Schools and climate strike

 

Sir, – I refer to “Department is cool with pupils staging climate change walkout” (News, March 8).

It is very pleasing to see children and young people engaging with key social concerns. This demonstrates that education has taken place – not in the sense of inputting facts to be regurgitated for exams, but the drawing out of thoughts and beliefs.

Inspired by young people in Sweden and New Zealand, school students in Ireland are calling for accountability of government leaders over climate control. What could be more important to the next generation than saving their planet? It would be disappointing if, as in some countries, children were told to go back to the classroom. Instead, we should congratulate them for implementing “active citizenship” through peaceful demonstration, highlighted theoretically in the curriculum and now being put into practice. At a time of perceived adult apathy, it is reassuring that the next generation understands and wishes to be involved in one of, if not the, most important issues of the century. – Yours, etc,

MARIE PARKER-JENKINS,

Professor of Education,

University of Limerick.

Sir, – Fintan O’Toole in his article “Shame on us for forcing children to wake us up to climate change” (Opinion & Analysis, March 5th) is right that “there is a need for humanity to understand and respect the limits of nature”.

Climate change is the defining issue of our generation and there is a need for urgent action to reduce global warming.

On reading the article I was struck by the perception that young people taking action on environmental issues is something new. For over 30 years, Eco-Unesco, Ireland’s environmental youth organisation, has been engaging, educating and empowering young people to take action on environmental issues of concern to them. These are young people who have been concerned about environmental degradation, including biodiversity loss, overconsumption and climate change. As educators, we have worked to build their awareness, their confidence and self-esteem so that they can make choices and take an active role in society.

Through work such as ours young people have been playing a role as active citizens through their actions and around issues identified by them, with solutions identified by them and carried out by them. We’ve seen over 300,000 young people across Ireland take environmental action since we first opened our doors in 1986. With each action taken, a real positive change is affected.

Perhaps in the past, the young-person revolution has been more silent due to the absence of social and digital media. And now with social media and other new technologies, young people are able to organise, mobilise and take direct action for themselves.

At Eco Unesco, we have seen just how passionate young people are about environmental action through our Young Environmental Awards, which annually sees more than 4,000 young people take action and make a difference to our environment.

Our society has a real responsibility to our children and young people. That they are expressing their concerns through organised actions, such as the upcoming schools strikes, should be supported.

We encourage young people to be active citizens and we should support them when they are. Our young people have been voicing their environmental concerns for decades but now they are mobilising themselves due to the urgency of climate change.

It’s time that policymakers and decision-makers listened to them; this is long overdue. – Yours, etc,

ELAINE NEVIN

National Director,

ECO-UNESCO

Burgh Quay,

Dublin 2.

A chara, – Given that a recent OECD report found that approximately 6 per cent of Irish third-level graduates are functionally illiterate, one might be forgiven for thinking that more time in school is to be recommended for our young people, not less. – Is mise,

Rev PATRICK G BURKE,

Castlecomer,

Co Kilkenny.