At 25, childless, I look back on my own climate education and feel like II straddle two climatic generations: the older ones than me, for whom a disastrous change has (wrongly) been felt as inevitable, and the children younger than me, for whom any change is (rightly) treated as significant progress. On September 20, 2019, for example, during the climate strike in New York, I watched Jaden Smith and Willow perform, and various speakers, including Greta Thunberg, take the stage. At some point, someone – I don’tI can’t remember who talked about how we the crowd would keep fighting no matter what, because 1.5 Celsius was better than 2, but 2 was better than 2.5 and 2.5 was better than 3. It was an obvious scientific fact, and yet, as someone brought up to think that even 2 degrees of warming is almost unthinkably catastrophic, II would never have felt this. But the teenagers around me, in their bucket hats and tank tops, nodded knowingly – they had always believed it. They would have come of age knowing that the world was likely to exceed 1.5 degrees of warming, maybe even 2. And they have every reason to fight for every fraction of a degree.
For me, this moment revealed an important truth about what climate education really requires. Supporting children as they face a world in danger requires adults to relocate their own optimism and recommit to the struggle. “Ihave seen many of these articles on ‘how to help your child with eco-anxiety‘ as if the parent was not‘t also in the world,” Wray tells me. But children and their caretakers feed on each other, and children rely on their guardians to help them deal with complex feelings. When raising, teaching or supporting a child, “A key part of doing this well is to do your own inner work and your own inquiry,” Wray says. What black and white, all or nothing thinking do you use? Where is the fatalism about the future that holds you back? What more can you do to create a community?
These questions can sometimes be painful to ask. But Wray is convinced they can help everyone work towards a better future. parenting “With purpose and truly engaging in joy—rather than fearing what may happen—has an effect on your orientation to what life is about,” Wray tells me. If it takes a village to raise a child, then holistic and sincere climate education can and should change the village itself.