I remember the first time I heard about climate change, I was in fourth grade and I did a project on global warming. The thing is, I did not understand the concept of global warming at all; I just knew that it sounded pretty scary. I did this project on my own and guessed at what the information I found online meant. It was the perfect project for teaching a fourth-grader about research, but it was not what I needed it to be: environmental education.
I needed to learn what I was really dealing with, how it really affected me. What I learned after that was mostly from adults in my life who would mention climate change, even joke about it, but never offer a real explanation or any kind of solution. When we did talk about it in school, it was about how we should recycle and turn the lights off when we leave the room — but we still were handed about 10 individual pieces of paper a day and served lunch on Styrofoam trays. It was hard to discern if the problem they talked about was really a problem at all, most likely because they didn’t want to scare us.
I understand the instinct to not scare children about the reality of our current climate situation, but unfortunately, that situation is now more dire than ever. Imagine being a little kid and hearing that the planet is slowly dying but never getting any specific explanation for why.
If we implement in-depth environmental education for schoolkids, we might actually have a chance. If we raise the next generation differently, to see the problem for what it is and to have a desire to make a change.
Education is the biggest way to make a difference. I’m in college now and finally learning what I always wanted to know about the human effect on the environment. I only wish I could have learned what I know now back then.