There is a massive difference between ignorance and the promotion of hate speech, whether it’s racism, sexism, transphobia or something else. Over the last few years there has been an increasing focus on nationalism, as politicians have stoked fears of the ‘other’ in order to maintain power. Whilst increasingly wealthy societies have historically seen an expansion of liberal ideas about social tolerance and inclusiveness, this has often fallen away in times of adversity.
We’ve seen this clearly in the advent of protectionism around vaccines for COVID-19. Wealthy nations are paying to get primary access to vaccines, hoarding millions of vials while poorer countries still wait. But this is not a situation where borders can be protected. Unless everyone is vaccinated, those pools of infection are likely to provide a home for virus mutation and reinfection. The science suggests that current vaccines provide protection for a limited amount of time – that means we need it regularly, and we need to minimise mutations to ensure global protection. By approaching the problem as a global one, and sharing the resources we have, we find a better overall solution.
It is this notion of looking at everyone’s rights as the same and seeing how things work as a global system that lies at the heart of tackling climate change. We’re not talking a debate about climate science, which has at last gained mainstream acceptance. The challenge we face is how we go about mitigating and adapting to climate change in a world with finite resources, a growing global population and a growing wave of nationalism around the world.
Whether it’s managing water and pollution, energy and consumption, biodiversity and waste, every action has an impact. Those impacts become cumulative and they don’t stop at borders. Every change to the water cycle eventually affects everywhere in the world. That’s why this year the Learn2Think Foundation is making ‘Be Climate Clever’ the theme for Tolerance Day 2021.
If we are going to effectively meet the climate challenge, we need to find a new way to address the problem: we have to balance the responsibility of generations of action exploiting fossil fuels against countries that still need to bring people out of poverty; we have to find new ways of ensuring that individuals and communities aren’t damaged by corporate activities; we need to think about how to balance fairness and justice with action and cost, when some small island states are already sinking. We need to explore the rights of indigenous people, the rights given to the poor and the extent to which they are even enabled to engage in decision making in democracies around the world?
At Learn2Think we believe that teaching children to be critical, creative and compassionate thinkers is necessary to equip them to navigate a world that is constantly changing. We need to educate our children to see the bigger picture, and to understand the dangers of ‘otherisation’ or putting yourself in a superior position to others by accident of birth, nationality, gender or race. The inference of nationalism is of a separation of ‘us’ and ‘them’, with the ‘us’ being better, deserving more. That thinking is what keeps our system so unequal, that supports discrimination and doesn’t provide opportunities for everyone to reach their fullest potential.
Thinking about people as ‘them’ and ‘us’ lies at the heart of sustainability and work to address climate change. Free markets are about efficient allocation of resources but free markets don’t really exist because they don’t include the cost of actions that damage the environment or society and people. We need to find new ways to share what we have, to use markets to drive innovations for solutions to the problems we face, but in such a way that our societies become regenerative rather than destructive, based on rampant consumption.
Something indefinable happens when we work together towards a common goal. The first step is ensuring that every child is aware of how the changing climate is changing every part of the world around us. In January we talked about the Earth Day Network’s campaign for climate literacy and we’re supporting the Network this year in promoting Earth Day on 22nd April. Climate change can be explored through topics from maths, geography, history, art, science, English and more. We’ll be putting together some specific lesson plans that we hope that you’ll find useful for that, and later this year we’ll be providing free support in teaching children how to think about the climate in different ways, how to find their voices and help make the world a better, fairer place.
As ever, we hope you find them useful. You’ll be able to download them for free at www.toleranceday.org
This article first appeared in the March 2021 issue of Education Today www.education-today.co.uk