Marcelo Suárez-Orozco: Schools Must Teach Students to Address Climate Change

Commentary co-written with V. Ram Ramanathan highlights urgency to prepare a youthful demand for action.

Wasserman Dean Marcelo Suárez-Orozco has co-written a commentary for Kappan Online with V. Ram Ramanathan, Frieman Presidential Chair in Climate Sustainability at UC San Diego, stating the role of education in preparing students to call for action and fight for a more sustainable future.

“In September, as part of the youth-led international climate strike, millions of young people around the world took to the streets demanding action on climate change,” write Ramanathan and Suárez-Orozco. “In multiple languages and from every continent, they sent a clear message: If environmental damage continues to go unchecked, then our future will be bleak.  

“In a vivid example of youthful solidarity triumphing over indifference, these demonstrations showed just how quickly a global movement can come together in the digital age, especially when led by young people who sense the urgency of their cause.”

Suárez-Orozco and Ramanathan state that today’s high school students, “… understand the pressing need to bend the steep climb of the warming curve. As temperatures continue to rise, youth see their hopes for a prosperous future dwindling.

“Today’s young people know full well that environmental catastrophes — including forest fires, intense hurricanes, floods, and the melting of glaciers, with a concurrent rise in sea levels — will affect them directly, and they recognize that the fight against climate change cannot be put off. For them, facing unchecked climate change, the future isn’t what it used to be.”  

The co-authors underscore the need for both adults and children to make significant changes in their personal choices, cultural practices, and politics.

“It will require a widespread ethic of care for ever-fragile natural systems, a collective desire to protect our limited resources for future generations, compassion across national borders, and above all a willingness to work for the common good,” they write. “And these changes will be impossible without dedicated support from educators. 

“We argue that teaching students about climate change, especially environmental sustainability, must become a central goal of our education system. This theme must be woven seamlessly across the curriculum, starting with curiosity about the planet we live in — which is the point of departure for all scientific thinking — and, over time, encouraging youth to take an active part in the search for ways to limit and reverse environmental degradation.”

To read “Our students must be prepared to take on climate change” in Kappan Online, visit this link