We need to make climate education a reality

Emilia is a 17 years-old activist and climate educator from Poland. In the following article, she talks about her experience with teaching kids about the climate crisis and why she thinks that politicians stand in the way of change.

My name is Emilia, I am 17 years old, and I live in a rural area of Poland, near the city of Toruń. I hope to be a doctor one day, but now my passion is climate education.

Emilia at her first protest

I first learned about climate strikes when I was 14. I went to my first strike near our city council with my friend. Nobody else showed up, so we were the only ones there. Somebody called the security staff on us – we were absolutely oblivious to the rules you need to follow to be legally allowed to strike. But we did not leave. Instead, we climbed on a statue and sat there with our posters. People passing by saw us, started taking pictures and talked to us. It was such an amazing experience that I decided to be a climate activist.

Emilia at the Ministry of Education

Then I joined our local Fridays for Future chapter, but it was not very active, so we needed to organise strikes with my friends. Last year, I joined a FFF’s international project concerning climate education. Since then, I have been teaching classes about the climate. I and my colleagues have also been meeting with the Polish Ministry of climate and the Ministry of education. We try to convince them that we need climate education in Polish schools. It looks promising.

I believe that people are willing to change.

However, there are a lot of barriers to change. The biggest obstacle is not the law but the politicians who are unwilling to change anything. Like when I met the Polish president Andrzej Duda at one of his rallies in 2020. I went there with a banner saying simply: And what about the climate? He noticed and went over to talk to me. I tried to explain to him the severity of the climate crisis, but he said people are not willing to change. I do not believe that. Everybody wants to live a healthy life. If they were explained how serious the situation is, they would be willing to make changes. This is just a politician’s excuse.

Not only influencing politicians to do something is a struggle. Also the complete lack of information among the general public.

We need to teach these things at school. I had just one lesson about climate change last year during geography. The only takeaway from the lesson was that scientists are unsure if climate change is happening. It is ridiculous to teach that at school.

The climate crisis is not just about the environment.

Still, I do not believe that the climate crisis is only about the environment. Social issues are connected with it. We try to cooperate with a local LGBTQI+ centre and organisations that focus on women’s rights in my local area. Whenever we have a strike, we invite them to give a speech, because we are in this together. This is one fight.

Seeing that what I am doing has an impact on people is what really keeps me going. It is just beautiful to see kids as young as 6 years old

Emilia Rygielska at a climate protest

Emilia Rygielska at a climate protest

be eager to make a difference in the world. I would like to think that they also tell their parents what they learn in our classes, and their parents to their friends, and then more people find out about the dangers of the climate crisis and maybe join us. I would like to see more older people joining in the fight.

The climate crisis is everybody’s problem.

I think the older generation does not fight for it because they are unaware. I have heard people saying that the climate crisis is not real. Other people say it is real, but it does not affect them, because they are 50 years old. Although, there have been some elderly people at the climate strikes, which is always so nice to see.

A group of people my parents’ age in my local area fights against cutting down a local forest to make space for industrial buildings. They took action because it would have a direct impact on their lives. So, I think the indifference is just a matter of older people thinking that the climate crisis is not their problem. Because my generation already knows that it is our problem.

Start now. You will find people along the way.

Most of us found out about the climate crisis through social media, and we felt like it directly concerns us. That is the reason why we fight for change. There are always things we can change, regardless of where we live. Even if we are alone at first, we find people along the way.

Activists uplift each other. When I look back, I am really amazed by what we achieved in one year. So, start now! Just make sure to know the laws not to get in trouble, because if you are in trouble you cannot do anything.