Guiding Youth Toward A Sustainable Future
"Children must be taught how to think, not what to think." — Margaret Mead, cultural anthropologist
In the years since the Industrial Revolution, we have seen a gradual upward warming trend caused by an increased amount of carbon emissions in the atmosphere, which is recognized as the primary contributor to global climate change and the significant environmental issues we face today.
Unless we make changes in our consumption habits, the impacts on global weather, sea levels, and biodiversity are predicted only to get worse. To avoid that potential future, we must ensure that today’s youth understand their important role in finding new and adopting existing solutions to bring about a sustainable future.
The good news is that technologies exist that can help us continue to live our lives while minimizing our carbon footprint and reducing disposable waste. In addition, sustainability education resources are readily available online for teachers looking for tips on how to build curriculum about sustainability. It's imperative that every student learn to fully comprehend issues of sustainability and make changes in their everyday lives.
For instance, are they recycling at home? Will they buy an alternative energy or fuel efficient vehicle when they become of age? Have they asked their parents or guardians to opt into clean energy with their utility companies?
Although we cannot ensure a change in habits, we can ensure that students think critically about their role in helping to save the planet. With guiding questions about sustainable practices and sustainability technology, students can engage more with ideas and concepts and think of ways in which they can be doing something in their daily lives.
Guiding questions are included below, in addition to sustainable solutions that relate to the guiding questions proposed. Using these questions can guide conversations among students and the answers the students have to the questions can be used to introduce sustainable solutions they can be doing on their own or pushing for their community to do, as well.
How do you think the lifestyle choices you and your family make impact you and the planet?
Transportation: Does your car get high gas mileage? Is your family’s car gas or electric? Have you ever taken the bus or walked instead of driven somewhere?
- Take the bus or walk to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere.
- If your car/your family’s car does not get high gas mileage, consider using alternative transportation.
Food: What kind of food do you eat? Do you eat packed lunches? Does your family compost and/or freeze their food so it does not go bad?
- Low impact foods are better for the environment. Some examples of low impact diets include vegetarian and organic diets. These diets are better for the environment as they require less land to produce crops. In addition, organic diets do not require harmful pesticides. Even reducing the amount of total meat eaten in a household can help the environment.
Energy: How much energy does your house use daily? Do you do anything currently to reduce the amount of energy you use in your home?
- Reduce the amount of energy used in a house daily by unplugging and turning off lights, electronics, and other appliances when not in use. In addition, purchasing energy-saving appliances helps as well if financially able.
What can you be doing in your community in regards to sustainability?
- Get Involved in Politics: Getting involved as a citizen and looking at your country’s national and international policies are key steps to achieving greater sustainability. You can even help educate elected officials and the media on sustainability.
- Educate: Let neighbors, family, or friends know there are sustainable practices they can be doing: help them separate their recycling or even give them the resources to learn for themselves as well.
What are one or two things you could do today to improve your sustainability?
- There are many answers to this question: recycle, unplug electronics, watch TV less, dress warmer and turn down the thermometer, etc. This will test the comprehension of students and maybe convince them to try these things at home for themselves.
These questions teach children how to critically think about their role in bringing about a sustainable and brighter future; not what to think. Each student may have a different answer as to what they can be doing to help the environment because they each have different abilities and opportunities to partake in sustainable solutions. Our job at Facing the Future is to provide educators with the educational resources and tools they need to help students make the best decisions for themselves and the environment. That way, the youth of today are prepared to bring about their own bright and sustainable future.