Download a pdf version of the below letter.
To the Department for Education,
The IPCC has told us that we have 11 years to make far reaching changes to every
aspect of society if we are to avoid the catastrophic consequences of climate and
ecological breakdown. The warnings are no longer predictions for the future: we are
already witnessing record temperatures, unprecedented droughts, floods, hurricanes,
wildfires, sea level rise, melting ice that will trigger more rapid warming and the
collapse of species and ecosystems. This is 1 degree of global warming: it takes several
decades for the warming effects of C02 to kick in and we have doubled global
emissions in the last 30 years. Despite decades of warnings, policy makers have
achieved nothing but empty promises. Every year global emissions rise and an area of
forest the size of the UK is slashed and burned for industrial agriculture. The UK
government boasts of emissions reductions while we outsource manufacturing to
coal-powered factories in China and India, while continuing to subsidise fossil fuel
extraction and sanctioning a third runway at Heathrow.
The general public are, for the most part, unaware of the gravity of the situation.
Students demanding action from policy makers did not learn about climate
breakdown from their textbooks. We, as educators, demand appropriate support to
teach the reality of this crisis and to properly prepare young people for their future.
How will history judge us if we do not?
Every adult in the world who has any power to affect change is now being taught a
lesson by school students whose voices, in their millions, are rising around the world.
Shame on us. They are telling us that by ignoring our collective responsibilities we
have created an ugly and bleak reality. We are, and should be, ashamed of what we
have let happen. Our current education system reflects this. In the national
curriculum climate change is mentioned in passing now and then, a bullet point in a
subtopic of the discrete curricula for Science and Geography. Despite the
commitment to ‘enhance climate change education’ in the 2015 Paris Agreement,
teachers and lecturers receive no training on how to talk about, let alone teach, the
reality of climate breakdown. There is no systematic reference to sustainability nor to
careers in a sustainable future. Students learn the economic language of success and
failure; the constant hysteria of assessment and exam preparation leave no time for
considerations of ecology or our conditional existence on a living planet. There is no
systematic reference to the tragic injustice of climate breakdown: why are we unable
to teach the difficult lesson that our actions and inactions can have terrible
consequences, inevitably felt first and hardest by the most vulnerable? All of these
failings are, in fact, addressed by educators every day, but despite the system in which
we work, not because of it.
As educators we see the necessity of the government meeting Extinction Rebellion’s
three demands with particular relevance to our work:
1. We must be supported to tell and teach the truth of climate and ecological
2. We must teach (and learn) why net zero emissions by 2025 is both necessary
3. Policy must be informed and instructed by ordinary people via a Citizens’
Assembly and we must hear the voices of young people whose future now
hangs in the balance.
In order to achieve these aims the Department for Education must play its part. We
therefore give our full support to the Teach the Future campaign (UKSCN and NUS)
and its demands:
1. A government commissioned review into climate emergency education
2. Inclusion of climate and ecological crisis in teacher standards
3. A national climate emergency education act
4. A national climate emergency youth voice grant
5. A Youth climate endowment fund
We await your response to this most urgent of matters.
A group of educators taking action in this climate and ecological crisis as part of
learningrebellion.earth / rebellion.earth