People around the world are increasingly concerned about climate change and its effects on the world and on our lives. These concerns are not only being voiced by adults. Young people are also leading efforts to make significant shifts to change the course of our impact on the environment. Youth activists such as Greta Thunberg, environmental activist from Sweden; Isra Hirsi, co-founder the U.S. Youth Climate Strike; Autumn Peltier, water protector and advocate for clean drinking water in First Nations communities; Helena Gualinga, Indigenous environmental and human rights activist from Ecuador; and Mari Copeny, youth activist from Flint, Michigan, are among the many youth climate activists who work in their local contexts and on a global level to enact change.
Scholars in environmental education have focused on climate change for decades. However, young children were seldom included in their research. Most followed the advice of David Sobel (1996), who saw climate change as one of the “big, complex problems beyond the geographical and conceptual scope of young children” (p. 27). Sobel advocated for teaching young children a love of and care for nature and only gradually moving towards more complex environmental topics as children get older (Chawla, 2020). However, given the pervasiveness of climate change in the media, the increasing interest among communities to adapt and adjust to reduce their impact on the environment, and the efforts of high-profile activists such as Greta Thunberg, many children have become active participants in conversations and actions around climate change (Davis, 2010). For instance, some children have seen images or heard talk of wildfires raging in California and Australia and hurricanes devastating Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. Other children have experienced such events themselves, along with their families. Clearly, schools and teachers need to be prepared to work to support children’s understanding and questions around climate change and climate justice (Chawla, 2020).