Since climate change is not only the problem of today but the future as well, judging by its long term impacts and continuous nature, sufficient knowledge and skills are required to keep abreast with its complex nature. The role of equality in education should not be undermined, especially considering inherent knowledge and information gaps existing between the global North and South.
The skills and widening resource disparities between the two global axis have a strong bearing on the future generations of the global South.
While in terms of knowledge and skills, the global South is catching up, it is still lagging behind in terms of the resource and capacity base. Lack of sufficient resources, both material and financial, common in the global South, place the young people in difficult enabling environment to confront and interrogate the effects of the fast-changing climate.
The inequalities between the industrialised and technologically resourced North and the under-resourced South determine how climate change impacts can be tackled in the great divide.
While in the global South, there is renewed keen interest and enthusiasm to tackle climate change head-on, the quality of funding and general lack of resources and motivation, continue to sideline will-focused and research savvy young people.
Climate research, which is supposed to bring innovations and the new impetus in dealing with the fast-changing nature of the environment is incapacitated. While the knowledge and strong will are there among the budding and upcoming bright minds in research in the South, they lack enough support compared to their well-resourced counterparts in the North.
Due to the inherent inequalities between technologically sound North and the under-resourced South, it appears as if the South cannot do anything without the approval of the North. As a result, the research initiatives and even climate change action strategies become prescriptive rather than homegrown, heritage-based and diagnostic.
Life-styles which have a strong bearing on dealing with climate change issues promote those in the North with wide range of choices. These choices are in the form of simple and complex multimedia technologies, up to date equipment to study weather patterns, monitor the environment, efficient and supportive private sector, wide consumer bases, as well as skilled human capital base sourced from different corners of the globe.
In this regard, it becomes difficult for the upcoming researchers in the developing countries to transform their lived experiences into meaningful or patent research due to lack of needs and necessities, designed to place them at the heart of sustainable development.
When educating young people about climate change impacts, the differences between the global North and South should not be ignored, they are there and they are real, not imagined. Knowledge platforms for dealing with information skills, internet and technological literacies are different and not equal. Although these disparities do not make those in the global North wiser and intelligent, they situate them at an advantage compared to their counterparts in the global South.
While those in developing countries will continue to keep their milestone ideas to themselves, without publishing them until they are overtaken by events, those in developed countries will make their ideas published and known or even steal ideas from their counterparts in the developing countries.
While issues of human influence on climate change acceleration can be understood in both contexts (North and South), they can be measured accurately in the North, due to the availability of sufficient technological bases and complex research hubs, necessary to uncover lifestyles and literacy skills relating to climate change.
Issues of population growth and their influence on climate change have also not been handled sufficiently well in the South. Population density contributes to stiff competition to fast dwindling natural resources including the sharing of the scarce financial and material resources which may be available, further widening inequality gaps.
The overall participation in climate change debates is accelerating in the North while in the South they need to be funded in order to talk about and educate people about what is happening in their own environments.
These trends will obviously favour the North, promote their interests and pursue their own hidden agendas including environmental colonialism which further widens global inequalities.
The issues of sustainability and equality in lifestyles are well handled in the well-resourced North, with unlimited choices for their citizens, while it is difficult to deal with sustainability issues in the under-resourced South. Lifestyles should be taken seriously when addressing issues to do with inequalities and even when designing information on climate change education materials. Lifestyles help nations, planners and policymakers to put problems in context so that they are solved strategically.
The availability of goods and services which have a strong bearing in shaping lifestyles and human behaviour should be seriously taken into consideration by the South as it is detrimental to climate change growth due to having many wants rather than needs. While there is individual awareness of climate change issues in developing countries, these may not lead to wholesale change in behaviour if the efforts are not aimed at eradicating inequalities.
Above all, young people in the South still need to have sufficient trust in their information sources and providers, institutional support, knowledge and beliefs in the overall pro-environmental educational campaigns in order to translate climate awareness into climate action.
While adults’ lifestyles are sometimes difficult to change, it is only the young who can be flexible enough to change their lifestyles.