A dose of climate optimism… for the adults: “dear tired climate activist”

Gloomsters, hopesters, slackers and activists…which one are you?  Maybe you feel like each different one some days (don’t worry deniers this one is NOT for you… )

ok…. you guys, the amazing folks who have been working on raising climate awareness for decades but you are feeling a bit tired and fed up with it all… this is for you…

i initially wrote a version of this post to a friend on Facebook. but since then i have found I needed to share some of these ideas with others on twitter, and in real life. 🙂 everyone needs to be uplifted and reenergised as we hit crunch time in the climate protection fight. so here you go: 

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dear tired climate activist,

i am going to have to start rebutting you and your gloominess as actively as i do my climate-change denying pals. humanity is not doomed. it’s in dire peril, i admit, but i am on the case now and i am pretty sure that i am part of a growing movement of awareness-raising, solutions-focused, info-graphic wielding, general public, and i am also part of a growing movement of engineers and non-pure-scientists  sensitively taking up the technical concerns of how we are going to protect our world.

if you look at your comments, even when you write gloomy things, you do sprinkle hope throughout… so as a fellow scientist i encourage you to update your executive summary/one liners! put the hope up front.

looking for inspiration and motivation? as i state in my presentation about talking to kids about climate and environment it’s up to us adults to find our optimism to enable the kids voices to lead change. young people are one of my greatest sources of hope as they know A LOT about climate and can teach adults about it. they learn about the science in school, and they understand how important finding solutions to protect our climate is, because its their future we are working to protect. but we all need to be teaching ourselves more about the solutions, which will require more than just renewable energy and reducing resource use. inspiring youth led climate action includes thisiszerohour.org, aycc.org and MANY other groups of amazing young people who share personal stories and articulate social-justice based climate solutions.

want to know where to find out more about potential solutions? how about Healthy Climate Alliance ? sure, we are well over our safe atmospheric co2 concentrations. we are going to need to accelerate the transition to renewable energy and invest in ecologically sensitive geoengineering or optimal land-use or other techniques to remove carbon from the atmosphere. a bit scary I know, but also exciting and challenging. not even climate scientists are experts in climate rehabilitation so I encourage you to check out Healthy Climate Alliance or similar. or how about drawdown.org and their 100 solutions to reverse global warming, many solutions of which deal with carbon sequestration. i feel so fortunate that my climate activist journey coincided with the release of project drawdown’s excellent body of work with a road map and inspiration to get to the point where carbon in the atmosphere will drawdown.

I feel that as an engineer + ecologist + science communicator I am well poised to help the world make some of the big and tough decisions we are going to have to make. confronting climate change, its mitigation and adaptation is not without grief. we have already lost amazing animals and people to changing climate. but there is hope that we are going to turn this around in the next few years because we have to. but as part of that we need to make sure people are all doing their part to make and inspire change. the biggest challenge still appears to be getting global action. leading with “we are all doomed” without a reference or link or any need to say that in the first place is going to switch people off from trying to make change!!

it is ok to coast and to give up (preferably while still eating predominantly plant based diets and reducing refusing and reusing) when you have been struggling so long to get the world to listen but don’t be an agent to make people tune out, as i blame an article that was a bit too gloomy for disempowering me when i could have been forging ahead.

for every gloomster there is a hopester. maybe that’s what a hipster really is.  none of this “good one humanity” please. there are so many bright, bright lights and inspiring people that we have to keep seeing the light and i really think that the pursuit of joy and happiness rather than the running from the darkness is going to be the energy that gets us through. sustainability is attractive  

don’t let the global warming deniers get you down, we can solve this despite the deniers we just need to activate the believers who are not doing enough to make change, we need to turn some more of these slackers into activists. we don’t need to convince everyone to pay attention to climate, just enough people

like a university student who does their best work the night before an assignment is due, i believe that it is now that we are noticing global heat waves, and hearing of and seeing our precious reefs bleaching that we are going to see a global movement for change. just in the nick of time, but building on all the work that has gone before.

my friend Dr Tammra Warby paints a kind of solutions focused optimism that helps you find solutions even in dark times, and it is this optimism that i champion. one led by the ability to seek out and cherish what we love, that my favourite author Regena Thomashauer writes of – using pleasure to have our way with the world. for i believe in imagining the world we want we work towards that. don’t dwell on the dangers, acknowledge them, and then cherish what it is that we are protecting, and protect it. our kids’ future.

About the author:

Dr Heidi Edmonds is an ecologist / environmental engineer with a PhD in freshwater ecology who is currently a freelance research scientist while raising two young children. As a science communicator and a mother, she is especially interested in making climate science and climate action accessible, simple and easy to understand for more people. Check out her blog at climatekiss.com (www.climatekiss.com)

Photo by Austin Chan on Unsplash

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Slides + video: conversations with kids on climate + environment

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Big thanks to Citizens Climate Lobby: Australia for sharing the video and powerpoint slides from my guest presentation about talking to kids about climate and the environment. Links to both here: https://au.citizensclimatelobby.org/1605-2/

Big thanks to Emelly and Jamie from Zero Hour, Grace, Chante and Nicholas from Australian Youth Climate Coalition, kids from Asheville High School who won the Project Drawdown EcoChallenge and Sunni Tang from the Alliance for Climate Education for taking the time to answer my interview questions. Direct links to youtube and slides below to make it easy for you to find them  x Heidi

Slides: http://www.ccl.org.au/MonthlyMeeting/2018-06-09-HeidiEdmondsTalkingtoKidsOnClimate.pdf 

Presentation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1031&v=VKWA3bi-vwc

Blog article for parents: https://climatekiss.com/2018/05/16/how-to-talk-to-kids-of-different-ages-to-engage-them-on-climate-change-and-environmental-issues/

Blog article for kids coming soon!

For more kids resources head to: https://climatekiss.com/creative-environment-kids/ 

Image: David Clode via Unsplash

 

 

 

Zoom talk: June 9: How to talk to kids about climate and the environment

Hi folks,

I will be the guest speaker for a special Zoom presentation for Citizens’ Climate Lobby Australia this Saturday 9 June at 2 pm Brisbane (Queensland, Australia) time. Here are the details:

Title: How to talk to kids about climate and the environment

Saturday, 9 June 2018 on ZOOM @ 2 pm Brisbane (Queensland, Australia)

2 pm NSW, VIC, ACT, TAS, QLD | 1.30 pm SA, NT | 12 noon WA

Details on how to connect can be found here:

https://au.citizensclimatelobby.org/australian-blog/

According to Michelle Nijhuis in The Atlantic, a lot of climate-change education materials for children “focus on how to explain climate change” but rarely focus on “when and why teachers ought to discuss climate change in class”…

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In this presentation Heidi Edmonds will talk about age appropriate engagement on environmental and climate issues for kids.

As part of this, she will also touch on how to fact-check climate news, ways to protect mental health in a changing climate, and some of her climate heroes.

Dr Heidi Edmonds is an ecologist and environmental engineer with a PhD in freshwater ecology and experience in science communication.

As a mother of young children, and an advocate for protecting our climate, she is passionate about making climate science and climate action accessible, simple and easy to understand.

Check out her blog at www.climatekiss.com (KISS = Keep It Simple Sweetheart), including a new series of posts on kids and climate. Heidi is based in Brisbane, Queensland and is a volunteer with CCL Australia

 

 

How to talk to kids of different ages to engage them on climate change and environmental issues

I am starting a series of blog posts aimed at children and parents about climate change. But first I wanted to start with a look at what type of topics and content are appropriate for children of different ages. bdjloph78m8-samantha-sophia.jpgThis working document combines my own research and other writers’ work, especially inspired by a well-written recent article in the The Atlantic. It is also inspired by passionate and engaging teenage climate activists from the @ThisIsZeroHour movement and other movements. I have tried to present here the key points I have discovered around the current thinking on age-appropriateness with some suggestions for appropriate content. I hope this overview can act as a guide for parents and teachers regarding how to talk to children about climate change. Initially, for very young children, it is enough to foster an interest in our natural world and its creatures, to nourish their sense of caring for the Earth they will inherit. I would appreciate feedback from climate educators, kindy, primary and secondary school teachers in Australia (or elsewhere) as well as environmental psychologists.

As I have found myself, the journalist Michelle Nijhuis argues in a recent article in The Atlantic that the majority of climate-change education materials “focus on how to explain climate change” but rarely focus on “when and why teachers ought to discuss climate change in class”, that is, when are kids actually ready, “intellectually and emotionally” to engage with various aspects of climate change science and more specifically the implications of how their futures may be affected.

She asks “what, exactly, do we want kids to learn from their first lessons about climate change?”

Do elementary students (ages 4-11 in the USA) really need to learn that “the sea ice is melting and polar bears are starving” or are we prematurely burdening them with our own worries that they aren’t yet ready to take on?

For children under 12, she suggests referring to global warming as “a kind of pollution” that “a lot of people are working on fixing”, an explanation that satisfies her daughter’s curiosity.  Children are likely to hear the terms “global warming” and “climate change” elsewhere so such simple and empowering explanations may be important to have on hand.

The work of David Sobel offers what could be a good framework for considering when and how to present climate science (and climate advocacy). Neighbourhood maps drawn by children aged 4-15 were used to draw out ways in which they engaged with their environment. The children, from diverse countries including USA, UK and the Caribbean, all imagined themselves in ”close, knowable worlds.”

I have combined my own research with the insights of David Sobel and Michelle Nijhuis to summarise what I think makes for age-appropriate environmental and climate content for engaging kids. These suggestions are listed below. The presentation of potentially scary information on climate change and its likely impacts may not be appropriate for children 11 and under. However parents and teachers can use their own judgement and the lead of the children’s curiosity to guide what they present. 

Summary of child development stages and suggested topics to foster a sense of connection with and care of the environment and nature, and, when appropriate, climate change:  

Kids aged 1 to 3:

Kids under 4 weren’t studied by David Sobel for the neighbourhood drawing study (that I know of) but I know from my own experience observing my 4-year-old daughter’s kindy class that she can accept that we need to protect fish from plastic pollution (they made paper plate glitter fish and dangled plastic bags off them after a sea life touch and feel class with live sea stars, sea cucumbers and a baby shark). On ABC kids television, Australian content for pre-kindy kids shown here in Queensland include Peppa Pig presenting recycling as a matter of fact way to sort our garbage. The Octonauts rescue sea creatures from various dangers in the sea. In Charlie and Lola, Lola becomes passionate about helping to protect endangered pandas. Solutions focused, action oriented engagement is presented. Kids can be heroes.

Suggested topics for kids aged 1-3 include: amazing animals, amazing nature, gardening, plastic pollution, saving water for fish etc. possibly climate change as pollution.

Kids aged 4 to 7:

Children aged 4 to 7 drew their maps with their homes filling up the centre.

Suggested topics for kids aged 4 to 7 include: amazing animals, amazing nature, gardening, plastic pollution, saving water and resources, etc. for fish etc., endangered animals, possibly climate change as pollution.

Kids aged 8 to 11:

Kids ages 8 to 11 drew their homes as smaller elements, often on the margins of their maps. Maps included elements of the children’s “explorable landscape”of forests and neighbourhoods.

Suggested topics for kids aged 8 to 11 include: amazing animals, amazing nature, gardening, plastic pollution and resource use minimisation, with the addition of climate change as pollution and what to do about it.

Kids aged 12 to 15:

Kids aged 12 to 15 drew maps of greater scope that were more abstract, but still anchored in familiar, often social places. Less focus was on forests and more on social places like malls, town parks, and places downtown to eat lunch.

Suggested topics for kids aged 12 to 15 include: amazing animals, amazing nature, gardening, plastic pollution and resource use minimisation, climate change as pollution and what to do about it, with additional material: ocean acidification, rising seas, extreme weather, impacts on people and what to do about it. Let them know about the inspiring children and adults working to make change. One good resource I have found that presents climate change as simple, serious and solvable is the Alliance for Climate Educationhttps://acespace.org/the-deal 

Nijhaus suggests that for kids in the 12 to 15 years age group “climate change had become part of their explorable landscape—and they were ready to face it.” She makes this claim based on her experience talking to them and their excited questioning while they were working on a student film about recent climate exacerbated wildfires.

Kids aged 16+:

Kids aged 16+ were not studied by David Sobel that I know of, however I am well aware of young teenage activists such as those involved with Zero Hour who are assuming climate leadership rolls for their peers.  

Suggested topics for kids aged 16+ include: amazing animals, amazing nature, gardening, plastic pollution and resource use minimization, climate change as pollution and what to do about it, +ocean acidification, rising seas, extreme weather, impacts on people and what to do about it.  Let them know about the inspiring children and adults working to make change. As mentioned above, a good resource is available via the Alliance for Climate Education which presents climate change as simple, serious and solvablehttps://acespace.org/the-deal. 

Further thoughts:

Sunni Tang from the Alliance for Climate Education (https://acespace.org) and Emelly Villa, a 17-year-old activist involved with the forthcoming @Zero Hour march (http://thisiszerohour.org) recommend starting at any age to teach about climate change. Emelly stresses making it age appropriate. She says “It’s a lot harder to grasp what climate change really is at a young age, so I would start by teaching them about endangered species and use a hands-on approach. Then as they get older, start including much more of the scientific research on climate change and also teach them to speak out about the topic as it will have an impact on their future.” Sunni Tang from the Alliance for Climate Education tells me “When our young people communicate about climate change, they always tie the story of climate change back to their own personal experiences of how climate change threatens something they love.” And this approach is perhaps more accessible to young people at any age. She says “It’s never too early to have the talk about climate change. Climate change isn’t just a science issue, it’s a human justice issue and the fight for climate justice is a fight for values such as equity, justice, and sustainable living.”

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Emelly Villa thisiszerohour.org 

Authors note:

The above age appropriate content suggestions are part of my own interpretation of the information on climate change and child development. I am not a child development expert, I am a science communicator and a mother passionate about protecting our climate and our kids. So I hope you find this information useful, but you may wish to speak with your child’s teachers to get more insights into how to positively engage them in caring for their habitat, planet Earth. Thank you to everyone who has offered me feedback on this article so far.

Links:
David Sobel Neighbourhood map making with children:
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/234599505_Mapmaking_with_Children_Sense_of_Place_Education_for_the_Elementary_Years

Alliance for Climate Education:
https://acespace.org

How I Talk to My Daughter About Climate Change
https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2018/04/raising-kids-climate-change/554969/
Michelle Nijhuis

Zero Hour:
http://thisiszerohour.org
Youth Climate March Washington DC July 21 2018

Other links:

Talking about climate change is very important:
https://thinkprogress.org/the-most-important-thing-you-can-do-to-fight-global-warming-b0cbe1fdf775/

Project Drawdown 100 best solutions to reverse global warming:
www.drawdown.org/solutions

Project Drawdown EcoChallenge by the North West Earth Institute:
https://drawdown.ecochallenge.org/challenges

Parachutes for the planet (for kids of any age):
http://motherearthproject.org/parachutes/

Principles of Climate Literacy: outline of major concepts and subconcepts that can be adapted as appropriate for each age:
https://www.climate.gov/teaching/essential-principles-climate-literacy/essential-principles-climate-literacy

NAAEE and NWF Climate Change Education guidelines. Suggests starting Climate Change education in Grade 4.
http://online.nwf.org/site/DocServer/NWF_NAAEE_Educational_Guidelines1.pdf

NASA’s Climate Kids resource:
https://climatekids.nasa.gov/

 

Image credits: Samantha Sophia via Unsplash and Emelly Villa courtesy of  http://thisiszerohour.org

 

About the author:

Dr Heidi Edmonds is an ecologist / environmental engineer with a PhD in freshwater ecology who is currently a freelance research scientist while raising two young children. As a science communicator and a mother, she is especially interested in making climate science and climate action accessible, simple and easy to understand for more people. Check out her blog at climatekiss.com (www.climatekiss.com)

 

Drawdown EcoChallenge Thanks, Links and Wrap up

Congratulations to Asheville High School! This team of young teenage change makers and their teachers won the EcoChallenge​! Congratulations also to all the other winners! And all the other participants! Let’s keep making change happen! Thanks EcoChallenge​ for a fun, educational, challenging and motivating time!

Our team came it at #43 out of 767 teams.
https://drawdown.ecochallenge.org/dashboards/teams/climate-kiss-australia. Not bad for a little Australian group of eco minded friends.

Our team shared their stories on the Drawdown EcoChallenge page (where other teams also shared their great ideas and inspiring learnings). I shared our team’s collective stories as blog posts on Facebook. I’ve linked to all the Facebook blog posts so you can relive the fun and excitement below:

I personally spent up to 60 minutes learning about drawdown solutions to reverse global warming (micro wind, educating girls, proper disposal of refrigerants, food choices that limit deforestationthe importance of air to composting for reducing methane, the value of walkable cities and the value of reducing water leakages in city piping). I consumed 28 meatless or vegan meals, developed much better habits in regards to using less plastic, and contacted public officials about one issue (walkable cities). I also reflected on the value of the three-weeks the EcoChallenge runs over, as that is how long it takes to form new habits.

I loved learning more about barriers globally to women’s representation that Jess presented, along with her entertaining stories about shoe repairs, storage of soft plastics, and conversations about food waste with friends. Thanks to Ingela and Jess for some great suggestions about carbon offsetting our flights. Thanks to Jessie for a poignant piece about ecological grief and the need to protect and value our natural wonders. Thanks to Simone and Annie for logging your actions while some other team members fell by the wayside. (It is a challenge right! To make these changes while juggling busy lives! 🙂 ) Thanks to Nell, Julie (my mum!) and Fflur for some great vegan and vegetarian food ideas. Thanks to Fflur for reminding us to scrunch our Easter egg wrappers in a ball before recycling. Big thanks to my mum for sticking with the challenge even while on holiday in Hawaii, and for sharing some insights into solar power installation in town houses! Thanks to Eve for getting her amazing Hope-Suds​ soaps in on the action and to Gillian for a great reminder about the fun of micro lending and watching how a seemingly small donation might make someone else’s business idea on the other side of the world fly!

As a team here are our stats: up to 40 locally sourced meals consumed, up to 1 donations made, up to 5 public officials contacted, up to 15 conversations with people, up to 4 people helped, up to 1 documentaries watched, up to 5708 pounds CO2 saved. up to 45 gallons water saved, up to 385 minutes spent learning, up to 173 meatless or vegan meals consumed. 🙂 Yay us!

Finally, I made my first video for the planet. i.e. not a music video. As part of the EcoChallenge’s “unselfieme” challenge. Here it is. Why I did the EcoChallenge: