Sir David is right: young people are the great hope

A new report from WWF detailing the effects of global heating on life around the world pulls no punches: species from emperor penguins and snow leopards to hippopotamuses and bumblebees are all at grave risk from the impact of rising temperatures. “The vast scale and variety of impacts,” says WWF, “are now being felt on every continent, across all types of animal and plant life.” The naturalist Sir David Attenborough has described young people as “the great hope” for the future survival of the planet. He is correct. That’s why we need to ensure that environmental education forms an integral part of the curriculum for every young person, not just giving them knowledge and understanding but also helping inspire them to take on the immense challenges the planet faces.

In a 2020 report WWF stated that wildlife populations have fallen by more than two-thirds in less than 50 years and warned that one million species are threatened with extinction. Now a new report, Feeling the Heat: The fate of nature beyond 1.5°C of global warming, highlights 12 species from around the world that are at particular risk from the damage, for example to habitats and food chains, caused by climate change. The report adds to growing pressure on world leaders to agree decisive long-term action at the COP26 climate change conference in November:

If we are to secure a future for some of our most iconic species and habitats, and indeed ourselves, then 2021 must be a turning point. World leaders must seize the chance at COP26 to build a greener, fairer future – one with nature at its heart.

Tanya Steele, chief executive at WWF

In February the naturalist Sir David Attenborough issued a stark warning to world leaders at a UN Security Council debate on climate change:

If we continue on our current path, we will face the collapse of everything that gives us our security: food production, access to fresh water, habitable ambient temperature, and ocean food chains … and if the natural world can no longer support the most basic of our needs, then much of the rest of civilization will quickly break down.

People today all over the world now realize this is no longer an issue which will affect future generations. It is people alive today, and, in particular, young people, who will live with the consequences of our actions.

Sir David Attenborough, addressing the UN Security Council in February 2021

Sir David has previously described young people as “the great hope”, welcoming the growing numbers of young people who are concerned about the threat of climate change and the need to look after the planet.

Life-based learning promotes an appreciation of nature and the environment, of animal life and of the importance of sustainable living. Its curriculum themes — Plant Life, Animal Life and Physical World ensure that children acquire the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values to enable them to tackle the challenges the environment faces and to live sustainable lives in harmony with the needs of the planet.

The Inspiring the Next Generation area of the WWF website is packed with information, ideas and resources designed to help young people learn more about the issues that affect the planet, with specific sections for schools, youth groups, families and young people. The schools section, for example, includes classroom resources, opportunities to take part in live learning events and fun ‘make-it’ activities that encourage creativity.

The WWF website features in the Links area of the Forum website. There is a page for each of the nine life-based learning themes, with links (a) to sites with teaching ideas and resources for immediate use in the classroom and in curriculum planning (b) to a range of information-rich websites relevant to life-based learning.

We are always looking to expand the Links area of the website and welcome suggestions for additional links to high-quality websites. You can contact us here.

Read More About Environmental Education

The image at the head of this article comes from this page of the Natural History Museum website.

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