By Sophia Bi
(she/her, Grade 11 student), Sara Bauman
(she/her, Grade 11) student, and Matthew Huang
(he/him, Grade 12 student), Vancouver
We are students. From Monday to Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., we go to school to learn about quadratic equations and how to analyze literature in the name of preparing us for our futures.
A crisis cannot be won without a unified front. Our generation, at this decisive turning point in history, must be mobilized under a common vision. Right now, we are losing this battle; despite conference after conference, pledge after pledge, emissions have plowed forward on an unrelenting upward trend—all because policies fail to pass in the face of a divided, ignorant public.
Perhaps it is not the politicians but the teachers and educational institutions that have the power to change this narrative.
Climate change is complex. Information circulated on the internet, where young people are forced to turn to, is easily misleading, disempowering, and overwhelming. Additionally, by failing to centre climate conversations and climate activism in the curriculum, schools promote complacency: what is implicitly taught is that climate change is something happening on the sidelines, that climate activism is just an extra-curricular activity for those who happen to have the time and interest.
Though our generation appears to lead the movement, only a minority have a true sense of the urgency of the crisis, and even so, are too busy with other concerns like homework or the upcoming math exam to regularly and authentically engage. How ironic is it that the institutions meant to prepare us for our futures simply distract us from protecting them?
Climate Education Reform BC (CERBC) is a youth-led, grassroots initiative advocating for the integration of comprehensive climate justice education in BC’s K–12 curriculum. Inspired by the passion, energy, and acumen of youth in activism spaces and motivated by the gaping discrepancies between the active and the passive, we took it upon ourselves to bring our hopes and concerns to the Ministry of Education.
In April we released an open letter, which our team had drafted over the course of several months, informed by a series of intensive meetings among ourselves and with a diverse range of community members. In the aftermath we built up our signatures, secured endorsements from key organizations like the BC Teachers’ Federation, co-ordinated mass public emails, and wrote articles like these. Our work has received positive feedback and interest from the community; climate education was a cause that clearly resonated with many.
A month or two into the campaign, the Ministry of Education responded. After a long spiel about all the work the province was already doing, which was not new or particularly impressive to us in any form, the email did con-cede, “the Ministry of Education... recognizes that further work is required to empower teachers in BC to better integrate climate change, adaptation, and Indigenous epistemologies into classroom instruction.” Sometime later, they agreed to meet with us.
In August we talked with Jennifer Whiteside, the Minister of Education. There we brought our radical ideas to the table, wary of attempts to water down our calls to action and determined to defend the integrity of our vision. This is the beginning.
Small actions have ripple effects that make a big difference. This was and continues to be a grassroots fight. Community members, parents, teachers, and youth alike, will continue to be essential.
Our website (climateeducationreformbc.ca) includes links to toolkits for all to access demographic-specific action items, such as donating, spreading the word, signing the letter, and sparking conversations about climate change with friends or in the classroom. We also have a newsletter for those who wish to stay up-to-date on our work.
Before we end, to all teachers, we want to say: the future of youth is in your hands. Classroom discussions and lessons will help today’s youth fight climate change as tomorrow’s leaders. Together, teachers and students can experiment, learn and unlearn, and work together to shape the future of education and the planet.
As for youth: if you want to make a difference, then take the first step. The most powerful and concrete way is to join a local youth-led organization, perhaps even reach out to us. Regardless of your background, identity, and level of knowledge, we invite you to join us in our collective fight for change. There is something truly special and transformative that happens when you enter this space.