Earth Day 2022 – Informing and Supporting The Next Generation

Just a few weeks ago, the UN and IPCC released their Sixth Assessment Report. This report said that ‘it’s now or never’ in terms of enacting serious change to protect our planet.

It can all be very scary – but the next generation is poised and ready to take on this immense challenge with a new kind of strength. According to the Pew Research Center ¹, Gen-Z and Millennials are:

  • more likely to take action related to supporting climate action, like donating money, attending a rally, contacting local politicians, or volunteering (32% of Gen-Zers and 28% of Millennials)
  • more willing to give up fossil fuels and phase out gas-powered vehicles
  • 67% of Gen-Z and 71% of Millennials feel that climate should be a top priority to ensure a sustainable planet

Gen-Z is also more likely to prioritize working for a company that aligns with their social values like climate change, but also other societal issues like sustainability and hunger.²

As the parents, teachers, and other adult guides of the next generation of leaders, how can we support this generation’s desire to bring about sustainable solutions to climate change?
How do we balance supporting what is important to them while also managing the emotional burden of climate anxiety?

ChildMind notes that it is important to validate the concern while encouraging bravery. They also note that making fighting climate change a core family value, rather than a one-off activity, can also help kids keep anxiety in check. One of the most important goals is keeping the younger generation hopeful and optimistic so that they continue to feel empowered to enact change as they get older and have more power over how their world operates – NatGeo Kids outlines a few easy to follow steps that adults can use to help kids feel empowered:

  1. Talk about the solution
  2. Show kids it’s not all on them
  3. Organize community activities
  4. Let them know you’re prepared
  5. Spend time in nature

Here are some teaching resources and local/national organizations that you can lean on to support climate action in your home or classroom.

Teaching Resources

Purdue Climate Research Center – For K12 Teachers

A summary of the five key topics that students should know about climate change, plus activities, posters, and other resources for teachers

NASA’s Climate Kids

Launched in 2010, NASA’s Climate Kids website tells the story of our changing planet through the eyes of the NASA missions studying Earth. Targeting upper-elementary-aged children, the site is full of games, activities, and articles that make climate science accessible and engaging.

Rutgers University – Climate Change Resources for Educators

A collection of climate change resources for K12, Middle School, and High School/College Instructors

Stanford University – Stanford Earth Climate Change Education

Middle- and High School curriculum plans for climate change education developed by the Stanford School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences and the Stanford Teacher Education Program. – free!

‘8 Tips to Teach Climate Change In Almost Any Classroom’ – NPR

Learning about climate change and the environment doesn’t have to stay in the Earth Science classroom – this article includes 8 tips that both parents and teachers can use to create more opportunities for learning about climate change.

National Wildlife Federation and North American Association for Environmental Education Guidelines for K12 Global Climate Change Education

This publication provides age-group specific guidelines for what students in that group should understand about climate change.


Defend Our Future

Defend Our Future, a project of the Environmental Defense Fund, is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to empowering young people of all political persuasions who are interested in advancing environmental justice and clean energy and climate solutions that grow our economy and protect the world for future generations.

K12 Climate Action

We are holding a listening tour, developing an action plan, and building a coalition to support our schools to be a force toward climate action, solutions, and environmental justice.

Environment Arizona

Environment Arizona’s mission is to transform the power of our imaginations and our ideas into change that makes our world a greener and healthier place for all.

Arizona Forward

Arizona Forward supports the scientific consensus that climate change poses a real threat to our way of life, especially to the one we share here in Arizona. Yet, even despite the challenges and risks, there are opportunities to solve harmful climate impacts. We advance solutions that are put into action through partnerships, collaboration, leadership, innovation, new technologies, and business strategies.

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