GUEST BLOGGER LAURA GEHL
Have you heard about “climate anxiety”? Climate anxiety, or eco-anxiety, is distress about global warming and climate change. Many young people worry about these topics. And some worry to the extent that they feel depressed or hopeless as a result.
1. Meet climate warriors
One way to help students who are anxious about our changing climate is by sharing books with hopeful messages—books reinforcing the idea that we are not too late to make a difference. In CLIMATE WARRIORS, students can read profiles of fourteen different scientists tackling the problem of climate change from different directions.
Do you have students who are interested in computers or artificial intelligence? They might want to read about David Rolnick, who uses the power of AI to fight climate change.
Do you have students interested in how people think? They might like to read about Shahzeen Attari, a psychology expert who studies how we can get people to change behaviors that are contributing to climate change.
Or maybe you have students who enjoy the outdoors? Introduce them to Lisa Windham-Myers or Ryan Emanuel. Lisa gets muddy studying wetlands. Ryan travels to jungles and mountains studying water, climate, and how communities can best adapt to climate change.
Your students can also find scientists figuring out how to make better fuels for cars and airplanes, how to design climate-friendly cities, and how to power the world using only wind, water, and sunlight.
2. Make a list
Another approach to helping students who worry about our climate is to figure out ways they themselves can help fight climate change (no matter what age they are!). In CLIMATE WARRIORS, each scientist’s profile ends with a suggestion of how students can take action related to that scientist’s work. For example, Natalie Rubio is trying to grow meat in a lab because farming animals for meat contributes to climate change. Students might then be inspired to try cooking a vegetarian meal or making vegetarian lunches to bring to school.
Together as a class, brainstorm ideas of actions students can take to help fight climate change right now—from composting to riding a bike instead of asking for a ride to planting a school garden.
3. Write a letter
Many of the scientists in CLIMATE WARRIORS talk about how important government action is in addition to scientific research. Scientific research is usually focused on long-term solutions, and government actions can fight climate change in the short-term. You can help empower your students to help fight climate change by teaching them how to write to their elected officials.
Ask students what concrete actions they would like their elected officials to take. For example, maybe your students want their gas-powered school buses to be replaced with electric school buses. Or maybe they want new schools being built in your area to be constructed with solar panels.
Figure out which elected officials to write to. Depending on the issues students want to write about, you might be writing to the mayor, county council members, the governor, a state senator, and/or a US. Senator or representative.
Write the letter. For younger students, you could write a letter together as a class. For older students, each student can write their own letter. The more letters a government official receives, the more likely they are to listen!
You can find help with how to format your letter at the back of CLIMATE WARRIORS. You can download a guide here.
Writing a letter to their elected officials is an activity that makes students feel more in control and that can actually lead to real change. Officials will almost always write back.. Students will know their voices are being heard (be sure to use your school mailing or email address, not your students’ personal addresses). As a bonus, once your students know how to write to their elected officials, they are not limited to writing about climate change. They can write additional letters about any other issues they care about!
Laura Gehl is a former teacher and the award-winning author of more than forty fiction and nonfiction books for young readers. She lives in Maryland with her husband, four kids, and ever-growing stashes of books and dark chocolate. Visit Laura online at lauragehl.com or connect with her on X/Instagram/Bluesky @AuthorLauraGehl.