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Teaching climate change to the future decision-makers

Italy is going to be the first country in the world to teach climate change in school.

At the end of 2019, Italian education minister Lorenzo Fioramonti announced that the topics of climate change and global warming would soon be taught as subjects in Italian schools, for a total of 33 hours a year, more or less one per week. 

“The entire ministry is being changed to make sustainability and climate the centre of the educational model,” Mr Fioramonti said quoted by Reuters. “I want to make the Italian educational system the first educational system that puts the environment and society at the core of everything we learn in school”.

Indeed, young generations have started to raise their voices in demanding we change the way we live so that they can have a better future. In mid-March 2019, thousands of students took to the streets to participate in the first-ever global school strike for climate. 100,000 people in Milan, 40,000 in Paris and even 6,000 in Budapest, later in September.

As award-winning journalist Naomi Klein writes in her latest book On Fire, in early readers, textbooks and big-budget documentary films, those young students learned of the existence of ancient glaciers, dazzling coral reefs and exotic mammals that make up our planet’s many marvels.

“And then, almost simultaneously — from teachers, older siblings, or sequels to those same films — they discovered that much of this wonder has already disappeared and much of the rest of it will be on the extinction block before they hit their thirties,” she continues.⠀

Educating young generations could be the key to really save the planet. For those who have been trained to just follow the green trail of money, it might be too late. But, as Italy’s government is recognising, the future belongs to those students that today are protesting. Learning today could translate into better choices tomorrow. ⠀

Although Italy is already doing some concrete steps, many other countries are also starting to acknowledge that it is important to address climate change-related threats. In fact, according to a survey conducted by the US think tank, Pew Research Centre, many people consider climate change as a top international threat, ahead of terrorism and cyberattacks. The survey includes also countries from Central and Eastern Europe, like Greece (where 90 per cent of the people named climate change as a top threat), Hungary (66 per cent) and Poland (55 per cent).

In Hungary, the capital’s municipal assembly declared a climate emergency last year. 

“Climate change and global warming are already having a serious impact on our daily lives,” said Budapest mayor, Gergely Karácsony. “We have a moral responsibility to leave the best world we can to our children and grandchildren, but not worse than what we received from our parents and grandparents.”

The Czech Republic already accepted this responsibility in 1992, establishing the Charles University Environment centre as a part of the Charles University of Prague. The centre conducts environmental research and provides environmental expertise and information for students, university staff and the general public.

In fact, proper training is what every country lacks, according to Croatia’s NGO DOOR, an organisation promoting sustainable energy development by raising awareness, advocating and inspiring all segments of society. Its members are continuously looking for an educational approach to educate pupils about climate change. 

Among the projects already selected for funding by DOOR, there is the Ecogotchi Escape Book, a solution provided by the interactive design and technology studio Polycular. The idea was born from the well-known game Tamagotchi, played by millions of people in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Polycular’s founders described the game as “a total waste of time. What if we could leverage this potential for real-life change and play away CO2?”. EcoGotchi is a creature living on your phone, which educates you about sustainability, your surroundings and its well-being depends on your decisions and actions. With Ecogotchi Escape Book, Polycular aims to further change learning experiences in the classroom and at home.

There are about 500.000 pupils in Croatia only, future citizens and decision-makers, who are not receiving proper education about climate change issues, even though they will be strongly impacted by climate change and will be obliged to adapt. Taking concrete actions now could really reduce emissions in all countries, increasing the chances of a better future for the next generations. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀  

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