This feels like Groundhog Week. It was just a fortnight ago that we posted about a flurry of warnings relating to climate change and biodiversity crises, ‘climate emergency’, ‘tipping points’, ‘time running out’ and the like. This week has seen more of the same — a ghastly mixture of news stories about extreme weather events happening now and reports issued by scientific experts, politicians and others warning of dire consequences in the future if we do not act decisively and soon to safeguard the planet. And then, amid the doom and gloom, there also appears a delightful story about junior climate scientists — some of them very junior indeed — getting actively involved in environmental and climate change education and taking practical steps to help make a difference.
First the bad news: three examples from the last couple of days.
Research published in the journal Nature indicates that parts of the Amazon rainforest are now emitting more carbon than they absorb. Tropical rainforests have been described as the Earth’s lungs, but a combination of deforestation and climate change has severely damaged the Amazon rainforest’s ability to soak up carbon. Rather than acting as a carbon sink, regions of the Amazon have now become a steadily increasingly source of carbon release, thus accelerating the climate crisis.
After record temperatures in the USA and Canada in recent weeks, leading to hundreds of death, drought and raging wildfires follow. It is possible that Death Valley recorded the highest-ever verified temperature this week. Siberia and the Arctic regions have also experienced highly unusual weather in recent weeks and months and it was, apparently, the second warmest June on record for Europe.
Meanwhile, the European Union has now published ambitious plans and targets to tackle climate change, apparently named the ‘Fit for 55’ package “because they would put the bloc on track to meet its 2030 goal of reducing emissions by 55% from 1990 levels.” However, the plans are controversial — the chair of the European Parliament’s Environment Committee described one of the proposals as “politically suicidal” — and will face considerable opposition.
Frans Timmermans, the European Commission vice president in charge of the EU’s green deal, explained the urgency:
This is the make-or-break decade in the fight against the climate and biodiversity crises. Yes it is difficult, yes it is hard. But it’s also an obligation, because if we were to renounce our obligation to help humanity live within planetary boundaries we would fail not just ourselves but we would fail our children and our grandchildren, who in my view, if we don’t fix this, will be fighting wars over water and food.Frans Timmermans, European Commission Vice President
And now for some better news: a wonderful example of education and environmental activism, helping children and young people to learn more about the challenges that confront us all and to get actively involved in helping solve them so that we can build a more sustainable future.
In an initiative led by the UK’s Royal Society, children as young as five are taking on their own climate and environmental research projects. According to the Royal Society website, ‘Tomorrow’s climate scientists’ was introduced in 2020 and “aims to give students across the UK not just a voice, but an opportunity to take action themselves to address climate and biodiversity issues – to become the climate scientists of tomorrow.”
One group of primary pupils, for example, are investigating how clean the air is in their school. A group of older students are growing nature-friendly food on school grounds. As one of the adults in a BBC news clip says: “These are the scientists of tomorrow. They’ve got to think about their future and their children’s future. And it’s a long-term game. This is not something for a single generation. We’ve all got to play our part.”
Click here to watch the short BBC clip about the project, showing some of the impressive work that children are doing.
The Royal Society page also includes a link to an online Q&A aimed at children aged 5 to 14 called ‘Your Planet, Your Questions’. The event was organised by the Great Science Share for Schools and the Royal Society and was hosted by Professor Brian Cox.
Life-Based Learning promotes an appreciation of the importance of plants, animal life and the wellbeing of the planet as a whole. Plant Life, Animal Life and Physical World are three of LBL’s nine curriculum themes that will bring a life focus to the curriculum for children aged 5 to 11 and ensure that they are learning the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values that will enable them to live sustainable lives in harmony with the needs of the planet.
Image at the head of this article by _Alicja_ from Pixabay