“She’s dug herself into a safety hole,” said one Year 7 student, reflecting on a scenario about a woman who routinely takes a happiness-inducing drug to soothe difficult emotions. “It would be a very fragile kind of happiness.”
“You’d have your own sandbox to play in,” said another, justifying his preference for plugging into a hypothetical ‘Experience Machine’ that serves up a wholly convincing virtual reality. “It would be really cool – you could change certain things, like what sort of plants there are in your world.”
We know that climate and ecological breakdown are eroding the earth’s capacity to support life, imperilling human security more profoundly than anything else in modern times. Systemic environmental collapse is now nothing less than an existential threat. In the words of climatologist Hans Schellnhuber, “We are now reaching the end-game, where very soon humanity must choose between taking unprecedented action or accepting that it has been left too late and bear the consequences”.
It seems obvious, in the shadow of the climate and ecological crises, that the environmental, social and political dimensions of climate disruption ought to occupy a central place in primary and secondary school curricula. Yet according to extensive international research, schooling rarely addresses these vital issues with any depth, nuance or rigour. Curricula continue to focus more or less narrowly on employment readiness, even at the cost of neglecting students’ democratic imagination, their competence in public reasoning within local communities, and their capacity to take collective action.