Written by Moms Clean Air Force
This was written by Samantha Schmitz, Moms Clean Air Force intern:
In the midst of the ongoing federal debate around the climate funding proposed in the Build Back Better Act, it is perhaps time to take a step back and examine the necessity of this funding. Investment in climate research is often considered less important than investment in new technology as the impact is often on a longer timescale. And unfortunately, many lawmakers prioritize development and implementation without also funding the crucial behind-the-scenes research that will inform effective future climate action, mitigation, and preparation. In addition to encouraging our elected officials to support the Build Back Better Act and other climate investments, we must also support climate research on an individual level. That’s where Moms Clean Air Force comes in.
Researchers are often looking for participants from the general public, which allows our organization to play a critical role in supporting important climate research. One study through Cornell University is looking for participants and is particularly relevant to our work here at Moms Clean Air Force. The group of researchers that we’ve partnered with at Cornell is studying the ways in which kids learn about climate, and they’re currently looking to interview children ages 5, 6, or 7. This is one of the most direct ways that you as a parent can take action on climate alongside your children, and we would encourage anyone eligible to sign up here.
To get a better understanding of this study and the greater importance of climate research, we turned to Mom Clean Air Force Senior Policy Analyst Elizabeth Bechard, who worked in clinical research herself for over a decade in addition to recently helping her children participate in the Cornell study. Elizabeth discussed how the study helped her understand her own children’s views on climate, in addition to contributing to important research for the future of climate education. She explained that the researchers asked her 5 year-old twins a series of questions, including how they feel about climate change, and more generally, what they know about it, all the while making the interview engaging by having the children draw pictures of their thoughts. The researchers thanked participating children by giving them a book.
Just a few hours after participating in the study, Elizabeth’s kindergarten-age daughter described her excitement about being a climate activist. During her interview, she had mentioned that she was “very worried” about climate change. Elizabeth said, “It was really helpful to know my daughter is worried.” She then explained that “we need a better approach to teaching so that kids aren’t paralyzed by climate anxiety… We need to know what they’re going through, so we can turn it into strategies for resilience and ways to cope.”
It’s no secret that the way kids are taught about climate change now will shape the future of their own activism and climate action at large. Gaining more insights into the many questions about how best to teach children about such a difficult subject will help shape their generation’s ability to succeed in the fight against climate change. Elizabeth candidly shared, “As a parent, it’s sort of a guessing game… I really hope there is more research about the choices I’m making around how to talk to my kids about climate change.” While we all may have unsettling feelings about the climate crisis, it’s even harder to explain and negotiate those feelings in our children. For Elizabeth, empowering her children to take action on climate provides a glimmer of hope that their generation will be prepared to succeed in the fight.
And while Elizabeth and her children’s experience was unique to that of this individual Cornell study, it undoubtedly demonstrates the broader necessity of climate research. There are still an endless number of unanswered questions and areas that demand further study in climate science, both on the social sciences side of the issue, similar to this study, and on the physical sciences side. Yet, the only way to explore these questions and move forward is through funding further research in the field. Not only should we support climate research, but we should model this type of action for the next generation.
Elizabeth, who is currently studying the mental health effects of climate change in a graduate program, also stresses the importance of children seeing their parents taking action. Kids who watch their parents take climate action feel empowered to fight for their futures themselves. The Cornell study is a great place to start for all those who are eligible. For those who aren’t eligible, we encourage you to participate in climate research whenever the opportunity arises and to tell your legislators to support the funding of this crucial research.