Introduction

Climate justice is “the fair treatment of all people and the freedom from discrimination in the creation of policies and projects that address climate change as well as the systems that create climate change and perpetuate discrimination” (Climate Generation). Climate justice recognizes that certain groups of individuals, such as people of color and those in low income communities, are disproportionately impacted by climate change and advocates for these inequalities to be addressed. As climate change is only becoming more of an issue over time, it is important for educators to introduce both the topics of climate change and climate justice into their classrooms. By teaching students about climate justice, educators are giving them the information they need on social issues to make informed decisions regarding climate change in the future.

Resources

There are many resources available online for teaching students about climate justice. Climate change means different things to different people, but most can agree that fighting climate change and its adverse impacts (social, economic, health, etc.) is urgent, which is why teaching students about climate justice is so important!

Lesson Plans

  1. Teach Climate Justice Campaign: Zinn Education Project provides educators with lesson plans, additional teaching resources (books, films, articles), teacher stories, and more on teaching climate justice in the classroom. This resource not only offers lessons and activities educators can use in their classrooms, but there are also an abundance of valuable resources for educators alone to help them through the process of designing their own curriculum for teaching about climate justice. Additionally, it may be helpful for educators to take a look through classroom stories from some who have used the lessons from the Zinn Education Project website to see how their students responded to learning about environmental justice in that manner. 
  2. Climate Justice in BC – Lessons for Transformation: Climate Justice in BC offers eight modules designed for students in grades 8 to 12 on climate justice. The topics of the modules are an introduction to climate justice, reimagining our food system, transportation transformation, rethinking waste, fracking town hall, green industrial revolution, imagining the future we want, and challenges to change. In each of these modules, there are directions for how educators should conduct their class and utilize the materials provided, which include a list of objectives, a suggested time limit, resources (PowerPoint slides, videos, websites, etc.), a series of discussion questions, a list of key terms, additional guidance for any activities, and more. Students will learn much about climate justice and how it intersects with communities, history, economy, and ecology in BC, Canada, so educators should take a look!
  3. Climate Change, Climate Justice: Trócaire has put together a resource pack for primary schools on climate change and climate justice. The resource is divided into four themes: environmental values, climate change, and being a climate justice champion. Each theme contains teacher’s information and four  classroom activities in total, two of which are for junior primary students and two for senior primary students.

Articles

  1. Our House Is on Fire — Time to Teach Climate Justice: Rethinking Schools provides an article explaining why it is important to teach climate justice in our classrooms. Included in the article is a link to Rethinking Schools’s “Teach Climate Justice” campaign, the contents of which are detailed above, and an explanation of its most helpful materials. The author of the article, Bill Bigelow, also discusses why climate justice is essential to focus on instead of just simply climate literacy. While using the climate justice approach, Bigelow recommends probing its deep causes, focusing on race and inequality related to the climate crisis (in “frontline” communities), talking about student activism, and focusing on deep solutions. From this article, educators will have access to both climate justice resources to use in the classroom and advice on how to use them most effectively.
  2. Why Climate Justice?: The World Resources Institute offers a brief overview of why climate justice is significant and provides a five-minute video where experts on international climate policy share their thoughts on why climate change should be seen as a justice issue. At the bottom of the page, there is a question asking readers why they believe climate justice is important and how it can change the way society thinks about climate change, which may be a good question to have students answer.
  3. Five Ways to Achieve Climate Justice: The Guardian provides readers with five ways to achieve climate justice according to a report made by the International bar Association which suggests certain steps in order to get the law right for the victims of climate change. Though this article is about five years old, its content continues to be relevant as climate injustice has only increased over time. The five tips include recognizing climate change victims, reinforcing human rights, holding corporations accountable, beefing up international institutions, and getting the trade system right. By reading this piece of writing, students will better understand the human cost of climate change and the fact that the law is not always equipped to help victims.

Informational Sites

  1. UN – Climate Justice: The United Nations has a page of information on climate justice, which contains a brief overview of climate change along with the youth uprising related to the climate crisis. By providing students with information on how some members of their generation are responding to the issue of climate change, students may be inspired to learn more about climate justice and take action!
  2. What is ‘Climate Justice’?: Yale Climate Connections provides an article detailing the key factors individuals should consider when thinking about climate justice. From this article, students will learn about who is most affected by climate change, how climate impacts can aggravate inequitable social conditions, and other related concepts.
  3. Global Justice Ecology Project – Climate Justice: The Global Justice Ecology Project offers a brief informational article which explains what climate change and climate justice are.
  4. WE ACT for Environmental Justice – Climate Justice: WE ACT for Environmental Justice provides information on climate justice in New York City, specifically the unequal impact climate change is having on communities of color. 

Conclusion

Teaching students about climate justice is an important part of teaching about climate change because the social, economic, and other impacts on a substantial portion of our population are often overlooked. By learning about climate justice and becoming aware of how climate change affects some members of our communities, students will be better prepared to advocate for our government officials to do more for victims of climate change. The lesson plans, articles, and informational sites above will help educators to teach about climate justice effectively in their classrooms!

Additional Resources

  1. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy – Climate Justice: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy provides an abundance of information on climate justice, including the two different approaches (isolationism and integrationism), an assessment of climate impacts, the responsibilities our people owe to future people, and more related topics.
  2. NAACP – Environmental & Climate Justice: The NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program was formed “to support community leadership in addressing this human and civil rights issue.” This particular page provides an article on environmental and climate justice and will help students grasp that climate change disproportionately affects people of color and low income communities.
  3. Mary Robinson Foundation – Principles of Climate Justice: Mary Robinson Foundation Climate Justice provides information on the principles of climate justice, which include respecting and protecting human rights, supporting the right to development, sharing benefits and burdens equitably, ensuring that decisions on climate change are participatory, transparent, and accountable, highlighting gender equality and equity, etc.