The best way to learn, they say, is to teach. Which is useful advice, because there is a huge amount of information on climate change out there (49.6 millon hits on Google for starters, compared to 32.7m for ‘global warming’ and another 7.4m for ‘greenhouse effect’) and it is easy to get swamped.
So tomorrow I am going in to the first of two primary schools where I have been asked to give an assembly on my upcoming journey to the Carteret Islands, whose people are being forced to leave in the world’s first climate change evacuation. One of the two is my own former primary school, though it’s changed a bit since I was last there. Then, the whole of the first floor had slumped into disuse and we were banned from going upstairs in case we fell through, but they seem to have sorted that out now.
It is a privilege to be invited and is also something that is central to what I hope to achieve with this journey. Ideally, once I have been in to see the kids for the first time, they can follow my journey day by day through the blog I’ve set up, ask questions, maybe even exchange emails with the Islanders themselves. I can always go back afterwards as well, to show them photos and tell stories picked up while travelling.
Working out what I should teach has also been a useful lesson, which goes back to this being an opportunity to learn. Putting a presentation together (after talking to a few teachers, I’m using a mix of Powerpoint, Google Maps and pre-salted fruit to show a few willing volunteers why having salt water inundate their crops is a bad thing for the Islanders), has actually shown me where the gaps in my own understanding are. Do you feel confident you could explain the mechanics of climate change to a four-year-old? As a result, I’ve fallen back on those childhood lessons that stick in my memory; they do so often because they were stimulated by simple, visceral pictures – either put up by the teacher or sparked by simple concepts that caused my imagination to fire. So I am relying on a few of those, which will hopefully work as a platform for a good, two-way conversation with the kids themselves.
Any proper teachers out there might also be interested in having a look a classroom toolkit on climate change put together by Action Aid (there’s another coming out later this year, tied to the release of the Age of Stupid film). Action Aid is also putting on a conference for teachers about climate change in June, at which I’ve been asked to speak about this journey.
The pictures, of course, are only one part of the puzzle. The narrative provided by the trip itself will also, hopefully, help get the kids interested. But most important (this is also the subject of a previous blog) the real challenge is getting them to care about climate change. And to do that I think you need to inspire, not simply to warn.
So, essentially, the message I’m hoping to get across is that, yes, climate change is bad, but there is something you can do about it. As individuals, particularly as children, anything you do on your own might not mean much, but as one teacher said to me this week “lots of little things add up to a big thing”. And by doing anything – turning your lights off, not driving when you can walk – you are also part of a combined response; part of something that is bigger than yourself.
Which reminds me, what are you doing this Saturday?
As their island homes are swallowed by rising sea levels, the people of the Carteret Islands are being forced to leave in what will become the world’s first official climate change evacuation. Dan Box will be traveling to the islands in April and will be blogging live on his journel at www.journeytothesinkinglands.wordpress.com
The trip is made possible thanks to the Royal Geographical Society (With IBG) Journey of a Lifetime Award