not known, however, we do know that the impacts of global warming have had and will continue to have significant consequences on the lives of billions of people. Wrapping one’s head around this reality can be mentally exhausting, especially for those whose minds are still developing into adulthood. No young person should have to think about these things. However, it seems that widespread stress about the issue is already here.
A study, funded by global activist network Avaaz, conducted 10,000 surveys of youths ages 16-25 from 10 different countries. When asked about the climate crisis, 75% stated they felt the ‘future was frightening’, and another 45% stated that stress surrounding this issue actually “impaired their daily functioning.” This data illustrates that the apocalyptic nature of climate change is having a considerable impact on the daily functioning of our younger population. Young people understand that they are the ones responsible for fixing this problem, and that their parent’s and grandparent’s generations will never truly experience the consequences from their actions. This is a massive weight to bear, especially when combined with inadequate schooling about what the problem really is. Yes, we know that the earth is changing and that the result will be devastating. But how devastating? What will be the effects of this devastation? And what can they do to stop it? So many students have only a cursory understanding of this issue that the causes of and solutions for climate change are eclipsed by existential stress about the supposed end of the world.
What can be done? Teaching young minds about the issue will not only ease some of their climate anxiety, but motivate them to do their part in combating its effects. The truth is, that for the many problems that are arising due to climate change, there are thousands of potential solutions – some of which are already in the process of being completed. We already know that students are stressed about climate change. Now, it comes down to teachers who take this as an opportunity to educate and help students discover their own paths for making a change.