Many young people are worried about the future – their future and the future of the planet. Environmental degradation and increasing global and local inequality are at the heart of the malaise. The solution is to make young people aware of the reasons and history behind the problems we face, the possibilities for change and their ability to help make those changes argues Dearbhla Gormley
A new global survey led by Bath University sheds a depressing light on young people’s perceptions of the planet’s future. The survey, which is the largest of its kind, was conducted across ten countries, receiving as many as 10,000 responses from young people between the ages of 16 and 25.
Just under 60 per cent of respondents said that they felt either very or extremely worried about the impacts of climate change, and as many as 45 per cent of respondents claimed that their ‘eco-anxiety’ was having an impact on their everyday lives.
Confusion and desperation
For many young people, there are feelings of hopelessness and abandonment, so it is perhaps unsurprising that the study has drawn a direct link between climate anxiety and government inaction.
Caroline Hickman, the lead author of the survey report and specialist in Eco Crisis Psychology said:”This shows eco-anxiety is not just for environmental destruction alone, but inextricably linked to government inaction on climate change. The young feel abandoned and betrayed by governments.”
For young people in particular, there seems to be a widespread sense of confusion and desperation; confusion at a lack of government leadership and action on a global scale, and a desperation to spark positive change but a lack of knowledge on how to do so.
It’s not only climate change that has young people on edge, it is also global justice issues across the board. A root cause of this perpetual worry (other than the climate and social justice issues themselves, of course) may stem from a lack of understanding of the processes which govern global decision-making, how global justice issues such as racism, sectarianism, discrimination, and oppression come to be, or how one could go about solving them.
A greater level of education on some of these topics could potentially alleviate the anxiety of young people by allowing them to develop a higher level of appreciation and understanding, and empowering them to take action as global citizens. This is exactly what the ‘Global Citizenship Education’ curriculum sets out to do.
In 2013, Irish Aid established ‘WorldWise Global Schools’ (WWGS) as a dissemination tool for the Global Citizenship Education curriculum throughout Irish post-primary schools. The project sets out to arm schools with the necessary tools and support to inform and teach students about social issues through a global justice lens.
Encourage critical thinking
The curriculum aims to challenge stereotypes and encourage critical thinking amongst its participants to provide a better understanding of the unequal world we live in. It helps people to appreciate the link between global justice issues and problems nationally, and even in our everyday lives.
By looking at a range of topics from a global justice perspective, young people are able to gain a greater understanding of their rights and responsibilities as a global citizen and provide them with the necessary tools to take action within their own communities to create a more just and sustainable world.
It is important that students are not only able to recognise that something is unfair, but why it is unfair, and think critically about the root causes of the issue. In a time of uncertainty, when many young people experience feelings of desperation and anxiety, it is crucial that they cultivate a deeper awareness of their place in the world and the part that they can play in promoting tolerance and acceptance.
Global Passport Award
Schools which take part in the Global Citizenship Education programme can apply for the Global Passport Award which is an EU recognised quality mark acknowledging that the recipient school has successfully integrated Global Citizenship Education into their teaching and learning.
The award is open to all post-primary schools in Ireland and is externally audited. There are three different levels of passport award that a school can apply for based on their engagement with the framework; the citizen’s passport award, the diplomatic passport award, and the special passport award.
Schools carry out self-assessment on the basis of six categories; curriculum, extra curricular activities, teacher capacity and engagement, student capacity and engagement, school leadership and policies, and community engagement.
For more information on how to apply: www.worldwiseschools.ie/global-passport
Preparing for a global world
A 2021 study published in the Educations, Citizenship, and Global Justice journal finds the Global Citizenship Education framework is effective in preparing students to live in a global world, and on the whole operated as a positive educational intervention.
The framework could therefore plausible act at least in part as a resolution to the anxiety and worry that young people are experiencing as a result of chronic government inaction on climate change and global justice issues.
Dearbhla Gormley recently completed an MA in International Relations at UCD