The Tea on Sustainable Living

#26 | The role of education in climate anxiety

April 04, 2023 Brandee and Hannah
The Tea on Sustainable Living
#26 | The role of education in climate anxiety
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Show Notes Transcript

Were you taught about climate change in school? Are you feeling a bit worried about the state of the climate crisis now? Is there a connection between those two questions? We don’t know; we’re not psychologists or mental health experts.

But, according to a 2001 report, 84% of 16-25-year-olds feel worried about climate change, with 45% saying that their feelings negatively affect their daily life and functioning*. Today, we’re looking at this statistic through the lens of education and discussing whether the current approaches in education are supporting children and young people.

After all, feeling anxious when faced with climate change is an entirely rational response. But young people are being given the most information about climate change through school curriculums and yet also have a more limited possibility to respond to the issues. (Cue Brandee’s favorite quote: we can’t all be Greta.

Can we find a balance between the necessity of teaching about such a massive challenge while supporting children and young people's mental health?

Grab some tea, get comfy, and hit that play button.

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Links and resources:

*Article | Climate anxiety in children and young people and their beliefs about government responses to climate change: a global survey
Article | Climate anxiety is widespread among youth - can they overcome it?
Article | Teens are struggling with climate anxiety. Schools haven’t caught up yet
Article | Young People's Voices on Climate Anxiety, Government Betrayal and Moral Injury: A Global Phenomenon
Article | As climate changes, climate anxiety rises in youth
Article | How can we help kids cope with 'eco-anxiety'?
Article | Eco-anxiety in children: A scoping review of the mental health impacts of the awareness of climate change
Article | Climate emotions and anxiety among young people in Canada: A national survey and call to action
Video | How to Fight Climate Anxiety
Website | THE 17 GOALS | Sustainable Development - United Nations

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-Brandee and Hannah

Note: This transcript is mostly unedited.

Brandee   0:05  

It's not easy living on a dying planet. But it is easy to feel overwhelmed when it comes to making changes and taking action to try and save it. Where do you start? Is it even worth it? Can you really make a difference? Welcome to The Tea on Sustainable Living podcast, where we attempt to answer these questions by spilling the tea on living sustainably in a world that's going to shit. I'm Brandee.

Hannah  0:25  

And I'm Hannah. And for years, we've been navigating the big messy gray area of caring about our planet. It hasn't always been smooth sailing, but we're not giving up yet. So brew yourself a cup of tea, get comfy, and let's try and navigate that gray area together.

Brandee   0:48  

And this is Brandee. And you are listening to episode number 26 of The Tea on Sustainable Living podcast.

Hannah  1:00  

All right, we're getting there.

Brandee   1:01  

We're getting there. What are we talking about today?

Hannah  1:04  

We are talking about education and climate anxiety. Oh, okay.

Brandee   1:11  

Nice little fun light topics. I'll be covering here, of course, I'll be talking about

Hannah  1:20  

all the light topics. No, I was, this is kind of been on my mind. Because I work in education. As some of you might already know, I worked as a teaching assistant for a couple of years. And then I currently work making tech as a textbook editor. And one of the things we working on primary books at the moment. And one of the things that I really notice is from such a young age, how much that is in the books around climate change. Climate change, the negative human impact on the environment, the way in which species are depleting. Also the actions that you can do. So these are textbooks for like 6789 10 year olds, like pretty young kids. And there's some pretty big topics in there. And then even the parts of the books that aren't necessarily specifically relegated, you know, it's not like a science textbook. We also and this is across this isn't just in my company, this is across the board. There's like a real big push to focus on this war, Sustainable Development Goals, which are the the UN which is set by the United Nations, and people who don't know their goals. And he was 18 of them 16 1619 Dinah's we can find, we'll find a link,

Brandee   2:54  

I've seen different colored like squares,

Hannah  2:58  

exactly the different colored squares is like targets set for 2030. So and it's like, you know, life and life, it's see this human, you know, like, reduction of poverty, like a whole range of stuff, some relating to climate, others just like general, like, development goals, as the name suggests. And they're like, really introduced into the books and I have, I can't quite work out what I feel about it. And then on the other side of that, what we're seeing in particularly among Gen Z, but I mean, I think probably a lot of us have already have found it ourselves, like climate anxiety. And but there's some of the statistics for young people. I was like I was looking at a survey. So this was for 10,000, young people aged 16 to 25. And then over 50% said they felt sad, anxious, angry, powerless, helpless and guilty. Around the environment and climate change, and over 45% said their feelings about climate change negatively affected their daily life and functioning. So I'm just reading aloud from this paper. We'll have a link in the show notes. So kind of like the two strands I wanted to talk about.

Brandee   4:16  

Okay. Before we go any further, it's probably a good place for a disclaimer that we are not healthcare professionals. I am no longer healthcare professionals. We are not psychologists, psychiatrists, so while talking about anxiety, and we are not the go to people for what you should do. So yeah, go talk to someone who qualified. But yeah, we'll we'll talk about it and like our own our own context, right.

Hannah  4:37  

And I'm, you know, now this makes me be like, and what I'm saying about the production of textbooks is reflective of my own opinion, and not who I work for. That feels very American.

Brandee   4:48  

That sounds like a normal disclaimer. WC individuals do not reflect the views of the company or something like that. Yeah. Which is fine. Okay. We have disclaimed disclaimers with me Do you feel like how? How climate change climate crisis that or how it's being taught is like, leading to more leading to climate anxiety? Because I know you've written here like it is, it is a normal reaction to like this climate crisis, all those feelings like perfectly normal responses, but do you feel like the way it's being taught the issues? And what to do about it is like, helping to kind of combat that? Or it's maybe, like, worsening it? Does that make sense?

Hannah  5:32  

I don't know. What to say. I don't, I don't know if that's, I'm not sure. Right. Because on the one hand, well, in some subjects, there's like factual information, right, like in your natural science or biology class, right. Like that is factual information. So that should be taught. But I think maybe it's like the difference between why young people and children and young people are being taught and what they see as the reality and the world around them. You know, like, all of the information, you know, like, and the things like the practical thing, like things, you know, there's always the kind of the side of the textbook, and open any textbook, I think most of them will be like, these these days, you know, there'll be something where it's like, these are the things the problems humans are causing to the environment. Great. And then it'll be like, Here are some ways we can protect the environment, you know, like, recycle, save water by second hand, but all these things children can do. And how do they see their parents doing that? Or the government? I don't know. I mean, at that age, it depends on what age we're talking about. Right? Teenagers have more, right, you know? And then children, like, I don't know, obviously, I'm talking kind of over a big range range. Sounds like there's so I don't know, I'm like, I felt like

Brandee   6:58  

it's missing the part of like, who's the most responsible? Because like, yes, humans have an impact. But like, if you leave out who's having the most impact, then that's, like, it is a very nuanced thing. But at the same time, it's quite simple. Like, yeah, it's fossil fuels. And such a few, like, go back, listen to our last episode 25, about how, you know, there's a small number of people contribute the most, and not just talking about wealth across like, wealthy people across across nations, like, like oil, like oil companies, etc. So yeah, if you're leaving out, but that's like a pretty big piece of it. It's like not like not all humans are contributing equally. Therefore, our actions should not all be equal.

Hannah  7:42  


Brandee   7:44  

And yeah, that's trying to disconnect between what you see around you, and it's probably quite difficult to with textbooks, because it's quite politicized, like the political the environment, oil companies, on politicians. And then, yeah, it gets tricky, because I'm textbooks, I suppose. So as

Hannah  8:03  

soon as you said that, I was like, oh, like, I'd be nervous. Putting something like that in. If I had that choice, you know, I feel like that needed to be something that was a directive from beyond me, higher up. Also, ingesting going back to, to Episode 25. I'm like showing that thing of like being the cog. Yeah, this is my personal opinion. But I'm like, for someone to give me permission from him within the company.

Brandee   8:39  

But then, like, there was a way you could present the facts that like, there are news news stations that are like news or news station are supposed to be neutral percent, the news, but then there are ones is like, it's like know that they're there. They slant a little bit this way, or slant a little bit that way. So like, presenting the fact that drilling oil, fossil fuels, a limited resource is bad. That is a fact. You're not saying these few. Yeah. I mean, so you present like, this is the problem. But then how do you how do they get presented like that? But how do they get that connection in the real world? Right? Yeah.

Hannah  9:15  

And then another point of part of this issue, like I was reflecting on this around like education and climate change was that probably the first time I became engaged in climate action, was through school. Like was through a teacher. I've talked about this, I think on the first episode, when we talked about our journeys. I had a teacher who like showed us, the Al Gore documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, the name, I've just forgotten it again, and then giving it to that one. Inconvenient Truth. And he took us to a climate change march in London. And like, they had a real positive impact on our business and like, really, he he really brought it into the curriculum. Okay, okay. The geography teacher. Okay. Yeah, so like talking about, like, human geography and like, yeah, talking about. And he like, I don't know how much it was part of the curriculum, I don't really remember. But he really made it like a big part of it. I wonder how much like leeway. So that was a real positive impact or how much like he had to push for that.

Brandee   10:21  

I don't know about Yeah, school if it was like a public or private school or right.

Hannah  10:27  

No, it wasn't public school. But I think I mean, I think that's interesting. When you're in a classroom, obviously, you've got to meet certain targets and stuff. But as a teacher, you'd also have quite a lot of, I mean, you do have control over what you teach. And you also don't like you have to know in the universe like curriculum, but also the way you phrase things and like, the emphasis you give and how you interact with students. Yes, that change that you have kind of a lot of freedom around that, I think,

Brandee   10:55  

yeah, I think the way you present I know, in the US, depending on the state, like their state standards, depending on what type of school you teach, and you have to like, teach certain curriculum, and they have to be able to pass this test that covers these topics. And I think in the US, it seems like more private, like private schools, you have more like there is no like, state mandated curriculum, like it's on you. So then there's definitely like, a range of kind of freedom there. But yeah, how you present it your tone of voice what you emphasize. Seems like it yeah. could apply across. Yeah. Like the due to that. And that it impacted you positively.

Hannah  11:28  

Yeah. It was a real positive impact. But yeah, I mean, I do also remember that age, feeling really scary. And you're like, What can I do? And, you know, do you feel that tension? I mean, at any age, but I think there's that like there is it producing about value, you have less autonomy, especially as a teenager, you're more aware of what's going on. And you have autonomy, but you also don't, you know, your life is still quite constrained by school, your family dynamics, you know, that kind of, I don't know, but then you also really believe you can change the world at that age, with a power of belief that maybe diminishes

Brandee   12:19  

reality so how sad is that though?

Hannah  12:24  

It is sad. It's not just that but thinking about it. I was like, you know, like, 16, you really like, I could change things. And even like, you know, 1015 years later, you're like, so like, I can change things, but maybe not as much. I don't know. Maybe that's sad. Is that sounds kind of sad.

Brandee   12:43  

Yeah. How do we? How do we support our youth? And like, holding on to that is, like tight as possible? Or is it good that yeah, get it out a bit a dose of reality? No, I don't know. You had a note about a perspective, like you have? Definitely. But less perspective. Are the routers sits in and is that good? Yeah. Does that both? I think it's good in the sense that like, it's good in the sense that like you, it's like things are quite simple. And then I think it as as reality sets in you, you see the nuance of it, and it and it gets complicated, overwhelming. But at the same time, I think I mentioned this in the last episode, they're like, it is it is simple. Oh, what am I trying to say? I got a quote here to pull is like, simple doesn't mean easy. So I think that's where like you realize it when you're young, it's like, okay, this is the issue of simple solution. Like, easy, let's problem like, let's just do it. And then you you realize that it's they are not the same thing. The simple, the simpler something is it is quite difficult. So how do we maintain that, like, not tunnel vision, but like kind of eye on the prize thing of like, no, no, this is still what we need to work towards?

Hannah  14:04  

Yeah, I guess because I feel like some of the ways maybe gaining perspective and commerce is also just being like, overwhelmed by the complexity of like, adult living. And also like being distracted by other things that seem more fun in the moment, or, like, I want to do this and I want to do that and you have more choices. But you also have your rent, and you might do a job because you have to pay your rent and then you have this and that or you like choose the wrong career and you have to change or you like I don't know all those like I mean then there's lots of great things that's been out being living sound really negative and I don't actually believe that but like she's just like so much more. Without being like I was like I also don't want to be patronizing because I also think being like growing up and like pressures teenagers are under and like school is also rare. Are they like, tough as well? No, no, no.

Brandee   15:05  

Yeah. I'm bringing it back to the perspective. I was just thinking about our dear friend Greta. And how Yeah, her like her learning about climate crisis and who's responsible has you know obviously led her to where she is today and and like lead the Friday's for future So leading Friday's for future and has kind of become the the like, kind of spokesperson for that like perspective of Wait a minute, you created the problem, but you're putting it on me to fix it. Like Shame on you for like, what was that one speech? Like our house is on fire? Shame on you for? Yeah, causing it not doing anything about it make like, putting it on us to like do something about it. So that perspective is definitely very helpful. Because it does like, it kind of clears like clears the fog a bit like, oh, oh, yeah. Okay. This is That's true. This is the way it is. Why are we acting like it's not? Yeah. So I think I think it's helpful to have to have both. Don't remember I was going with that. Yeah. Like, I think that was it?

Hannah  16:19  

No, but it's like, it brings something you know, like that perspective. And maybe, and it'll be interesting to see. Like, I think. Like, it's hard for me to remember. But I think we were like I said there was that teacher and I think it was part of the curriculum. I saw I graduated school in 2012. So like, I think it was already part of the curriculum to teach about climate change. But I don't remember talking about it ever in primary school. I mean, it might just because I don't remember is like too far back.

Brandee   16:54  

I remember talking about do you remember, Gigi? We talked about it in school? I don't remember I graduated high school in 2007. And then graduated college in 2011. So I think and I remember An Inconvenient Truth thing a very early, if not like one of the first kind of like introductions. So like, right change, and that I think came out and that was that 1008 maybe seven or eight somewhere around? Around there. Me graduating high school? Yeah, already in college. I don't really have any memories. Right for that talking about it in school. I don't even think I took environmental science. And I think geography was covered as part of history. Like I don't think I don't remember being a separate course. So the sciences I took because I knew I wanted to be a nurse were chemistry, physics, biology. So I didn't know I didn't even take like art science or anything. Okay, so yeah, I think there's definitely been so yes, shift. It's definitely more common knowledge or for young kids. It sounds like your your textbook is for what, like 910 year olds. Yeah. And of course, Adolescence is just like, that's just like their normal.

Hannah  18:03  

Right. Exactly. I know, I think it'll be interesting to see. I mean, we're already seeing, I guess, like, see how that affects, hopefully, in a positive way, not just in extreme environmental anxiety. But, you know, like, being educated with knowledge, what kind of impact that will have on our future future leaders and the impact, you know, like, as our generation as well, like, comes into, like, positions with more power. You know, kind of an impact that will have and hopefully it's a positive one.

Brandee   18:41  

Yeah, I just can't help but go back to like, if, if textbooks, teachers, schools are like just teaching the facts, and it's this is the problem. And these are solutions, but leaving out all of the in between, if, like, kids aren't having, aren't getting that kind of filled in somewhere aren't getting that connection made? Who is more responsible? Yeah. And I can definitely see that how that would lead to, would be more likely to lead to some climate anxiety because seeing that disk, it just seems there's a huge disconnect between the reality of the situation, yeah, because it's easy to just say, here's the problem. Here's what we can do. And again, that's the playing field. It's completely equal, and it's not. So yeah.

Hannah  19:24  

And yeah, and I think and that's probably also unfortunately, the area that as we already said, like, for wherever you are in education, because it is political. That's the area where people are most nervous to talk or to put something in paper, you know, because then you're like, and it's hard to find the exact Well, I mean, you know, you have to make sure what you're presenting is like factual,

Brandee   19:52  

right. I don't know if there's a way teachers could, I don't know how to phrase this like create it. other

Hannah  20:00  

words, but it's probably the harder sorry, carry on. No, yeah,

Brandee   20:04  

it's definitely not the easier path to just yet teach what link what you're supposed to. But if there's a way to kind of, I don't know how to phrase, it's not like set the stage, but like, encourage students to kind of do research on their own or have conversations with their parents. Um, you know, whether they say like in teaching, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make them drink. So is there a way to like, kind of present the facts in a way that like, kind of piques their interest? And like, makes them curious to find out more and have them seek that? Yeah, friends and family and having more conversations because that, yeah, I think that's where that yeah, that connection will be will be made in the gaps will be filled. So if you're listening, and you have kids have conversations, yeah, I guess would be a good thing to recommend. I think just having currencies in general is, and being open minded and curious, and as always coming.

Hannah  21:04  

So yeah, I don't know. And it is this. Yeah, I'm just like looking at is in this National Geographic article that will link in the show notes. And this is kind of more anecdotal. And this just kind of human body and this like, disconnect. So there's this part, where Emily, someone called Emily Beckett is balk at this, I don't know how to pronounce her surname, was talking about and she's 42. She was talking about the generational divide in her own home. And she said, so this is a quote from the article, she said, if the subject of climate change seemed too, too abstract for kids in the 1990s, times have changed as as Bell catches was started, he reminded one evening, when she sat dinner on the table, and in a split in a disposable container, burst into tears, Mum, we can't reuse or recycle this plate, he cried. That hit me really hard. She said, I'm the older generation that doesn't feel that angst, Matty is for. So like. I don't know. Yeah, it's like intense. It's this, like, how, like, there's such a strong focus within education, to teach about climate change, and, you know, it's like, and I think it's also easy for people to sort of do like a throwaway thing, right? You know, like, Yeah, we like we should recycle them, you know, like, Oh, we're making this craft today, kids, like we're using recycled materials. You know, like, the easiest of

Brandee   22:36  

which is not that hard of the issue has an impact. And it's not the heart of the issue. Yeah.

Hannah  22:41  

Right. And it's like, that goes back exactly. To to our last episode of that, like, individual versus, then and that, you know, the last couple of episodes, actually, we've been calling out that individual versus corporate action. But on the other hand, I do still feel it is important that we're educating about this.

Brandee   23:02  

Yeah, but I think, like, I mean, like most things, like, you know, you have like version one, version two, version three, okay, you're teaching it great. But like, how do we do that? how do educators to like, present this issue in a way that informs educates but then also, like, supports the student that kid in? And yet the the feelings that that brings up? Is it conversations with parents? This is what we're teaching? Here's maybe some suggested ways to? I don't know, right? To support your kid through this unit? I don't know. Yeah, not well versed, just being

Hannah  23:39  

aware of the impact. And I guess the being aware that we Well, I think a lot of people our age do and older people do have some climate anxiety at all ages. I don't think that's just for young people. But perhaps, we haven't grown up with it so strongly, so that we do have the tools to disconnect from that for good and for bad. I'm being really aware, you know, especially like, chill, you know, your brains are developed where you understand information is different. You know, that this is like a real issue.

Brandee   24:19  

When you're younger, everything feels like more feels bigger.

Hannah  24:23  

Right? And new and you don't have the power at that age. You don't you can't change or Yeah, tools to I mean, you can but you you know, right? It's like, I don't know.

Brandee   24:37  

We can't all be Greta. Right. But

Hannah  24:42  

yeah, I'd love to hear any of our listeners or any Do any of you work in education or with children, young adults. Are you a young adult?

Brandee   24:51  

Or what was this like? What's your appeal? What is your experience and education?

Hannah  24:57  

Yeah, did you grow up where you talked about Climate change at school like when do you remember when you first come across it?

Brandee   25:04  

Yeah, let us know. Guys let us know on Instagram at the UN Sustainable Living but also voice note, just go to the website and contact the town's sustainable And there you can leave like a voice note. Because I'd love to hear like, like, what was your experience? Growing up like in education? We talked about climate? And like, how do you think that's, like, impacted you? Yeah, so let us know. And and I encourage you to maybe ask us more questions at work if like, you see if you're Yeah, we're gonna textbook and you see this. Okay. Planets, dyeing, recycling, I don't know, may ask question like, is there a way we can provide more info? I don't know, I don't know how much

Hannah  25:45  

no comfort level, you know, like, it's coming. For me. I don't work on science textbooks. So, but we do have the sustainable development goals. And one of the things I don't know if this is a good or bad, but my co editor and I, we decided we wanted to focus on trying to focus on like, the positives related to those goals. Or, like, you know, kind of what we did in the love letter to the planet, like, you know, it doesn't all need to be like doom and gloom. Like, why do we like, love? Like, like some land? You know, that was the approach we decided to take.

Brandee   26:21  

And then if you want to preserve that, tank, encourage them? Yeah.

Hannah  26:27  

But yeah, it's easy to give information. Without, you know, being fully out, like, how is that actually like, how is this going to be responded to in a classroom? Is the teacher going to be able to give sufficient time to, especially like, in a textbook situation, you're often putting, like, did you know? And then, like, I don't know, did you notice that? This is a random example. But like, you know, if the bees die out, we'll lose like a third of our, or our grains, like, Oops, you know, like, that's, there's a natural figure in there somewhere where I'm not like, but you know, like, it's really easy to pull these like, bite, chin. And I'm like, thinking I'm like, as a kid reading that that was, like, nine years old. versus something like the, you know, versus an actual lesson where you like, go through something or versus like, did you know we have, like, X amount of like, species, like our planet can sustain so many varieties of plants and animals? Like, isn't that cool? Or

Brandee   27:38  

even the blue? Why don't you know, if you couldn't maybe consumed local honey, or if you don't know something, shifting into the positive that you would have less of an impact on? I don't know, the depletion of the beats, or I don't know, some way to like, spin it positively. If I had more time to think I could phrase that better. Did you know if you did this thing, you would have this positive impact? Yeah, that's what I'm trying to get instead of Yeah. If you did you know that. Yeah. If we lose our visa, anyway. I think right. The point was made.

Hannah  28:11  

Yeah. But yeah, I think. Yeah, it's an interesting, it's an interesting issue. And yeah, I would really love to hear our listeners thoughts.

Brandee   28:22  

Yeah, me too. And I was just thinking, because

Hannah  28:26  

God, yeah, sorry. Carry on. No, no, I

Brandee   28:28  

was thinking that it could be a good follow up episode about like, just education in general. Like, how much I don't know, educate ourselves versus like doing something about it. Like it's easy to get caught up in just like learning, which is good learnings. Good. But then if you're also wanting to do something about it, like Yeah, how do you learn enough? Educate yourself enough to to do something? I don't know. Just the beginning thoughts there. I'll see if it turns into Yeah. To an outline. All right. Yeah. Let us know. Give a shooter what you think about education and teaching climate change, teaching about the climate crisis in schools, what your experience was? Over on our website, the tans Istanbul Or you can comment directly on this episode. I forget that comments are turned on because they are technically blog posts. So the TN sustainable 26. Yeah. That's a good place to leave it. All right. All right. To the next one.

Hannah  29:28  

I was waiting. I was like, am I gonna have to do it? There's

Brandee   29:31  

no, I gotcha. All right. Bye.

Hannah  29:39  

Thank you so much for listening to this episode of The Tea on Sustainable Living podcast. Now go share it with a friend, a co-worker, a partner, a family member, or whoever. A pet, your cat, someone on the street.

Brandee   29:51  

Whoever you think could use a little more support on their sustainability journey, share it.

Hannah  29:57  

You can send them over to our website, And while you're there, check out the show notes for more info on today's topic. 

Brandee   30:06  

All right, Give-a-Shitter, tea you later. Get it? Tea you later? As in, see you later? So punny…

Hannah.  30:11


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