I’m sure most of us have taken an environmental science class in high school or university curriculums, learned a lot about the environment... but weren’t necessarily taught about the urgency of climate change, or the severity of climate change on weather systems and communities around the world.
During discussions with friends and family, you may notice how widely awareness and understanding of climate change can vary - and it’s easy to see why… Not everyone is as aware of the urgency of climate change, possibly because of a lack of education on climate science in education systems. In this article, we explore what's fast-becoming the most important subject at school. Environmental education.
First off, what is environmental education? The EPA defines it as a “process that allows people to explore environmental issues, engage in problem solving, and take action to improve the environment.”
A number of large-scale surveys demonstrated that the state of the US climate change education system isn’t as strong as it needs to be. While there are teachers and schools delivering excellent resources and lessons on the subject, many schools face challenges like a lack of resources, insufficient training programs, and local political pressure.
“Climate change is such a daunting challenge,” said Joel Tolman, director of Impact and Engagement at Common Ground High School in New Haven, Connecticut. 'It's complex, it's overwhelming. But the fact that it's complex and overwhelming also means we — and our students — can tackle it from so many angles.’
'We need a new, diverse, powerful generation of environmental leaders, who understand the complexity of climate change, and who can use all the tools at their disposal to confront it'.
When it comes to eco-education, and understanding its importance, we sought out an interview with eco-educator Isaias Hernandez, the creator of Queer Brown Vegan (@queerbrownvegan on Instagram!), where he makes environmental education content accessible for everyone.
He has amassed a great following on Instagram, and has become known for highlighting some extremely complex terms within the climate science space - making educational content easy for people to absorb. Beyond this, he covers environmentalism from an intersectional point of view, ensuring that all voices are heard, and that attention is paid to the low-income minority and indigenous communities that will be facing the brunt of the effects of climate change.
Isaias is the co-creator of Alluvia magazine, an online magazine that focuses on highlighting black and indigenous environmentalists who do creative work as well as educators. Their first issue highlighted BIPOC eco-educators, shedding light on the work they do in the climate space.
Always having been interested in sustainability, his relationship with this concept has evolved over time. While pursuing an environmental science degree, he found himself asking: What IS sustainability? He came to the realisation that everyone has their own version of sustainability, and that it cannot be limited to one definition, as everyone approaches it differently.
On his own sustainable behaviours, he gives a great example of how he practices slower travel. For example, it is pricier to fly from Los Angeles to Seattle than to Portland, so instead, a better idea is to fly from LA to Portland, stay there for a few days, and take a bus from Portland to Seattle. This is a cost-effective, greener, method of traveling. He says, “By making sacrifices, and taking the longer journey, you can better understand your impact and reduce it. A long bus ride isn’t so bad!”
Slow travel is certainly on the rise, with people favouring a longer journey, and a chance to enjoy the stops along the way at a leisurely pace, that also happens to be more sustainable.
Growing up, Isaias reflects on how he always wore thrifted clothes growing up, but that it wasn’t considered ‘trendy’ as it is now, because people’s relationship with consumerism was so strong. He says, Western societies were taught “reusing something is bad, and we should “consume this new product, be done with it, and dispose. Then, repeat the process again.” He continues, “If the concept of circularity was taught to people from a younger age, these practices will become common knowledge to people as they grow up.”
Lastly, our interview ends with a discussion of eco-anxiety and how to work through it. His advice, which is great, is to “Take the time to understand how everything is interconnected and focus on one challenge you are passionate about when realising the importance of interconnectedness. You don’t need to be vegan or zero waste to be sustainable, you define it the way it relates to you and always remember ancestral knowledge should be the forefront of your sustainability journey.”
As an eco-educator, Isaias is making it easier for people to understand complex environmental issues and all the different aspects of sustainability. In the same thread, we hope that the Capture app can be a tool for people to better understand their environmental impact as well as a resource for people looking to transition to a more sustainable lifestyle. Simply search 'carbon print and CO2 tracker’ to find us in your app store!
Isaias' recommended pages to follow on Instagram: @AjaBarber, @FutureEarth, @Atmos, @GoGreenSaveGreen, @TheSlowFactory, @BrownGirl_Green, @TheYikesPodcast, and @IntersectionalEnvironmentalist