Climate change is incredibly complex. The political, economic and social implications of both its impacts and how we address them are fiendish. At the same time, it touches on the most elemental, essential aspects of life on the planet: energy, food, air, soil, forests. And especially water. This crisis is about how we deal with the building blocks of life on Earth.
Water, or the lack of it, is the most evident and terrifying impact of climate change right now, for communities all over the planet. Flooding, drought, sea rise, glacier loss and ice cap melt are all occurring at an increasing frequency that the scientists themselves did not predict. That elemental impact brings with it a host of other consequences: erosion, wildfires, agricultural losses, pests and diseases, loss of infrastructure. The list goes on. And the ones who are most exposed to both the primary and secondary (and tertiary) impacts are, as always, the poorest and most vulnerable, with children being particularly at risk.
So climate change is very much about water, and if we want to help people understand what climate change means – what it actually means for human communities at home and abroad – then starting with that elemental story can be a way to connect.
The Democracy Center’s microsite, Climate Change is About…Water, is designed to facilitate that connection and engagement. It tells the recent story of climate change and water in Bolivia (an acutely vulnerable nation) through three case studies of communities exposed to the impacts of drought, flooding and glacier loss respectively. The human stories of those impacts on rural and peri-urban populations brings to life the introductory analysis of Bolivia’s climate change vulnerability – geographic, economic and political – and what those mean for a community’s survival, especially in terms of migration. The stories and analysis are conveyed through text, photography and video and include interviews and testimony from impacted communities and Bolivian activists and policy-makers.
For educators, helping students understand these very real and tangible impacts of climate change enables them to bring the subject out of the realm of the abstract and make it a graspable reality. Asking them to think about the different ways in which communities and nations are vulnerable encourages reflection on issues of privilege and justice, and can spur global solidarity and citizenship. Classrooms are naturally democractic spaces in which students have what may, for some, be a rare opportunity to examine the implications of major public issues such as the climate crisis. Using that space to motivate young people to dedicate energy to addressing its root causes becomes more urgent with every passing day.
The Teaching and Activities Guide which accompanies the microsite is designed to aid exploration of the site material, join the dots on the global nature of climate change, and encourage responses on how to address it. The microsite and Guide are designed to be flexible and accessible for use with secondary-level students upwards, and can be adapted for self-led or teacher-led exploration in both formal and informal settings. The structure of the Guide mirrors that of the website and is full of questions to aid discussion and independent research, plus individual and group activities for learners to engage with, such as: preparing your own climate change action and adaptation plans; mapping vulnerability in your local area; creating audiovisual news reports on climate impacts; and debating the priorities for global climate change funding. The activities push learners to think critically about this global issue and taps into their creativity and energy in considering responses to it.
Global awareness and solidarity are essential to confronting the multiple problems that climate change brings in a just and sustainable way. Nurturing that solidarity begins in the classroom and can be much enhanced by digital connectivity. The Climate Classroom area of Climate Change is About…Water provides a space for students to share their work and responses to the material on the site and, we very much hope, create links with other students engaged with the issues it raises.
We hope you find this resource a useful addition. As always, feedback is very welcome!