Climate and Environmental Literacy

Climate & Environmental Literacy

Combined with civic education, climate and environmental literacy will create jobs, build a green consumer market and allow citizens to engage with their governments in a meaningful way to solve climate change.

Fifty years ago, the first Earth Day started an environmental revolution. Now, we are igniting an education revolution to save the planet. This formal campaign, launched Summer 2020, is combining grassroots support and on the ground efforts by students, educators, and nonprofits with national level commitments from Ministries of Education and Environment. Through our Climate and Environmental Literacy Campaign, we will ensure that students across the world benefit from high-quality education to develop into informed and engaged environmental stewards. 

EARTHDAY.ORG™ believes every school in the world must have compulsory, assessed climate and environmental education with a strong civic engagement component.

ADD YOUR VOICE

Sign the letter to the UNFCCC

Tell global leaders at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to commit to compulsory, assessed climate and environmental education with a strong civic engagement component at COP26 this November.

Sign the letter to the GEF

In order to achieve widespread climate literacy for youth, we need to rethink funding opportunities for school systems and NGOs. Tell global leaders at the Global Environmental Facility to expand funding opportunities to include climate literacy and civic capacity building.

SPREAD THE WORD

Promote climate literacy initiatives in your community and around the world.

Climate Literacy Communications Toolkit

Explore research and news coverage of climate literacy around the world.

Climate Literacy in the News

LEARN MORE

The world and its people are facing full-scale emergencies across multiple fronts from climate change to the loss of animal and plant species. In order to act, to make the best choices in their daily lives and catalyze the urgent change needed, people everywhere need to be properly educated: that starts in school.

Governments have recognized this for decades and many have introduced some level of climate and environmental education into their education systems. But the truth is that the quality, consistency, frequency, honesty and impact of climate and environmental education is in some cases weak, cursory and still in all too many countries non-existent. There remains a huge, cavernous gulf between what governments and education systems say they are doing and the reality on the ground for the vast majority — if not all — school-aged children in rich and poor countries alike.

To change this EARTHDAY.ORG believes every school in the world must have compulsory, assessed climate and environmental education with a strong civic engagement component.

The time is now — indeed it is long overdue — for a massive climate literacy campaign that can create a generation of citizens, workers and leaders who really understand why and how to stop climate change and environmental degradation. We are determined to work with others to make this happen and equip the world’s children with that knowledge and skills needed to build a better future.

Since its inception, environmental education has been at the core of the mission for Earth Day and EARTHDAY.ORG. At the first Earth Day, environmental teach-ins brought together communities of all types to talk about local environmental issues and what communities could do to work collaboratively to develop localized solutions to tackle those issues head-on.

EARTHDAY.ORG is committed to increasing global environmental and climate literacy. We are dedicated to ensuring that every student around the world completes their formal education as an environmental and climate literate citizen, ready to take action and speak up for change.

This goal is critical and timely. The world needs youth to mobilize and use the knowledge, skills and motivation to take civic action to protect our planet. Education needs to be a key part of this effort and is a crucial step to fighting climate change. To be stewards of this planet, and to sustain a functional society and economy, natural resources must be used wisely and efficiently. We must also protect all ecological systems to ensure clean air, clean water, and food security for all.

EARTHDAY.ORG believes every school in the world must have compulsory, assessed climate and environmental education with a strong civic engagement component.

The history of environmental education parallels Earth Day and the modern environmental movement. Evolving from the Nature Study and conservation education, environmental education formalized in the late 1960s and gained traction in the 1970s. Climate education has recently evolved to address the global and local impacts of anthropogenic climate change.

To best understand the nuances and overlap of these terms, please visit our definitions page to explore EDO’s interpretation of environmental, climate and civic education and literacy.

EARTHDAY.ORG has been a global leader in climate and environmental education for decades through creating curricula, resources and supportive teacher networks. We will continue to support education through this formal Climate and Environmental Literacy campaign to advance commitments to educating our youth and protecting our planet.

Today’s climate crisis demands a bold response. It requires the unyielding pressures that the youth climate movement brings to the table. When climate catastrophes batter coastlines and wreck communities, some politicians express concern but all too many turn away. Youth demand change. This is the way forward: action, not rhetoric.

And we know that young people need the help of adult allies, too. There’s a role for everyone to support youth voices and stand alongside them — from teachers and school administrators to parents and relatives. EARTHDAY.ORG is working to unite a global network to coordinate grassroots efforts for supporting climate and environmental literacy while also gaining commitments from national governments and intergovernmental agencies to provide top-down support and resources.

Our work is in support of Action for Climate Empowerment or ACE . Included in Article 12 of the Paris Agreement, the “overarching goal of ACE is to empower all members of society to engage in climate action, through education, training, public awareness, public participation, public access to information, and international cooperation on these issues.” And while ACE covers all aspects of education and outreach for all ages, we focus our efforts on the education of youth ages 6 to 18 in formal school systems.

In Madrid at COP25 in 2019, EARTHDAY.ORG organized a press conference with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs vice minister of Mexico, the Education Minister of Italy, the Pope’s representative on youth and education, Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and Kathleen Rogers, President of EARTHDAY.ORG.

The message was that the time for heightened ambition on climate and environmental education is now.

EDO and our partners are working to catalyze international support for strong outcomes on climate and environmental literacy at the UN climate conference (COP26) in Glasgow. One that ensures all nations are firmly committed to requiring that all students experience mandatory and high-quality climate and environmental education, coupled with civic education that meets the challenges and opportunities unfolding in the 21st century.

It is imperative that students are prepared for dramatic changes within their lifetime. Impactful environmental and climate education programs will prepare students on how to evaluate risk, assess credible resources in the media, make responsible consumer decisions and adapt to a rapidly changing economy. Building knowledge and skills for the growing green sector of clean energy, efficient transportation, sustainable business and more will make students competitive for new jobs.

For decades many countries have attempted to mandate environmental and/or climate education, but we are not seeing enough evidence of its success in an environmentally literate citizenry. This changes now. Join us today!

This campaign focuses on the universal need for compulsory and assessed climate and environmental education for every student in the world. However, there needs to be an emphasis on ensuring that young girls and women are included in this work at every level. As students, educators, household decision makers and citizens, girls and women have an extraordinary role to play in addressing the climate crisis.

As we consider changes to the formal education system to improve and increase access to climate and environmental education that is paired with meaningful civic engagement, we must consider the long-standing systems of oppression that limit young girls’ access to educational opportunities, especially in STEM-related fields of study and careers in many parts of the world. There are also unconscious biases present in educators and parents as well as personal preferences in many young girls for career fields far beyond STEM which provide creative opportunities and greater social impact.

EARTHDAY.ORG is working to not only start an education revolution with the Climate and Environmental Literacy Campaign, but an education revolution that is just and equitable for students from every country, any ethnicity, and for students of all gender identities. We are working to break down academic silos, embed environmental justice and prioritize gender equity across all aspects of this campaign.

For years research has demonstrated the positive impacts on fostering gender equity in education. Recent research has reinforced these findings in the context of climate and environmental education as well. A recent report from the Malala Fund notes the critical need in addressing education access for girls in order to effectively tackle the climate crisis.

Not only does the research back these claims, but activists and women from front line communities are demonstrating their commitment and ability on a daily basis. Vanessa Nakate, a youth climate activist from Uganda, serves as a role model and spokeswoman for climate action, girls education, and environmental justice.

EARTHDAY.ORG will ensure that young girls and women will receive equal access to this kind of education and is constantly working to amplify the voices of female leaders working toward Climate Literacy and Climate Action.

Watch our Earth Day Live webinar from International Women’s Day 2021: Women in Leadership: Fighting the Climate Crisis through Climate Literacy

Also, please explore these great resources from partners and like-minded entities who are committed to incorporating gender equity into climate literacy:

Every system on Earth is connected, and actions taken in one impact the others. Decisions made about economics or politics can have rippling impacts on society, communities and our natural environments. Climate change is a great example of how human behavior can dramatically impact our natural world, and have serious consequences to our social, physical and economic health. Climate change impacts every part of the world differently, but disproportionately threatens the most vulnerable communities — who are already bearing the brunt of environmental degradation.

Marginalized communities are often ignored and excluded during conversations that directly impact their health and livelihoods. Providing environmental and climate education with a strong civic engagement component will provide students with the skills to enter a growing green workforce and the know-how to advocate for policies and practices that will keep them healthy, safe and prosperous. These elements are critical to community wellbeing. Ensuring equitable access to education, public health and safety are critical elements of climate change solutions.

Today, high-quality environmental and climate education is commonly a privilege afforded to select schools with additional resources for afterschool clubs, outdoor learning labs, transportation for field trips or teachers who have extensive professional development. Lessons and content that should be taught through the formal education system are often substituted for cost-prohibitive informal education experiences, such as summer camps or nature expeditions. These experiences present a barrier for those who don’t have the means to afford or access them. What’s more, when environmental and climate education are offered as electives in school, they often lack local relevance for students to build skills to address these issues.

Environmental and climate education are innately tied to environmental and climate justice.

This campaign aims to address these inequities by advocating for compulsory environmental and climate education in every school in the world. This education must be made accessible for all students, including those who constantly felt left out of environmental and climate education by ignoring their experiences, cultural backgrounds and interests. Climate and environmental education must incorporate topics of justice, equity, access and inclusion and voices from BIPOC communities.

We aim to build a coalition of diverse supporters who work across sectors and issue areas, including NGOs, unions and teachers associations, in order to highlight the interdisciplinary nature of climate and environmental literacy.

We would be remiss if we did not talk about this campaign in the context of the recent global pandemic. As we look to reopen schools either online, in-person or in a hybrid manner, education will not look the same this semester. It may never look the same. And while COVID-19 provides many complex barriers and problems for safe education, we have to stay positive and look for the opportunities and silver linings that accompany this new reality.

Whether teachers and students return to the classroom or connect virtually, we need to rethink education. To successfully embed climate and environmental education into formal schooling, we also need to rethink content, access, teacher professional development and funding. So now is the time to reimagine education that is more equitable, higher quality and prepares students for a challenging future full of complex issues.

The more we prepare our youth to be critical thinkers and consumers of information, the more prepared they will be to combat these issues or perhaps even prevent them from starting. It is imperative that we equip all students with skills, knowledge, and most importantly, hope for a sustainable future.

Learning how to understand, analyze and take action based on complex science is a core tenet to our Climate and Environmental Literacy campaign. There are clear connections between this virus and its spread and the impacts on the environment, environmental justice and climate change. To see and understand these links, students need to be taught about the environment in an interdisciplinary way. By connecting the disciplines of language, math and science, arts and history students will be able to see these issues for the multifaceted systems that they are. Through revolutionizing education we can break down the silos and teach about the world in the way that it exists.

In addition to providing high quality content, this campaign also aims to address changes needed in the infrastructure of schools around the world to meet the needs of the global pandemic. In order to keep students and educators safe, those who do return to school need to better utilize outdoor learning spaces, gardens and outdoor labs. In order to keep teachers prepared, they need regular professional development, and plenty of resources. In order to best equip students with the self efficacy they need to be successful adults, we need to provide them with the cross disciplinary, civic-focused, top quality education. All of this is critical to a successful response to re-imagining schools in the face of COVID-19 as well as climate change.

  • Climate Literacy: A climate literate person is a critical thinker who understands complex relationships of multiple variables of the climate system and acts in the best interest of long-term global health. These individuals make informed and thoughtful decisions based on science, economic and social factors to have the least impact on the climate system including a person’s carbon, water and land footprint.

  • Environmental Literacy: The goal of environmental education where individuals make responsible, thoughtful decisions about their actions while considering the total environmental impact, trade-offs and long-term consequences.

  • Civic Education: The field of learning that focuses on local, national and international government structure and function and how individuals can have an active role in community well-being. Civic action has always been foundational to environmental education. While civic education can focus on many different topics, environmental civic education focuses on issues like natural resource use and access, preservation and expansion of natural areas and green space, environmental justice and climate action planning.

    To best understand the nuances and overlap of the terms listed on this page, please visit our definitions page to explore EDO’s interpretation of environmental, climate and civic education and literacy.



Explore the following reports from EDO and our partners for more information about our work on environmental and climate education:



Read more about the urgent need for global climate literacy in the news.


Watch the Education International Summit

On April 21st Education International and EARTHDAY.ORG joined to host a Global Education Summit on climate education. Together we’re working to ensure that climate education, based on science and with a civic action focus, becomes as fundamental as teaching reading and writing and is accessible to every student in the world.




DOWNLOAD A PDF OF THE COP26 CLIMATE LITERACY PETITION LETTER

Environmental Education Resources

EARTHDAY.ORG offers lessons, toolkits and ideas for building environmental literacy in students of all ages.

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