by Yan-Ning Kuo
Taiwan, an island located in the tropical Eastern Pacific, is at the forefront of impacts from climate change. Over the years, people living on this island are clearly experiencing life in the Eastern Pacific, from being visited by typhoons frequently, to not at all throughout the summer, from a rainy climate, to a place operating water restrictions due to droughts in spring. The youth here notice that the next generation might face irreversible impacts from anthropogenic climate change. They are eager to make a difference, but how are they doing?
Inspired by Greta Thunberg, the youth-oriented NGO for climate action, Taiwan Youth Climate Coalition (TWYCC), found it difficult to join the student strike for climate in Taiwan as other countries did. Under more conservative views, the direct and reckless action of asking students “out of” campuses for strikes is not acceptable in East Asian culture. Asian parents are not fans of student climate strikes. Therefore, TWYCC brings climate education “into” campuses instead; if it supports children’s academic careers, parents will like it.
As the Taiwanese government’s educational guidelines are transforming to reform the previously exam-oriented education system, interdisciplinary subjects and diverse educational tools are welcomed. Fortunately, climate change becomes a subject that is aligned with this. However, a local survey in 2020 showed that more than 80% of teachers believe the current environmental curricula need improvements. Challenges include, among others, limited class time (58.4%). This difficult transition offers an opportunity to us. “Climate Leader for Future” is a project co-developed by TWYCC and Hair O’right International Corporation. Since 2019, it has been growing as a volunteer-based project which aims to make climate education accessible to students, from elementary schools to high schools.
“We don’t have many Typhoons or rain in 2020 in Taiwan. But our neighbours, Japan and China, are suffering from floods. Such uneven precipitation is a result of climate change.”Chiao-Jou, the commissioner of “Climate Leader for Future” said in a class.
We try to trigger children’s interests by relating issues of climate change to their daily lives. Then, we bring in, with multimedia teaching materials, not only scientific background knowledge but also a reflection on climate justice. In the past, teachers might think of climate issues like a hot potato because they would need to extract contents from different textbooks and re-organise them into a story of climate change. This takes a lot of time, which is why schools welcome TWYCC to teach on their campuses. What we’ve offered is an oven-ready teaching plan. It is made following governmental guidelines, integrated with the existing classes, and is updated frequently.
Some NGOs aim to reform climate issues outside the educational system by strikes or demonstrations. Here, TWYCC demonstrates an alternative way. Considering the Asian cultural backgrounds, we decide to cooperate with the existing educational system and reinforce climate education within campuses. Advocating for climate change still has a long way to go, but TWYCC believes that education is a fundamental part of the advocacy. Like planting a tree, we spread the seeds of environmental caring in children’s minds, and hopefully, they can sprout and pass the thought down through the generations to save our future.
Formally established in 2012, Taiwan Youth Climate Coalition (TWYCC) is the first youth environmental NGO in Taiwan organized by a group of Taiwanese youths with their passion for environmental protection and climate change issues. The corresponding author for this article is Yan-Ning Kuo, who is from the department of international cooperation in TWYCC.