Did you learn about climate change when you were in school? If you’re not in today’s ‘youth’ bracket, it’s unlikely that you did. If we are to respond to the impact of climate change and other critical environmental challenges today then we need opportunities to continue to learn throughout our lives. Sustainable Development Goal 4 commits to doing this by promoting ‘lifelong learning opportunities for all.’ The learning that takes place throughout our lives, whether at home, at school, or in our communities and workplaces, shapes our values and attitudes, and influences our behavior. This new poster, released with our new publication, Planet, for the COP22, illustrates what this means in reality.
Quite apart from the many actions we can take at home and in our communities, if our economies don’t change, and don’t start ensuring that prosperity is not at the expense of our environment, we will not cut carbon emissions sufficiently to secure our future.
Making this transition to a sustainable economy requires transformations both small and large. Learning about the environment should not only happen on school benches, but also needs to be integral part of our everyday lives and throughout life. We must recognise that most of the critical decisions that need to be taken in the next 15 years for our planet will be taken by people who have already left school, or who may never have been to school. There needs to be opportunities to learn for sustainability – to acquire essential green knowledge and skills throughout life. We must continue challenging ourselves to listen to, and understand others’ views, to reflect on what we have learned and reach new conclusions, with an eye to identifying much needed environmental solutions.
Lifelong learning requires going beyond formal education, of course. It should involve government agencies, religious organizations, non-profit and community groups, labour unions and the private sector. As our poster shows, communication campaigns, community activity, leadership and advocacy can all help us rethink our attitudes, values and behavior. In the workplace, we can challenge ourselves to take on new sustainable practices, such as recycling, and adopt more gender sensitive behavior. At home, family behavior, and truths passed from parent to child can nurture a new type of climate-responsible citizen for the future.
In short, there is no excuse for anyone, or any organization in this new agenda not to get involved. Achieving our ambitions for sustainable development will require a transformative shift in the way we think, and how we each feel about our shared responsibility for improving the health of our planet. The COP22 was a huge conference, involving over 22,000 visitors in Marrakesh, this week. If only it could be worldwide. Its messages, and the lessons it taught, are relevant to us all.