Coffee Break: Students Have a Lot to Say About Climate Change, and We Should Listen

Young people today are acutely aware of the issues of climate change, because it is within our generation that climate change became an irreversible phenomenon. Our parents grew up with aspirations of stopping climate change, but those that are 25 and younger are now the ones who will have to choose some equation of human suffering, climate mitigation and climate adaptation. Climate change is our reality. So, many young people have much to say on the topic, and in Drs. Jay Lemery and Paul Auerbach’s latest book, "Enviromedics: The Impact of Climate Change on Human Health," young activists speak their opinion. I was one of the activists featured in the book, and was intrigued about why the authors had chosen to collaborate with young people on the matter. I strongly believe that when issues affect young people, adults should help provide a platform for them to express their opinions. I wanted to dive deeper into the authors’ minds in hopes that their work may inspire future scholarship to incorporate a similar style. Q: What made you, Drs. Jay Lemery and Paul Auerbach, decide to include youth voices throughout your latest book and what makes young people’s perspectives uniquely interesting for a book about climate change and human health? "We were young once, and remember the curiosity and passion we brought to formulating our opinions and taking up causes. Decisions made today about climate change will impact future generations, so it is entirely logical and necessary that young people be continually educated and challenged to become intelligent about these issues. "The climate-change deniers are overwhelmingly of the current [baby boom] generation. Our children will have no choice but to take ownership of our mistakes, as we have owned the mistakes of our parents and grandparents." Q: While many students understand the challenges we face as it relates to climate change, many do not. What do you think we will have to do to bring greater awareness to the challenges we will face in the coming years? "Speaking specifically about students, we need to teach them. Environmental history and science should be taught in an engaging and credible way beginning in elementary school, so that by the time a child has finished his or her education, he or she has a basic understanding that will enable meaningful future learning, discussion, debate and decision-making." Q: Traditionally, adults are teachers of students, but what do you think teachers have to learn from students on these issues? "The most important thing to learn is that students care about what happens to their planet. "And if we extend 'youth' to include someone with a new degree in natural-resource management, earth science or any other relevant environmental field of study, we need to promote their voices and encourage them to teach their elders."
Charles Orgbon III is the Founder of Greening Forward and advocates for youth voice and leadership.

Join the Movement