In 2019, youth throughout the world held global student strikes for climate, also known as Fridays for Future, during which they articulated their collective concern and frustration at political inaction on climate change, demanding climate justice. During the same period, through concrete activities on specific lands, drawing attention to the colonial nature of climate change, Indigenous land-based and climate movements have resisted extraction and development projects that fuel climate change. Youth responses to the increasing intensification and unevenness of climate heating present a crucial moment for rethinking education. To adequately respond to the global youth climate strikes and Indigenous movements, climate change education is recognizing the need to engage issues of justice, including for children and youth in different positions globally. Education research has long recognized the need to layer climate science education with learning about the intersecting sociocultural, political, and economic components of climate issues, along with the need to support youth as they face uncertain futures. At the same time, much historic climate change education was critiqued for its instrumentalism because it endorsed predetermined outcomes, limiting critical thought and stripping youth of their agency. By contrast, the recent youth climate strikes have spurred increased legitimation of youth voice and agency in climate issues, in addition to increasing attention to the marginalized and excluded. With the citizenship participation of youth thus legitimized, new efforts in climate change education more deeply address climate justice through a critical focus on the culpability of the Global North, supporting pedagogical interventions that support more critical learning. At the same time, many scholars question the extent to which climate change education fully addresses the deep colonial–capitalist roots of the climate crisis, particularly because education relies on these same colonial–capitalist foundations. Furthermore, despite increased interest in climate change education, many youth remain marginal to the conversation because research is still largely situated in the Global North, to the exclusion of many young people’s realities and reflecting the ongoing coloniality of knowledge production within education. Considering these issues, decolonial climate change education offers more direct confrontation with the failures of Western modes of thought and engages with alternative knowledges. In doing so, it opens space for climate change education grounded in relationality and kinship founded in Indigenous relational ontologies, whereby humans are not the center of climate learning and decision-making but are inherent within webs of relations among all things.
Carrie Karsgaard and Lynette Shultz
Climate change as a global crisis looms large in the public imagination, along with a widespread acknowledgement of a need to develop educational interventions and strategies that can help people engage with the climate emergency. However, conventional environmental education (EE) for a large part has remained focused on climate literacy and techno-scientific determinism, thus lacking the conceptual tools to engage with the sociopolitical, cognitive, and normative aspects of climate crises. Given the abstract, temporally stretched, and geographically diffused and distributed nature of the issue, the challenge for educators goes beyond an epistemic framing to encompass value-laden ideas of social justice, ecological sustainability, and collective well-being. Pedagogical efforts need to radically expand their reach to include context-specific, historical trajectories and development narratives that have shaped the current debates in climate mitigation and adaptation. The environmental discourse around climate change has been problematic in the Global South given that those discussions tend to eclipse the more pressing, local issues of pollution, soil degradation, water scarcity, or waste management. However, a growing understanding of the complex linkage between climate and other environmental issues has prompted newer forms of discourse and engagement. India faces daunting challenges as a large agrarian economy poised to bear the brunt of climate related events, alongside the material aspirations of a growing middle class. Nevertheless, numerous grassroots experiments are offering pathways for an alternate view of development and well-being through examples of resilience and adaptation. A historical and spatially grounded discussion of the climate change debates along with an exploration of promising initiatives can guide the design of EE for climate justice.