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Right to a healthy climate: Climate education as a viable gateway

"In the end, we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught."

Baba Dioum, Senegalese Poet, and Environmentalist, 1937

The quest and advocacy for the right to a healthy climate needs a strategic collaboration. This will require the wide engagements of students, politicians, businesses, governments, scientists, etc. However, according to Morris et al., the issue of climate change elicits low engagement even among concerned segments of the public1. Primarily, this has been linked to the deficit in public understanding of climate change due to the scientific communication strategy employed thus far2.

Indubitably, at the fulcrum of the advocacy for climate rights is the understanding of its nuances. To achieve a multi partnership strategy for the right to climate rights, the understanding of its intricacies is non-negotiable. However, how do we achieve the strategic collaboration and advocacy for the right to a healthy climate without a rich understanding of the core of the existential issue? It takes a well-informed society to understand the ripple effect of our anthropogenic activities and detached inactions. When knowledge is duly employed, there is a burning drive for the required action and clamour for right to climate change. This will invariably propel the needed change and the right to a better world.

Notably, from the concluded York Environment Week, one of the prevalent issues, I was able to identify is the need for a change in our strategy and approach to climate education. It is pertinent to move from the abstract description and communication of climate change to a simplified and relatable one. Take for instance, the statement that we need to reach 1.5 Celsius may sound well-articulated for scientists, but is it easily understandable and engaging for non-scientists that are passionate about advocating climate change? I would say the answer to the question is negatory.

However, to navigate through the bad waters of unrelatable climate education approach, one of the proposed solutions is the use of storytelling. As proposed by Morris et al., to better the understanding and invariably elicit the engagement of the public, there is a need to unleash the homo narrans (storytelling humans) part of us. I align myself with the opinion of the authors, because of the practicality and engaging nature of the technique. It will equally aid in providing a transitional movement of the understanding of climate change from the head (objectivity) to the heart (emotional arousal).

The approach of storytelling as a viable method was well demonstrated and employed in the earlier referred to Environment Week. Particularly, in the movie, The Ants and The Grasshopper, in which a Malawian farmer went to the United States to advocate better practices for the environment. She did not arm herself with the scientific jargons, rather with the story of the harsh, extreme weather condition of her country. She advocated a healthy climate by concentrating on the adverse effects of climate change and the disastrous effect on humankind, using her country as a case study.

As stated earlier, we need a strategic collaboration in the quest for a right to a healthy climate. However, it starts with the proper understanding of what we are advocating, which should resonate with us. To do this, this article is not dismissing the immense contribution of scientists. Realistically, we need to rigorously engage with extensive scientific research and literature. However, beyond that, this article dovetails with the proposal for an additional climate education approach that engages the society at large. With the combination of the two, the quest for a healthy climate can be greatly improved by the stakeholders at large.

Article by: Adepemi Ibiyemi,

LLM International Corporate and Commercial Law.

1. Morris et al, “Stories V Facts: Triggering Emotion and Action-Taking On Climate Change”, (2019) 154 Climate Change 19

2. ibid

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