“You wouldn’t build a wardrobe without reading the manual, so why expect everyone to solve the climate and nature crisis without understanding it?”

Archie Crofton and Sarah Humphrys from education-to-action organisation AimHi Earth explain why climate literacy is fundamental to tackling the climate and nature crisis locally and globally. By Archie Crofton and Sarah Humphrys, AimHi | November 5, 2021

To build a flatpack wardrobe you really need a manual. But what if that manual was actually a random collection of snippets from newspaper articles about various ways to build a spice rack? If the pile of crumpled clothes mounting ever higher is the climate and nature crisis, and the wardrobe is the solution, then we are going to need a proper ‘how to’ and we’re going to need some allen keys — ASAP.

We as global citizens have the ability to deal with the global emergency, we just need to know how. The problem is, we’re not only dealing with a climate and nature crisis, but an information crisis too. Just ask your friends what they think is the best alternative energy source or what they consider to be the main factor driving deforestation and listen to the melodious array of umms and ahs for answers. If we are not empowered to answer even the most basic questions confidently, how are we going to drive for change at an individual or systemic level?

The big problem is that we are bombarded by information about the emergency in a disorientating way, leading to widespread confusion and apathy. It’s no surprise that last year 96% of young people felt ill-informed about the climate and nature crisis and over 70% of young people experienced eco anxiety regularly.

With heat records broken on a weekly basis, and mass migration, extinction and deforestation filling the news, we need an informed and motivated population, imagining and enacting a better future, equipped with the tools, vision and empowerment to build resilience and reverse the global crisis. There are no silver bullet solutions. The Race to Zero and the Race to Resilience can only be won with a population who fully understands how to win them.

Take these two news stories, released within days of each other:

First, the world’s largest carbon capture and storage plant is launched in Iceland. It can capture 4,000 tonnes of carbon a year at a cost of roughly a thousand euros per tonne. Celebration and optimism abounds.

Meanwhile, it is revealed that we’re on track to extract and burn more than double the fossil fuels we can ever burn if we are to meet our Paris certified 1.5°C ‘safe level’ of global heating.

What do these two pieces of news mean for our progress towards a zero carbon world? What should members of the public make of this? If we were to join the dots, we might assume that the expected rate of extraction and burning of fossil fuels is harmless. Afterall, we’ve now got the world’s largest CCS machine covering our backs.

In reality, we are releasing 36 billion tonnes of C02 equivalent gases annually. And this is going up every year. Even after this CCS machine is up and running, only the most particular sense of detail  would suggest that we would be releasing anything other than 36 billion tonnes.

The consequences of public lack of clarity are grave for the future of our planet. It’s inconceivable that anyone fully aware of the seriousness of the situation could knowingly permit the continued over-exploitation of fossil fuels to happen. How can we push for a nature-first, zero carbon world without understanding the full picture now, nor what it might look like?

This ambiguity leaves the public vulnerable to misinformation, greenwashing and manipulation. We deserve so much better. 

Companies are exploiting the ‘green wave’ to gain a better perceived public image. Garnier reported 96% of businesses are feeling increasing pressure to become more sustainable. Governments are also increasingly under pressure to do ‘something’ about the climate and nature crisis:  78% of Conservative voters, for example, feel not enough is being done by the Conservative government to combat climate change. In response to this shifting public opinion there has been a surge in eco-friendly PR.

But if the public are not adequately equipped with tools to spot the difference between a greenwashing quick fix and a genuine solution, it’s easy for companies and governments to make bold claims about ‘green’ actions that do not translate to positive outcomes

Take tree planting. Across the globe there have been countless tree planting campaigns plastered across the media. But the reality is that in many places native forest or ecosystems are being cleared for monocultures of non-native pine to meet these ill-thought out but publicly popular, box ticking actions. In reality, there will never be enough trees to offset our emissions. What we really need is to restore ecosystems and leave fossil fuels in the ground.

Without quality climate and nature education that equips us to see through the green bluster, we run the risk of letting both governments and the private sector off the hook. We all need to be rapidly upskilled to prevent lazy policies and performative campaigns to lull us into a false sense of security that permits nefarious actors to continue to drag us closer to disaster.

The race between education and catastrophe is on. We all need and deserve to know the whole truth about the climate and nature crisis, and to be equipped  to guarantee a healthy, liveable future. With so much at stake, it’s never been so important for climate and nature education to be available for everyone.

We at AimHi Earth are on a mission to transform global understanding of climate and nature. We’ve brought together the expertise of top-level scientists, behavioural psychologists, expert communicators and compelling storytellers to curate transformative learning experiences for all, culminating in empowerment, action and global citizenship. We provide learners of all ages with the full story of the climate and nature crisis, as well as skills to communicate about these topics with impact, and the tools to drive for individual, collective and systemic change.

The world’s biggest challenges cannot and will not be solved without education for all, and everything that comes with it – innovation, compassion, and stewardship.

Effectively educating a billion human beings would change the course of history.

This is what we are doing.

On Friday November 5, live from the Nature Pavillion at COP26, AimHi livestreamed the Great Big Lesson for Climate and Nature. Watch it below:

 

 

 

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