When I was a kid, I was taught this about my country: “Vietnam has golden forests and silver seas”. It sounds silly, I know, but it just means my country has many natural resources which will never be exhausted. Because of this "lesson", during my childhood I easily fell into similar myths of unending wealth about climate change like a stupid kid (yes, I totally believe I was stupid back then). When I grew older, I read more, learned more, and challenged my own thoughts about climate change more. At one point, I wondered why I believed in these myths back then, when they began, and who helped creating them. I did not find my answer until I participated in the Arqus Spring School about climate change in April. I am Anh Nguyen from Vietnam. And I’m going to tell you how the three-month Arqus Spring School “Rethinking Climate Risk – The Venice Paradigm” has challenged what I thought about climate change and human rights.
Our group’s project aimed to develop an educational toolkit on the sea-level rise and “acqua alta” issue in Venice for students aged 16 - 18 years old in Padova through a challenge-based learning approach. The project wasn’t easy for students like us. We had to face two serious problems. The first was how to contact schools and do interviews with them. We tried to email 19 public high schools in Padova (both Liceos and Istituti Tecnici) about the programs at their schools, but no school has yet responded to our contact. We then tried a second contact, this time by phone, directed towards a selected fraction of the initial number of the contacted schools, but it did not bring forth any new result. At the same time, we were challenged by the professors about our project’s purposes. Such a simple question as- “Is this a project about climate change or education?” - made me question our group project numerous times. What is the real connection between education and climate change? Will an educational toolkit bring a new dimension to what we are looking for? At one point, I even wondered if we were going in the right way.
Fortunately, an interview with Save the Children Italy gave our group hope for what we were doing, their fast and positive response leading us to complete our research and the toolkit. However, this also brought about a bleak realization: the more our group went on with the project, the more I realised how climate change education failed and is failing to play its role to prepare and integrate people and children into society. As the lack of responses from high schools shows, even though climate change education has become compulsory in Italy, it still depends on schools to choose in which way said knowledge is delivered to students. Looking further at other countries in which climate change education is not even compulsory, there are still many kids who are like I was before, falling into the myths about climate change because of the inadequacy of education programs. Society is talking about supporting young people to engage in different social issues and raising their voices, but at the same time we as young people do not have enough knowledge or a suitable platform to give opinions about anything.
At this point, I believe this is not a story only about climate change or education anymore. It’s a story about human rights. After all, what I want to tell you is that the relationship between climate change and human rights does not stop only at how the former impacts the latter, directly or indirectly. I believe it’s time for us to acknowledge the right to climate change education is also a human right, and young people deserve to be empowered to act upon what affects them. The right to education is a fundamental children’s right. It not only includes the right to receive education but also guarantees the right to receive quality and comprehensive education through educational activities sustainable for all. As a form of the right to education, the right to climate change education should receive the same attention from society, government, and policy-makers. At the end of the day, what matters is how well we learn to dance with change and make sure it is allowed to be a positive motivational force rather than a source of fear. No change is possible without constant learning, including the coming of a better world.
Written by Anh Nguyen
Edited by Alex Frattin
Pictures courtesy of Arqus Spring School
Anh Nguyen is a 2nd year HRG student with a strong interest for education, children rights and the environment, Follow Anh on LinkedIn at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ngoc-anh-t-nguyen-723a1812a/
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