Look Forward

How can we best support pupils and staff in facing climate change?

“Disaster sells newspapers, but hope generally doesn’t. The end of an old order is the beginning of a new one. The future is being born. How it turns out depends on us and what we hope for.” (Brian Eno)

How do I resolve my desire to go and lie on a beach in Greece with the knowledge of the damage caused by that not strictly necessary flight? How do I deal with the resulting suspicion I might be an idiot when I learn that in 2019 commercial aircraft carried over 4.5 billion passengers? Or I think about the corporate business traveller serially and blithely enjoying the luxuries of high-carbon-footprint business travel at the expense of the company and all our futures?

We have a responsibility to everyone in our schools – staff and students – contemplating the future. How do we live in a world where the future sometimes feels like a nightmare? How do we live with the knowledge that we may have bequeathed a poisonous future to our children?

One person wrote: “Personally speaking, it’s hard not to feel worried and stressed about climate change. For most of the summer last year I carried round this edgy feeling, a sense I was already living in a dystopian nightmare. Somewhere inside me I think I’d already given up. Resigned myself to the collapse of civil society and eradication of so much of life on earth. Along with this, a sense that I’d been deeply irresponsible bringing my children into such a world.”

The writer talks about the dangers of allowing our stressful responses to mislead us, asserting: ‘The alternative isn’t inaction but instead wiser action.’ It’s a very powerful and hopeful piece. ‘Looking after your mental health, staying calm, being open-hearted is the most subversive act of our time.’ Highly recommended: see here

The point is, learning about the state of our planet can feel a bit like being told about severe illness in a loved one. After reading a particularly hard-hitting book about the realities of climate change I realised I was experiencing something like the stages of grief. It is no coincidence that WWF’s Eco Schools initiative includes a component that ‘Encourages schools to promote the health and wellbeing of young people and the wider community.’ We need to go gently with our students and staff, being aware of our own health and wellbeing, aware of the emotional distress that may accompany an understanding of the issues and ready to give our support as best we can.

And having come to terms with what is happening, we need to get beyond our worst fears by collectively reimagining the future, helping ourselves to feel more hopeful and more energised to act in the present.

Further information:

Looking Forward – How and Why We Need to Reimagine the Future. ‘We should of course prepare for the worst. But we should also prepare for the best. And the best is limited only by our imaginations.’

5 ways Coronavirus could help humanity survive the ecological crisis. ‘The best way to prevent pandemics and avoid the human suffering we are seeing unfold in the world due to coronavirus is not self-isolation, handwashing or facemasks, but the jettisoning of our moribund economic, food and transport systems, and replacing them with structures that put nature and planet first.’

Reimagining our Futures: practical examples of ways ‘to nurture whole people and whole communities to transition from a world of domination and extraction to a world of regeneration, resilience, and interdependence.’

Community-Driven Climate Resilience Planning: a framework for vision, solutions and community voice and power in the face of climate change.

Climate Psychology Alliance: the podcasts may be particularly useful for educators who need to talk with young people about climate change.

Supporting Children in the Face of Climate Change: video and facebook blog from Jo McAndrews

Transition Network: a movement of communities coming together to reimagine and rebuild our world. Collaboration and resilience.

The Resurgence Trust aims ‘to foster a greater connection to Nature to enhance personal wellbeing, support resilient communities and inform social change towards regenerative societies that enrich our natural environment.’

Oskar’s Quest: A thought-provoking film about dealing with climate anxiety in a 13 year old. See also this follow-up discussion.

Climate Curriculum resources: support for teachers in helping young people move from climate anxiety to empowerment.

Campfire Convention : “Explore, Connect, Create, Organise. Share ideas, inspirations and goals. Make things happen. Together we can shape an ecosystem for people seeking new ways of developing ideas within an empowering community.”

This Is Not A Drill: an Extinction Rebellion publication consisting of ‘pithy, punchy essays designed to shake us out of our collective despair-induced lethargy’. Superbly written and enlightening. Turn anger and concern into action.

Deep Adaptation movement: “An international space to connect people, online and in person, and in all spheres of life—to foster mutual support, collaboration, and professional development in the process of facing societal collapse.”

A-Z of Climate Anxiety: How to Avoid Meltdown: Not quite so reassuring as it sounds but provides good pointers to positive responses.

The Stories we Live By: “Stories are the secret reservoir of values: change the stories that individuals or nations live by and you change the individuals and nations themselves (Ben Okri).” Free online course in ecolinguistics from the University of Gloucestershire

Should we have children? A common source of anxiety. This is the best article I’ve found on the subject.

grist puts a positive spin on climate issues. See for example this article advising you not to stay awake worrying..