We’re facing ever increasing global temperatures, extreme weather and an untold number of species are under threat of extinction due to a changing climate. If not affected directly, young people are still exposed to the huge topic of climate change daily, and they need the knowledge and aspirations to be able to tackle it.
Through the news, social media, school, family or friends, climate change is a term that has pervaded the lives of young people and understandably this can cause feelings of confusion, fear or even guilt.
When young people also see a lack of urgent action from those in power, this can culminate in a state often referred to as “eco-anxiety”. With such polarisation on the subject, this can equally have the opposite effect and leave young people with “eco-apathy”, the feeling that they could never make a meaningful impact and asking the question, “Why should I try?”
The natural world is under threat; however we’re capable of solving the crisis if we act now. Taking action as an individual as well as finding support amongst those with the same aims, can lessen the anxiety that so many of us face. Creating opportunities to be climate positive and to live sustainably provides people with the chance to be open to change for the better. We believe that these opportunities should be available for children at school by providing conservation as a core theme across all curriculum subjects. Our conservation education initiatives support this by providing projects that children and their educators can get involved with.
With our mission of Preventing Extinction in mind, Chester Zoo is releasing our very first “Project Package” aimed at secondary schools on Climate Change & Sustainability. Linked to our conservation campaigns, our existing school project packages have been incredibly successful at engaging primary school students and encouraging them to act for wildlife. Turning to secondary schools, we look to instil a curiosity and fascination of the natural world as well as an understanding of the role that climate plays in the world. Through our resources and toolkits, we’re providing schools with everything they need to bring conservation and sustainability to life, while linking to the curriculum.
Natural history has become ever more prevalent in the media, with brilliant young naturalists emerging whose passion inspires others and creates a greater awareness of the plight of our planet. Research suggests however, that despite this awareness, young people are currently disengaged with nature and as a generation are less likely to believe that changing their lifestyle would make a difference under current circumstances. From a conservation perspective, this means that there needs to be not only more education on the subject but more of a focus on empowerment. Facts alone won’t change minds.
In the wake of COP26, we believe now is the time to offer our new project to drive positive action for a healthy and more biodiverse future. Consisting of three outreach workshops that will be delivered at participating schools and finishing with a trip to the Zoo, our Climate Change & Sustainability project unpacks the terminology and looks at exactly what climate change is and how human activity has dramatically influenced global climate.
We look at how this changing climate has massively impacted global biodiversity and how Chester Zoo works internationally with partners to protect threatened species while championing campaigns such as Sustainable Palm Oil. Looking closer to home, we identify how everyday items are produced and understand the role we all play in climate change as consumers, before presenting easy changes that students can make in their lives to be more sustainable. Knowing how to change is only half the solution, to help students want to change we will dive into a discussion about the world they want to live in and who the students look up to, and why.
It’s natural for many people to see climate change as a challenge to tackle in the future, especially when there are so many other issues that people are currently facing. By participating in our project, students will understand how climate change is driving many of these other issues and unfortunately, if not met with immediate action, a changing climate will create many more problems. Chester Zoo looks to ignite a cascade of change and spark a passion within young people that will contribute to our conservation masterplan target of empowering 10 million people to live sustainably.