A CBS poll found that 48% of respondents wrongly believe that scientists disagree about the human role in climate change. They don’t. It is sad — and outrageous — that almost half the people in the United States have been influenced by media silence and climate denial propaganda in schools — from textbooks, Heartland Institute handouts, and fossil fuel company misinformation. Teachers can turn that around.
That is why we are heartened by pledges from teachers across the United States to teach about climate justice. Here is what some teachers said about why they took the pledge and/or how they plan to teach about the climate emergency.
I can’t afford not to. I want to look my grandchildren in their eyes without shame. — Evan Long, teacher educator, Powhatan, Virginia
My students will be living with the consequences of climate change directly. They are living in flood-prone areas and poor neighborhoods. — Ann Milton, high school social studies teacher, Tampa, Florida
Young people have a right to learn truthful information about the science related to climate change and the politics related to the alleged controversy over whether it is real or whether scientists agree. Scientists are in consensus and the environmental changes that are predicted to happen are already occurring. To shield young people from information that they need to make informed judgements about the world they live in and how to navigate it would be a disservice at best, and a deep injustice at worst, to them. — John Terry, high school social studies teacher, Wayne, New Jersey
Students in Illinois are already arriving as climate refugees from Guatemala and other Central American countries, so it is responsive to students lived experience. We also desperately need to help our students start solving the problems that inevitably will be experienced in their lifetime. — Emily Wilkie, high school social studies teacher, Chicago, Illinois
Young people are going to be the most impacted by the decisions made in the next 10 years to address the climate crisis. In order to be good citizens and have the knowledge to make a difference in the world, they need a basic understanding of the science and available solutions to stabilizing the climate. — Dana Mains, alternative education teacher, Fennville, Michigan
It is my moral and professional obligation. — R. Gina Renee, high school social studies and English teacher, Overland Park, Kansas
Our civic life today is littered with the consequences of separating science from civic education. [Our] students are in the community making proposals for increasing the environmental sustainability of our urban encironment. — Shannon Salter, high school social studies teacher, Allentown, Pennsylvania
My school and my community were recently destroyed by a tornado. We MUST pay attention to changes in our climate and how we impact these changes. — Cathleen Cadigan, high school U.S. history teacher, Dallas, Texas
Students need to know that we are all part of an interwoven system that sustains us. When we teach about climate justice, we are valuing and protecting this system. — Susy Remillard, middle school English and language arts teacher, Harwich, Massachusetts
You cannot separate social justice from climate change, environmental racism or the debilitating impact of climate injustice on health care and food security. — Joy Barnes-Johnson, high school chemistry and social studies teacher, Princeton, New Jersey
The future of our species is at stake. Climate change and other anthropogenic effects are degrading our ecosystem at an alarming rate. To pursue our current policies is madness. I will bring climate justice into discussion every time it relates to the topic being taught. —David B. Stephens, high school chemistry and biology teacher, Little Rock, Arkansas
This is the single most important social issue of our time and it is my duty to be educated and empower my students to help create policies to ameliorate this crisis. — Genevieve Allard, high school government and civics teacher, Teterboro, New Jersey
It is one of the most pressing crises of our time and a gateway into numerous other movements for peace and justice. — Richard Kahn, teacher educator, Woodland Hills, California
I am really excited about taking The Climate Crisis Trial: A Role Play on the Roots of Global Warming and using it as a starting point for my class. — Seth Adams, high school social studies teacher, Brooklyn, New York
Our world depends on it. I want my children, and grandchildren, and my students, to have a world to live in. They did not create this mess and it is not fair that they have to deal with it. We need to act now. Additionally, the poorest people in our world are the ones who will lose the most, and again, that is not fair as they have not even benefited from the large living that has caused this climate crisis. I will teach climate justice by reading articles about how it is affecting people around the world, and helping my students come up with ways that they can make changes. — Gillian Murr, middle school language arts and social studies teacher, Portland, Oregon
The opposite of climate justice is climate apartheid. — Keith Barger, middle school history and ESL teacher, Jinzhou, China
The climate crisis is the most pressing issue facing all of humanity and it is profoundly a question of justice. Who caused the problem? Who suffers from it? How do solutions address the history of carbon-based, capitalist and imperialist society, economy inequality, racism, unequal global relations. Follow the wisdom of Extinction Rebellion: declare the climate emergency, tell the truth, address climate justice, demand citizen assemblies and immediate transformation. — Allen Webb, teacher educator, Kalamazoo, Michigan
Our students crave thoughtful, rich discourse on the existential crisis of our time. They deserve opportunities to discuss, organize, and mobilize for our earth’s future. Climate justice is THE work right now, and always: it undergirds everything and teaches us that the more interconnected we are as a global community, the more effective we can be at raising our voices. I commit to discussing climate justice every day with my students. In my “Participation in Government” classes, we surface instances of environmental racism which have eroded our nation’s ability to respond to climate change. We talk about power dynamics and power levers, and investigate ways for young people to get involved. — Evan O’Connell, high school social studies teacher, Queens, New York
Please join these teachers and sign the pledge today.