Taking Climate Action Through Education

“Save the earth!” they say.

But the earth will be fine. It’s survived plenty of grueling ordeals, including massive lizards and run-ins with asteroids.

“Save the humans,” I say.

Humans need the earth to survive (not the other way around). So humans should adopt a sustainability mindset that enables future generations the opportunity to flourish on this planet.

The place to start is education. Future generations will need:

  • to embrace facts about the climate and our world
  • methods to live sustainably
  • to be creative in solving global problems (that we are creating)

But first, let’s go back to high school to discuss symbiotic relationships and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Our Relationship to the Earth

We exist in a symbiotic relationship with our planet — i.e. humans need the earth to survive. It’s not a mutually beneficial relationship (like flowers and bees have), because we aren’t providing much value in return (and that’s fine). I also don’t think we have a parasitic relationship (Agent Smith from The Matrix thinks so). Instead we fall somewhere in the middle at Commensalism: where we live off the earth, but provide no real benefit or harm to it.

Essentially, our current survival relies on humans living off the planet. It will eventually be great to get away from this with science and space travel, but this symbiotic relationship will continue for some time into the future.

To achieve fulfillment and success as a species, we must first embrace our relationship and dependence on the planet. Then we can help its survival, and in turn our own.

Climate Action and Our Wired Brain

I tend to look at the world through an evolutionary lens; more specifically, where we fall on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Each person, society, and country is attempting to work their way up the pyramid of needs; but you can only move up the pyramid when you have fulfilled the lower levels:

  1. The Basic Needs include food, shelter, and security — First world countries have these (mostly) worked out, but third world countries are stuck here. This tier relies on our connection to the earth.
  2. Psychological Needs are about relationships and prestige — This is the way we relate to others outside of ourselves.
  3. Self-Fulfillment Needs are highly individual, and include achieving one’s full potential in life. I like to think of this need as the actual being happy part of life.

So what happens when we apply this framework onto the human species? Humans are striving for the top tier needs through connectivity, technology, advancements, and growth; but are we ensuring the basic needs for all people and future generations? Will future generations have time to think about upper tier needs, or will they be too busy solving survival needs because of the problems that we leave them?

With massive population growth, climate change, and rising energy use; we need to adopt a mindset of creating a sustainable future with food, shelter, and security for future humans. And we can do this with education.

Goal #13 Target: Education

Future humans will need to be educated on how to solve climate problems, but more importantly, they’ll need to learn about prevention and sustainability. After all, the best way to help the planet (and ourselves as we’ve discussed) is to not f#@% it up in the first place.

Getting someone to change a habit or way of life is difficult, but teaching someone the proper way to act from the start is easier. Sustainable upkeep of our planet in the form of recycling and efficient energy usage should be taught to all children and embraced as an essential aspect of our humanity.

Climate education will allow future humans to be better equipped to take action and solve the problems that will ensure the advancement of the species.


This article was originally published on the YourCause blog, and is part of a blog series called: “Champions of Global Goals.”

Learn more about the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, and see how you can support Goal 13 — Climate Action. Be sure to check out more actionable tips in “The Lazy Person’s Guide to Saving the World.”