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Environmental literacy

Bryce Coon, director of education at EARTHDAY.ORG, explains how a new form of literacy is helping to empower the next generation
Environmental literacy

This article first appeared in our COP28 issue of My Green Pod Magazine, published 30 November 2023. Click here to subscribe to our digital edition and get each issue delivered straight to your inbox

Fifty-three years ago, activists of all ages united for the very first Earth Day.

20 million people took to the streets, fuelled by the belief in education as the prime driver of change.

To this day, the protest remains the largest recorded single-day demonstration in history, and is a testament to our capacity for collective action.

But this momentous event wasn’t just a protest; it was the spark that ignited the modern environmental movement, laying bare the profound impact education wields as a catalyst for change.

As we fast-forward to today, we find ourselves at the cusp of a new era, where environmental literacy emerges as a potent force against climate change.

In the run-up COP28, EARTHDAY.ORG stands at the forefront of this movement, championing the inclusion of mandatory climate education in nations’ NDCs (Nationally Determined Contributions).

This call for commitment is more than a symbolic gesture; it is a pledge to equip future generations with the knowledge and tools they need to navigate a rapidly changing world.

Nurturing untapped potential

My own journey into this field has been shaped by my deep-rooted belief in the power of education.

For over a decade I stood on the front lines in a high-school classroom, weaving climate education into every facet of the curriculum. It was a vantage point that revealed not only the thirst for knowledge but also the untapped potential within our youth to become stewards of the environment.

In transitioning to my role as director of education at EARTHDAY.ORG, I recognised the need to amplify this impact beyond the confines of a single classroom. Policy, advocacy and resource development became the conduits through which to reach and inspire more students, expanding the ripple of environmental literacy.

Education, I’ve come to understand, is an invaluable tool, capable of effecting substantial shifts in beliefs and behaviours. It serves as the impetus for personal and professional decision-making, guiding the next generation as they ascend to leadership roles in their respective fields.

Yet, in championing climate education we grapple with entrenched traditions and bureaucratic inertia.

The path forward isn’t without its challenges, but within the educational ecosystem there exists an undeniable reservoir of passion and energy, especially among our young learners. It is within this fervour that we can see the promise of a brighter, more sustainable future.

Climate Education & Environmental Literacy

EARTHDAY.ORG is dedicated to the belief that every learner, regardless of location, should have access to comprehensive climate and environmental education, complemented by a robust civic engagement component.

Launched in the summer of 2020, EARTHDAY.ORG’s Climate and Environmental Literacy campaign brings together a coalition of students, educators, nonprofits and national ministries of education and environment to drive inclusive climate education initiatives.

These efforts aim to ensure society as a whole possesses the knowledge and skills needed to join the workforce, stimulate the growth of a sustainable consumer market and actively engage with government institutions.

At the heart of our mission is the commitment to educate and mobilise people worldwide, deepening their understanding of environmental issues and spurring them to take meaningful action.

Through the provision of accessible, science-based resources, we empower individuals, communities and organisations to make informed decisions that contribute to a more sustainable future.

This campaign not only instils a sense of environmental stewardship but also fosters a generation of informed, engaged citizens ready to lead positive change in their communities and beyond.

Hopes for COP28

Looking ahead, the vision is clear: a global commitment to mandatory climate education standards is what we need.

This isn’t just an educational imperative, it is a societal necessity. The benefits are boundless, though the most prominent is a generation equipped to navigate the complexities of our changing world.

As we navigate this critical juncture in human history, the call for environmental literacy reverberates louder than ever.

It transcends politics, geography and age, binding us in a collective quest for a sustainable future.

It is a rallying cry to recognise that the fate of our planet lies in our hands, and that knowledge is the beacon that will guide us forward.

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