Guest essay by Eric Worrall
According to the South China Morning Post, China wants kids to learn about climate change, but is trying to moderate the message to encourage children to focus on personal climate action rather than joining protest movements.
Climate change: children in China learn Beijing’s version of the story
Authorities want students to support green campaigns, but for their activism to stop at lowering their carbon footprints
Scripted lessons and censorship mean broad acceptance of the dangers of climate change and little impetus to push for more aggressive policies
Published: 4:00pm, 7 Feb, 2021
Why you can trust SCMP
For most of her young life, nine-year-old Gao Ximan dreamed of becoming a policewoman. But after attending an eight-week online workshop about climate change over the summer, she decided being a conservationist was a more important ambition.
“Siberian tigers and snow leopards are so cute, but they are dying out,” said the fourth-grade student at one of Beijing’s top public schools. She stopped using the air conditioner in her bedroom and insisted her family used public transport instead of their car for weekend outings.
Gao’s interest in the environment is something the Chinese government is trying to cultivate in young people as it pursues wide-ranging reforms to eliminate its net emissions of carbon dioxide by 2060. But the nation’s state-led approach to climate change is less tolerant of public debate over how it is going to get there. In other words, the authorities want children like Gao to support its green campaigns, but would prefer their activism stop at lowering their own carbon footprints.
“China’s climate education emphasises that responsibility lies with the individual and they can make a difference by living a low-carbon life, but they are not the ones that should influence policymaking,” said Yao Zhe, who specialises in climate communications and has worked with various green organisations in China.
Read more: https://www.scmp.com/news/china/article/3120716/climate-change-children-china-learn-beijings-version-story
How can children believe that carbon footprints matter, that the world is in peril, but they should celebrate China’s right to develop and never criticise government policy, when the state orders the construction of a new coal plant? I guess we’re all going to find out.
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