Building knowledge and capacity for action on climate change

Worldwide, children are making an impact as they enter into conversations and take action on climate change.

Schools, too, are playing an important role in providing access to facts and building knowledge about our environment and the impact of human behaviour.

In NSW, students start learning about the environment in kindergarten, with specific content included in the k-10 geography and the k-6 science and technology syllabuses. There are also opportunities to learn about sustainability in all NSW syllabuses in line with the requirements of the Australian Curriculum.

We must also to look to our First Peoples for guidance and knowledge regarding responsible stewardship of our earth. Cultural knowledge is a vastly under-appreciated resource, and we could all learn much more from generations of experience of sustainable land management if we listen. In doing so, we also have an opportunity to create a more just and sustainable world.

A vital and unifying aspect of achieving change is the capacity to talk, plan and take action alongside others who have differing points of view or experience from your own. Talking together allows us to challenge long-held beliefs that may be rooted in inaccuracy, to bring fresh ideas into the conversation, and to consider how choices we make, whether personally or at a policy level, impacts others and our environment.

“How to talk about climate change (without losing friends)” was a talk given last month by year 7 student Belle at her local climate action meeting.

In her talk, Belle emphasises the importance of engaging in conversation, and particularly in respectful disagreement, with others.

Be kind and listen

Talking to people about climate change can be really hard. When I was in primary school I studied ethics. Learning about ethics was really good because we got to share our views with one another and everyone was kind.  Whenever someone had something to say everyone would listen. After they finished talking, we would either build on their idea or view, or we would say, “I like your point, but I think this (xyz)”. We were polite and respectful to each other, even if we had different views, and there were a few things that helped us to achieve this.

We only had a few ground rules, but these rules really made sure that other people could be heard and that no one would be nasty to anyone about their view. One of the rules was ‘no putdowns’. This made sure that everyone was kind to each other. Another rule was ‘only one person speaking at a time’ — this made sure that everyone had a fair turn at speaking.

Belle’s talk is now published in full on the Sydney University Environment Institute blog.

The Primary Ethics curriculum builds the skills to ‘disagree respectfully’ from as early as kindergarten. The four lessons of the kindy topic ‘Disagreeing’ cover:

  1. Disagreeing out loud
  2. Different ways to disagree
  3. Fear of disagreeing
  4. Understanding the reason why

Thank you to Belle and the many other young people, as well as the communities who offer their support, for tackling the incredibly important issue of climate change, both today on this global day of action but every day in their homes, schools and communities. Keep up these important conversations.

More resources on knowledge building and action around climate change: