Building Resilience for the Climate Anxious Generation
The decade beginning in 2020 came in with roar and has created challenges that extend far beyond COVID. Among these challenges has been the impact that climate change is having on the mental health of our youth. To be clear, these young people don’t have a “mental health problem.” Our world is in a crisis of maturity, whereby those of us in responsible and capable positions don’t take up the task of providing for a safe and thriving future – and our young can sense it and react to it. This is true for young people around the world. Last year a study was released where 10,000 children and young people in ten countries were surveyed. Respondents across all countries were worried about climate change. 75% said that they think the future is frightening and 83% said that they think people have failed to take care of the planet). (1)
This generation of students is a vulnerable population because of the added challenges placed upon them due to our failures to address them before they become an overwhelming crises. As teachers and professors, it has always been our responsibility to help bring students into the future, but these challenges are changing the teaching profession forever. No longer is it enough to have content and pedagogical knowledge, teachers must also be guides and elders to take students into a future which will not be easy, especially as more students’ experience, firsthand, climate related catastrophes.
Most previous generations experienced challenges whether they were economic, war or social shifts. These challenges defined their generation. Climate change is different because it is happening as a result of people’s inaction to respond where past threats required people taking an action. Doing nothing in the past meant nothing changed. This is, in part, the dilemma that is creating the despair for students. Society not acting is jeopardizing a livable future for them. Understanding this also holds part of the solution.
What then are these new demands on teachers? What skills do students need to navigate this difficult future that our past (and current) inaction is creating for them? In this month’s webinar, we have invited thinkers and educators who are grappling with these questions, to help all of us to frame and think through some of the key questions so many of us now hold:
- What challenges do teachers face in supporting students and what are solutions to those challenges?
- How can teachers build their own agility, creativity, resolve and resilience to work with students in a world that is changing and unpredictable?
- What are we preparing students for and thus, what skills do students need to enhance their own resilience?
- What resources can help teachers?
In many ways, these unprecedented challenges that climate change (and intersecting challenges and collective traumas) pose to us, demand that we find a way to support our students while teachers grow their own capacities to deal with constant, traumatic, and transformative change. One of our panelists this month has called this developing an “adaptive mind.” (2) We hope you will join us for this important conversation and find a community of fellow educators who are grappling with similar questions.
- Climate anxiety in children and young people and their beliefs about government responses to climate change: a global survey, C. Hickman, MSc, E. Marks, ClinPsyD, P. Pihkala, PhD, S. Clayton, PhD, R. E. Lewandowski, PhD, E. E. Mayall, BSc, et al.
- The Emotional Toll of Climate Change on Science Professionals, D. Gilford, S. Moser, B. DePodwin, R. Moulton and S. Watson