/epale/en/file/epale-climate-change-adult-learningEPALE Climate Change Adult Learning
Adult and Community Educator Michael Kenny from Maynooth University reflects on the role of adult learning in making us environmentally responsible citizens and helping us adapt to climate change.
Adult education has not confronted, as yet, the world challenge of climate change. While over 97% of the scientific community tell us the evidence is incontrovertible and climate science has achieved an unprecedented degree of robustness, debate in the adult and vocational education community skirts around the topic or gives precedent to other ‘more important’ issues. Are we climate deniers? Or am I wrong?
While the time spent on adult and vocational education policy issues such as participation, funding, inclusion, progression, integration, etc., is very valuable, policy advances will be made redundant if we blindly continue to pollute our world. This concerns me! Does it concern you?
I find it difficult to think about the implications of fundamental climate shifts. I have a comfortable life and I have positive expectations for my next generations. I am so positive about the future that my life is devoted to encouraging others to enhance their lives through learning and to use their learning to break out of their poverty trap. Now, I am challenged by the possibility, the probability, indeed the inevitability, that the bright future I peddled to others will actually be a challenging if not bleak future.
As a science graduate I know much of the science that indicates a global climate shift. I have read the books and listened to the speakers. But it took the impact of one person, Greta Thunberg (see Greta’s TED talk, 11 minutes), to challenge me.
Greta could be my daughter, or at my age, my granddaughter. She has no agenda other than her future but she has the courage to name it as she sees it. She is saying what’s the good of all this school learning if they do nothing with what they have learned?
I know the town of Beira in Mozambique and the Nsange district in Southern Malawi. As a humanitarian worker I’ve spent years in that part of the world. 1.4 million people, with 0.4 million children in that area (394 square kilometres or 152 square miles) of South Eastern Africa have lost everything due to a freak cyclone and floods. Everything includes their subsistence food crops for the coming year. They are left destitute. Three years ago I was with flood refugees in the Beira area of Mozambique. I remember them asking me “Where did the water come from?”. They were shell-shocked then. Now it is worse.
The extent of flooding, depicted in red, around the port city of Beira, Mozambique, on March 19, 2019. European Space Agency
Where are we as adult educators in this? Have we a response?
In his blog article from November 2018 Professor Alan Tuckett wrote ‘As the UN Sustainable Development Goals demonstrate, dealing with climate change involves adults learning and adapting behaviour’ and ‘… changes impact hardest on people with low skills, people out of the labour market, migrants who have yet to develop fluent English, and many people with disabilities’. He goes on to say: ‘… the time has come for a rapid expansion of investment by government, employers and individuals alike.’
There is so much more I could add:
- 62 million people were affected in 2018 by natural hazards mostly associated with extreme weather and climate events.
- 1,600 deaths are associated with heat waves and wildfires in the US, Europe and Japan.
- Etc., etc.
But enough! A blog post should raise a question, encourage critical reflection, and invite a response – even a One word response.
Greta showed me the power of One. An honest One with a critical voice.
I am re-evaluating my input as One adult educator.
 Greta Thunberg is a Swedish schoolgirl known for having initiated the school strike for climate movement formed in November 2018 and trended globally after the COP24 conference in December 2018.