This blog post is written by Valerie Shen, a sophomore at Harvard College, who is interning this summer for the Climate Change Policy team at The Wilderness Society.
In 2006, former Vice President Al Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth spread throughout the world, finding its way into science curriculums nationwide and raising international public awareness regarding the dangers of climate change. Although harmful global emissions have continued to increase, Gore’s documentary has been successful in that it paved the way for countless other programs dedicated to inspiring young people to take action and combat global warming.
As someone still in her teens, it is interesting for me to see the variety of educational tools used to bring a topic as important as climate change into the lives of my peers who may not realize the urgency of the situation. Here is a sample of some of the exciting programs that have already been started, and there will be many more in the years to come.
- The Igniting Creative Energy Challenge encourages students from kindergarten through 12th grade to research ways an individual’s actions can reduce energy and water use. Students then showcase their findings using an assortment of creative media ranging from puppet shows to songs to animated videos. Those who are most creative and effective at communicating their message win a free trip to Washington D.C. and the opportunity to attend the Energy Efficiency Forum.
- An organization called Roots and Shoots, part of the Jane Goodall Society, has brought environmental education to a global network of over 100 countries and 8,000 student groups. The program engages high school and college age volunteers to teach younger kids to be aware of the environment, and lead projects such as tree-planting or producing reusable bags.
- Here in the US, the Alliance for Climate Education (ACE) has produced an assortment of free educational material available online for teachers who want to teach a climate change curriculum. ACE educators travel across the country presenting a free assembly at various high schools that explains climate science and solutions to mitigate harmful impacts. ACE also runs the DOT program, encouraging students to pledge to Do One Thing to help the environment, and provides funding and support for student groups who want to initiate a local project to combat climate change.
- The US Environmental Protection Agency has created an online “Students’ Guide to Climate Change.” This interactive website addresses most of the biggest climate change problems, and suggests a handful of solutions that can be taken by children and young adults to reduce their personal emissions. NASA has a similar website called Climate Kids, which explains the greenhouse effect and other global change phenomenon in easy to understand terms.
Regardless of the specific strategy, each program plays an important role in encouraging this generation to understand the science behind climate change, and take meaningful action. Hopefully starting these educational initiatives early on will make it easier to sift through the piles of conflicting messages, and inspire future scientists who will come up with innovative solutions to what may well be the biggest problem of the 21st Century.