We ignore our children's voices at our peril
Climate change is an existential threat. Yet in the face of overwhelming evidence, there is a very vocal public and political voice which is aggressively unbelieving.
This is fuelled by a crisis of trust. Scepticism about climate change is symptomatic of a wider social malaise. Fed by the echo chamber of social media, views have become more extreme, more paranoid and less tolerant of other viewpoints.
This is particularly severe when it comes to climate change. In 2018, You Gov conducted the largest cross-national study ever on conspiracy theories and found that beliefs in theories such as ‘the climate change hoax’ are now mainstream.
The truth is under siege.
In the western world, we seem to be losing our ability to be open to other people’s experiences. We are unable to resist the allure of cheap clothes from developing countries which are produced in inhumane and polluting conditions, we accept that recycled waste is dumped in countries without the correct infrastructure to deal with it and are disengaged from the impact of climate change on some of the poorest parts of the world. We are suffering a catastrophic empathy deficit.
This deficit is even the case when it comes to our own children. We know that the children of today will bear burden of our current lifestyles and yet governments, companies and individuals are unable to work together to prioritise the long-term future of our planet, fearing the short-term discomfort.
For a long time, children’s voices have been ignored in the conversations about climate change. However, the impact of Greta Thunberg and the children she leads, has started to change that. Her powerful speech to global leaders last week was filled with a righteous rage that was uncomfortable viewing for any adult. Children are now organising and radically challenging power structures in a way that adults have been unable to do.
I am the founder of We the Creators, a company which works with brands, educators, charities and the public sector to which create emotionally engaging experiences. Our experiences are driven by human connection and curiosity. Our experiences are often co-created with children.
Immersive experiences, stories, games and role-play can help address this empathy deficit and force us to see the consequences of our actions. And placing children at the centre of this is essential. Not only does it force adults to examine their actions, but it will equip children with the skills to place empathy at the heart of the climate challenges they will have to face in the future.
We need to create more opportunities to amplify children’s voices. In no realm is that more important than in climate change.