Ecosystem, biodiversity and ozone layer — for a layman in Zimbabwe these, among other technical jargon related to the environment and climate change, are complex words, which despite being publicised lack importance as they do not address the urgent “bread and butter” issues they are faced with each and every day.
Temperatures within planet earth are soaring higher as a result of global warming causing unbearable conditions for its inhabitants, including humans.
However, in public debates, the gravity of securing a healthy environment is usually relegated to a sideshow as majority citizens opt to discuss socio-economic issues as well as politics of the day.
Not many seem aware that the fast depletion and possible shortage of natural resources in the not too distant future will cause serious conflicts from the family institution up to potential wars at national level.
Closer to home, the South African city of Cape Town’s water crisis is a perfect example of the kind of chaos a shortage in natural resources can trigger and affect all aspects of life.
“Climate Change information is too technical and needs to be simplified and translated into local languages as enshrined in the constitution for easier uptake,” says Justice Zvaita, a representative from Zimbabwe Climate Change Coalition (ZCCC).
True to his sentiments, although different literature and airwaves are carrying this information, the reception is not so encouraging and the apathy is hugely because even some of those considered to be learned do not understand the climate change phenomenon and the negative repercussions it breeds for the environment.
With the elderly still failing to comprehend, it is worse for the young.
Last year ZCCC reportedly embarked on a nationwide educational awareness programme to get schools talking about climate change under the theme Empower the child, Empower Humanity.
“The climate change information and communication campaign at the heart of the project heavily consider teachers and students as strategic information multipliers,” Zvaita said, suggesting an overhaul of the syllabuses to include more information on the topic.
The junior schools’ curriculum carries shallow information on environmental studies, which some also consider outdated while secondary schools geography is also not as enlightening.
It is only at Advanced Level that students, albeit those studying geography encounter harder to understand topics like “climatology” and this has made the subject one of the hardest at that stage.
“There is no need to burden schools with a ‘climate change curriculum’ because climate change can be mainstreamed in everyday study to make it fun,” says Coalition for Market and Liberal Solutions president Rejoice Ngwenya.
“National policy is not understood at grassroots level. Parents are ignorant of climate change issues, so children have no mentors,” she said.
“All aspects of life, subjects and human behaviour have a pinch of climate change adaptation. Teacher, preachers, artists and politicians can be trained by people like us for that purpose because if we make it too technical we will lose the kids,” says Ngwenya.
With the help of German organisation Konrad Adenauer Foundation, his organisation is already halfway through an isiNdebele climate change glossary.
Meanwhile, research has also proven that play is vital to a child’s development, equipping them with the skills necessary to tackle humanity’s future, such as emotional intelligence, creativity and problem solving.
Perhaps new games in addition to literature can be incorporated to encourage environmentally friendly activity.
Director of Web Content of Intellectual Takeout Jon Miltimore recently posted an article in which he reflected on the United Nations’ Climate Change Conference in Germany last year where panellists said young people were the “secret weapon” against climate change.
“Children want quick action and not delays. They often prod their parents into action,” read a quote from the annual event enforcing the importance of the youth’s contribution.
“Youth voices must be heard since they will face the consequences of our actions on climate change.”
Miltimore also suggests turning “the first internet connected-generation into the first climate-aware generation” through the use of information and communication technologies.
Since September 2008, United Nations entities and youth organisations have been working to empower children and young people to take action on climate change through the United Nations Joint Framework Initiative on Children, Youth and Climate Change.
If indeed the proverbial adage that reads: “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”, is true then the young are the only way to salvage a tragic environmental time bomb spurred by climate change.