Importance of Natural Resources

Oskar’s Quest – Youth Talk About Climate Collapse

How do we talk with children and youth
about their vulnerability to climate change ? It is already disrupting their
lives and is going to get worse. If we tell them of our fears do we risk
hurting them? I didn’t want to cause hurt so had
avoided having those conversations with children. But then I met teachers Joel and Simona
and their 13-year-old son Oskar. I met them while working in Bali for a
year. This is their story of facing climate reality together with young
people at home and in school. Oskar’s introspective, sensitive and really
intelligent, loves stories , loves to read on his own and just really like join
conversations with everybody. So if we’re talking with people or just with each other
he’ll jump in and and want to be a part of that. He’ll want to know what we’re
talking about. He’ll want the context of what we’re
talking about…So…He”s always been that way, always been eager to understand
what’s going on around him and just be part of the conversation. Um also I guess
it’s important that he has never gone to a conventional school. He’s only been
homes-schooled and when he wasn’t at home-schooled he was going to
Green School which is a eco-school in the jungle of Bali. He was allowed to
learn what he wanted – most of the time – to follow his interests. We came to Bali because we wanted Oskar to go to Green School. He was being homeschooled before we came here and we
thought it would be great for him to be learning with other people. We have this
routine of going to the beach. It’s, it’s the time where we catch up as a family.
We talk about how our day went and, you know, get some, get to move. Being at the
beach you feel like you can look at the horizon and, and move around freely and
it’s a little bit cooler and and we actually somehow being at the beach we
almost always end up having some kind of philosophical conversations we were
walking on the beach and I was talking to Joel and it was actually just the
beginning of the rainy season. So a lot of plastic garbage was washing down the
little sewage streams that go into the water. So, you know, the beach was really
dirty and Oskar ran ahead and he was sitting on the rocks, on the beach and
looking at the sunset. And as we walked up, I saw that he was he was crying. And so I hugged him and, and I asked him why
he was crying. And he said, um, he cried because he had no future. He said that he
may not live to be as old as we are or have children and /or even if he lived,
what kind of life would it be? I talked to him and and I said that it was O.K.
to be sad and that, you know, I could not tell him that it would be otherwise, you know. Nobody could promise that. I think that was that weekend when I was
online and I wasn’t particularly looking for anything but I came across Deep
Adaptation. And I think I must have just read the beginning of this. I don’t
even know what the context was of finding Deep Adaptation. But I started to read it
and it seemed to me exactly what Simona had been talking about. And so, here’s
something that’s that’s saying, that’s talking about climate change in the way
that you’ve been talking about it, um, so you should read this. And I sent to the
the link to the article and I think he looked at it and um, he saw how
long it was and said well we should maybe print this out and read it
together. So we had printed it out, we – I think it was a
Saturday morning. Oscar and Simona and I sat about, around here , and just
started reading. I was reading it out loud. We would stop every few paragraphs
or if something came up that we thought Oscar might not understand and talk
about it, or ask him to rephrase something we’d read, and he would.. .um.. we’d have a discussion
around that. Um, as we were reading it he became, I think,
I think he became more more animated and in his thinking and he showed that
that his physical…he’s up moving around, throwing the stick around, thinking.. and ….so I
felt like he was already feeling motivated to to do something,.. about what
he was hearing too, and not so much to say, like, to do something about climate
change but to to start doing something and living in a way that’s going to
prepare him for the kind of future he might be living in. iI you feel like you
really want to do something, what what is it you want to do? And he said…I want
to tell people about it…. And so for the world, what would be the most effective
way for you to tell people about it? And so he thought that maybe he could do a
speech at school, at the Assembly. But then to prepare it he would have to have
time and help. And then they came up with the idea of him doing a Quest
Project because that is a project that middle-schoolers do at the end of the
Middle School. So they do a research project and then they present in front
of the whole school. And the teachers said that it was too early for him to do
a quest because, you know, it takes a lot of time to prepare & then he has to, er.
He’s in Grade 7 and it’s in Grade 8. Yes, yes. So he was basically told no. But then he wrote
another email to to the teacher and he said, ” Well I would still like to do it
and is there any way I could do it? Maybe it doesn’t have to be called Quest. And
so they had a meeting about it and then the teachers decided that they were
gonna support him. I was excited to hear Oscar did not take no for an answer.
Oscar’s quest would be to learn how to live in the face of collapse. I asked to
have a chat with him, to hear for myself. Thanks for sitting down with me to chat.
Yeah. Does it feel like there’s a possibility this is the future or is it
a sadness that this is likely? Yeah. Yeah. I also thought how much I wondered would be
extinct by then. I mean, there probably won’t be that much left. Mm-mm Yeah. So fear about sadness, about what
what’s happening in the world at all and then how you’ll live in that future. I
want to do gardening and learn how to learn survival skills that might be
useful in a collapse situation. So you’re less dependent on the supermarket? Yeah I kind
of wanted to do something about it and me and my parents came up with an idea
to do like a presentation , so that we can let other people know, maybe, what I think.
So you don’t have opportunities to talk about this in school?
Yeah, I don’t really find like the moment, you know, like the context, there’s never
never talking about issues or anything. It’s like now, I’m doing the project where I’m
going to be making a video about my experience with this topic – emotional
experience mostly. So the topic being, not just climate , but this….? .The collapse. The
collapse….Yeah…The sense you have that there will be a, some kind of breakdown
in what, in the way we live? Yes. The idea of bringing to classroom came from me
actually talking to Oskar and having this anxiety about the future, and then I
thought well, if he has those feelings, he’s probably not alone. There’s probably
a lot of children that feel that way and there is no venue there is no
place for them to really talk about it and to learn about it. And so, after we
read the paper we discussed it with Joe whether that would be a good way to
bring this topic into the classroom – to actually look at this as a research
paper and talk to kids about it. This was the first time I had heard of
any teachers bringing the topic of societal collapse into their school. I
wanted to know more. We found that actually kids just wanted to talk about
it. So we had to actually adapt and, and change the course as we went because we
thought it was more important to have that space
for them to talk about it. A friend of mine who works at preschool was was here
and we were talking about him, about the class, and about the context of the class
and? Yes , his wife, she said, ” Oh it’s very interesting ,because we went to this
dinner where we met this professor from England who wrote a paper on this topic.”
And so I asked her what was the name of the professor and, and then that’s how I
found out that you were in Bali. My outlook on the future is painful enough
for me and my colleagues. What would it be like to talk with young people about
it? I’m a professor at a university but I had not been to a classroom of
schoolkids since I was at school myself. Oskar said I should go. It felt right to
join him in his quest. Joining the circle on the floor, I asked
the students whether they thought it was a good idea for their teacher, Joel, to
have brought my rather difficult paper to their class. More for me, what the paper has
done is, it’s just like kind of changed the way I look at climate change in
general. It’s gonna be our future in our kids generation and it’s gonna be the
upcoming generation who’s gonna come. And I find it is partially – You know this
knowledge – and saying – You are, you should not know about it because you are too
young for it. I find that is a bit harsh because it’s our future. It’s like , it’s
like, you know there’s gonna be a bomb in the future but you won’t tell anyone. You
know what mean? If finally you should, nothing’s gonna change if you won’t tell
any people about it. And I find whoever says that students should not know about
this – I find that’s almost quite selfish to say they shouldn’t, for their own
protection, but who what then are you going to protect cuz actually it’s
gonna do more benefit to anybody if you told them about it and then have them
figure out what to do about it. Knowledge is power and if you never tell
them they never have the power to change anything. So?
I want to know you know cuz what Miss Lee was saying, I agree with the adults
being selfish, like I think it’s our right to know that but it is also really
freaking scary and it could also impact my decisions – not for the better,
in a way. So I haven’t really decided how I feel like that, but I do believe I’d
rather have the knowledge of what could happen than not, for sure. From my age , I
feel like it’s OK to tell but I can’t really
see if it would do any harm or good if it was for a younger age, like 9, right,
because they probably wouldn’t understand as well. I didn’t want to
write an essay or do some art. I wanted to just write a story because that’s how
I think I think best and so the story is basically just how this 12-year-old
person deals … deals with climate change in terms of, like, holidays, because it was
like right before Christmas and so …um …in the story the girl explores like, what it
was like before social collapse, how everyone over eight know capitalism and
how her parents right now are kind of depressed I guess, because I no longer
have that and you know in the end she … she harvests these sweet potatoes that
she, you know, worked really hard on as a Christmas present instead of, you know,
toys or clothes for her parents. May I ask a question: Do you imagine the future like
that? I guess so, yeah. If you grow up your
whole life imagining and being told and actually participating in, like, having
things makes me happy and that kind of mindset of, like, and that’s how I think
about things, like, going on a boat having a boat makes me happy, stuff like that,
then all you’re gonna do when, like collapse happens, or any of that is just
be sad that you don’t have anything then you’re still in that mindset. But if you grow
up knowing about this it’s not gonna be the same shock, like, I think I would have
rather learned about this when I was eight than when I was 18. I think that
was a mistake and it’s no one’s fault, but it’s just, like, a it gives you longer
to sit with it and it lets it be a bigger part of you and it’s harder to
deny because it’s something that’s been with you since you were young. Like the
values you gain when you’re young stay with you your whole life and I think by
telling adults — you can already see it between the difference … between adults
and us. They’re already more perceptive right we’re more not perceptive but
accepting of the idea open to it. It’s important to teach them about it because
also I think why a lot of people deny it is like Nick was saying. It’s like you
grow up with values about like having things makes me happy or like certain
luxuries in life make me happy and I think that’s why I also a lot of people
deny climate change. The thing you really said was was the adapting part, you know.
We as humans have always always learned how to adapt and naturally affected me
was when you said that we will need to learn how to adapt, but even when it
happens is we are going to adapt, you know. It, like, collapse will happen one way
or another probably, because either it will be, like, organised into another … like
our society will choose to say okay we’re gonna stop doing this and we’re
gonna change to a different system or it will, like, break down in stone by losing
food and stuff like that like you wrote in your article, so I was kind of thinking
also that I could do something about it. I wasn’t exactly thinking about
preventing it or anything. I was just thinking about, like, softening my fault
like, you know, instead of, like, it happening and then me not being like oh
damn, now what do I do? Like, I should be prepared for it, like, have a garden or
something if it would work to have a garden. Like also have have a community … have
friends who and, yeah, maybe even make a local currency …I’m
talking about with my mom. For my final for this class, I designed a class to
teach my peers about practical skills as in a sense of preparing for the collapse.
Make yourself better at dealing with with other people socially and
problem-solving and dealing with crisis and stress and trauma and kind of like
training your mindset rather than training to live in in the world as it
is right now. And I think there’s also some like kind
of messed up stuff with the idea of being like we can’t tell them. I think I
think that has a lot to do with like ego and guilt and kind of just like that
ignorance is bliss let’s just like send it until we die kind of thing and it
it’s just not … I don’t know. It seems wrong to me. I think it’s just very
important. If you introduce this is go slowly, which I really liked about your
class it was go slowly and have their discussions, their opinions, and then
always because opinions matter in this type of situation and understanding how
other people feel about this is I find quite important. In this way it’s like a
lot about these circles, because then you have to know you’re not the only one.
Lke that’s why I value this time, because it’s the time to just like dive
into it, buy into everything, and talk to someone else who has the same ideas as
you. Anyone else you talk to … you always jump back to that push back where
it’s like this isn’t real this isn’t like what if it’s not going to happen.
Like you can always just say that and the conversations kind of over.
I was impressed. I had no idea that we would explore so many different
dimensions of anticipating collapse from climate change.
I asked Oscars parents to join me with the school counselor and a teaching
expert to reflect on what we have just heard. What do you think we can learn
from what what we’ve just what we’ve just done and experienced? I think what I
saw, which was really unusual for me in the conversation with those young people,
is the fact that they were not afraid of discussing the whole range of experience
around thinking about collapse and deep adaptation. They were talking about their
emotional experiences. They were talking about feeling uncertain about things.
They were just as comfortable giving adults advice about the way things are
as they were about looking to adults for advice and I think that’s something
fundamental that is usually missing in conversations like this in schools, which
is young people are taught that there’s a right and wrong answer. And they
mustn’t speak out until they figured out what the right answer is and I think
that there aren’t any right answers in this instance and those young people
helped show us some of the best ways to explore some of these issues. There’s probably lots of young people who feel
the same way and don’t have the space to actually
talk about it. A lot of the teachers that I’ve spoken
to who say we can’t bring these issues to children in secondary and in
primary school. It … that comes down to the fact that the adults themselves are
scared, you know. They’re scared of a lot … our educational systems frame the
teachers as the experts and they’re scared of the fact that they might be in
front of the class and not know some of the answers and that’s something that
needs to be addressed first of all, you know, in the ethos of the school. And some
of the schools that I’ve worked with where they have been most effective at
having difficult conversations with children — not just about climate or
politics or society, but about about about poverty, about violence, anything
like that is where they regularly … daily or even weekly but preferably in every
session that they … every experience their children have, is have open dialogue
where children feel safe to say I heard somebody say x y & z on the news or in the
playground or at home and I don’t know what that means.
You know or well I, you know, I feel angry about something and in general we make
that not okay. We have to make it okay for children to bring some of those
emotions that we usually say no, they’re negative emotions. They should be avoided
at all cost. The most important thing was not the
information for them, but for them actually being able to share how they
feel about it, or what they want to do about it. Basically just having this space for
them to talk about it. You know you need to be able to bring it to children in a
way in which you’re not bottling up your own fear and terror, because even
if you think you’re bottling it up, they know about it, like, that connecting with
that, and so there’s a big you know there’s a wider dialogue around teachers
lobbying, teachers means being supportive, feeling supported, having their space for
dialogue and connection as well. It’s almost like… I’m thinking out loud here… but it’s almost like, you know, that well-being … going in schools, you would train one teacher who would be the kind of the well-being person and they’d go in and they’d run
workshops, they’d train the teachers and and they’d help to facilitate some of
that, whereas getting every teacher on board with it in a school is like a
curriculum. I don’t know. It’s …it’s so big in terms of practicalities, like, maybe
like a system … like that would work, so you’d have your, you know, your core of
people who go in and understand it … can facilitate at different age groups and
then can support teachers with the follow up and parents because you’re
gonna have to do workshops for parents and parents of some parents
are going to be, like, no I don’t my child to know about this. Rather than talking
about climate and collapse with younger children, there’s just implications for what they are taught and not taught and the way
people talk about the future or not, so maybe we don’t have to talk about
climate and collapse, but it’s just there’s a whole paradigm that’s shaping
the way young children are being told that needs to change.
We only got on camera the reunion of Joel’s class. He told me that when he
first brought my deep adaptation paper to his students, there was shock,
confusion, and anger. These young people were given the chance to express and
discuss those emotions and arrive at a different place by the time we’d joined them. Their schooling is quite unique, but shows what is possible. The news were
talking about … reversible changes happening in the climate and yet they’re …
all … most of the articles would end ‘well we still have the solutions and we only
need the political will’ and so at some point I think I was starting to get
anxious that that was not the truth. What is their real state? That … that we are
actually heading for collapse. I think it was good that you would, like, people know
that collapse is probable. I think it’s okay to feel the sadness and the fear
and the sadness is what made me do the project that I’m doing and made me think
about what I can do to save myself in the future. Today our children are being
forced to learn how to fit into an economy that’s probably not going to
exist for them. Instead they can be helped to learn what they really want to
know given the realities they face. We do not know for certain how or when
societies will break down due to climate change, but we do know that not helping
young people to discuss that would only make matters worse. Like all of us, our
youth can sit in circles to express emotions,
uncertainties, and new ideas. Their upset and anger at what we have done to
this world is understandable and could be a creative force. As adults we must be
ready to hold space for that and to accept that some people may not be able
to forgive, but such resentments will not help them or us. Given the time to share
and process their emotions, the young people I met for this film show that
there is another way forward. Powerful forces may try to amplify any
resentments, but for young people now can be a time to reject the tired stories of
our destructive culture, to discover new ways forward by simply asking if
something is kind, wise, and creative. I think I’m not … I don’t feel that sad anymore. I just feel like acceptance, like, that that’s probably gonna be my future … mmm … and I just live
high and living now, but also I try to prepare myself for the
future. Have you had conversations with friends about any of this? No, not really. They just want to hang out and have fun, or … Yeah, I don’t really bring it up. I don’t … I don’t
see any moment where I can bring it up. I feel like it’d kind of be weird if I bring
it up just randomly … like … You can send them over here. Maybe. A few months later I heard that Oscars
quest to make a film about deep adaptation was complete. As souls, we may have all decided to be
here now at this liminal time for humanity, but as adults we should not
pretend that children today are so different to us that they will fix the
future. We all have a role in collectively adapting to a changing
environment. Oscar’s quest was really to tell us about that. So if we’ve got more
resources, skills, and networks, then we do have more responsibility. So what are you
going to do now? (Music) Hello. I think that it’s great that we are
joining the Global Youth Climate Movement today. What is Green School? We should be doing weight loss. We say to the world that we are the Green School.
We’ll be on green education. We do have some amazing things here. We have a
beautiful campus in nature … solar batteries, gardens. We have lots of
awesome teachers and other amazing minds in the community and we have fun
learning. Other people in schools can learn something from us and that’s great,
but in the light of the new information we are getting from scientists that’s
ecological breakdown, we are also one of the most terrible schools on earth in
our impact. Almost everybody at Green School flies here. We fly around for
school trips. Many of us travel back to to their home country on even short
breaks like Nippy. I am NOT an exception. I flew to Australia for Christmas
holiday. We live in big villas. We drained the resources of this island without
giving much back. We are hardly a good example of climate leadership and climate
justice if this is a real climate emergency like the United Nations and
scientists around the world tell us. If we’re talking about coping with floods,
fire, violence, starvation, migration and even the breakdown of civilization and
our own lives then what are we, the Green School,
actually doing about it? I do not feel this emergency in my day-to-day
schooling. Nobody talks about it in the way that feels real. We will not be five
centers and observers of a crime change impact. We will have to live
through them or die in them. We don’t talk about it, partly because we don’t
really know how to talk about it or what we should do about this crisis. It is
scary to think this way, but like that Greta Thunberg who started the Youth
Climate Movement says, it is the time to panic, because when we panic then we will
actually get up and do something real about it. The way I see it right now, we
are the problem. We are causing harm. We have to change. The school needs to change. I am not the one to tell you how. There probably isn’t any easy way to do it, but
to find the way at first we need to talk openly about it and be honest with
ourselves. We need to admit where we fail and see what we can do now to make
it that we do more good than harm, and then actually do what we set out to do
or go home. Thank you, and I hope we choose to be the change. (Applause)

Reader Comments

  1. In case you arent already,Go vegan kids it's our number one tool against climate change as individuals! ✌🌱🌎 that came from a five-year Oxford study. I have two children a two and four year old boys. I am not just passionate and dedicated for them, I am passionate and dedicated for you the children of our world. A plant-based food system and a vegan lifestyle are a huge part of the solution. Animal agriculture is aninal and planet abuse. So proud of you all for taking action.❤

  2. One way we can effectively mitigate this planetary emergency is to refrain from the use and demand for methane (carbon dioxide and other gases). Can we adapt to a life without our carnivorous "pets" and dietary demands for the products requiring and producing methane. We need to look at how we eat (anatomically and physiologically as well as ecologically). Of course, we will do best with raw, vegan, local organically grown foods. We don't have to adapt, we are already equipped for this.
    We easily can adapt to a life without luxuries while learning simple lifestyles as have existed before us. Some of us are old enough to have experienced life with grandparents who had outhouses, gardens, survival skills…this is not everyone's circumstances. So many adults don't have enough information to begin with, let alone comprehend the whole situation and know what is accurately taught. Think of the fossil fuel/petroleum industrial polluting products everywhere, and WORST OF ALL,, look at the deadly jet-sprayed nanoparticles and how they are exterminating ALL LIFE. Also, consider that everyone of us is implicated through our use of electronics, petro-plastic stuff, carnivorous diets, chemicals that kill plants, insects and humans. YES, WHAT ARE WE ALL GOING TO DO NOW ABOUT THE CRISIS, WE MUST STOP THE HARM, WE ALL MUST CHANGE! START AUTHENTICALLY.

  3. Jem Bendell's doing great work, resistance. His orations are powerful too. Yet, I wonder why most of the first world folks, who believe in doing something about climate emergency, always seem to move to the third world?? Is this another form of colonisation, albeit a polite and humble form of it … Bali or Goa or XYZ. It does have visible similarities of what happened with the hippies, in 60s and 70s…then it was world peace, yoga and what-not.

  4. My son who is 6 said,"i hate pollution" and then i told him why there was pollution and
    How it started and why it should end.Kids understand everything and appreciate answers

  5. The biggest impact anyone can make is to not have any children, blows all other emission saving tips out of the water.

  6. It was always predictable what woke self-soothing educated middle class capitalist consumers would do when faced with civilisational collapse caused by their own activities: spend lots of time brooding, conversing and writing meaningfully in beautiful places. The struggling colonialised victims of their lifestyles would of course be kept out of frame (not to mention rigorously excluded from the beautiful places reserved for their moneyed gloom-digesting). Few Bali kids are likely to ever get beyond the perimeter fence of the 20 grand per year "Green School". Oskar seems somewhat aware of this given his statement at the end. But, really, when the shit hits the fan, who is going to care about what was between the ears of the wealthy megaconsuming perpetrators?

  7. Wow, this was one of the best videos on climate change I have ever seen. These children are beautiful souls and their courage to face the truth is admirable.

    Jem Bendell does excellent work here with the narration and the adolescents do a very good job communicating their respective ideas.

    I am very grateful to have witnessed this.

    Be kind.

    Be wise.

    Be creative.

    Thank you.

  8. By the way, there is quite known (at least in some circles) TED Talk about the Green School:

  9. Climate change is being "taught" in all New Zealand schools starting in 2020:

  10. Oskar, I am proud of your honesty and logical thinking. It is true we all live often separated from the obvious realities and effects we have on the earth, just keep the positive synergy going and keep calling out the truth. Perhaps a combination of SO2 added to the stratosphere, intelligent forestry, superinsulation, all green lighting, a rapid transition to green plastics, and solar roofs will restore balance to Gaia. Keep some hope for society is what we make of it.

  11. I'm very deeply concerned about how we listen to and talk to and support children who are walking into a frightening future. It was helpful to hear Oskar's comments and the young people's discussion. However, I kept waiting for someone — his parents, the teachers, Jem, the students themselves — to at least acknowledge the anomaly of the context and the complete omission of Balinese voices. I found it jarring to witness these apparently privileged, mostly American youth in a school in Bali without a single Balinese child or adult in the circle. It would no doubt have taken some effort to reach out to kids in other schools and include their voices–but it would have made this film more meaningful. I'm curious about the choice not to do this.

  12. The story of how this family came to meet Professor Bendell (~minute 11:00–12:00) is a wonderful example of the wonders of SERENDIPITY, the biggest secret of homeschooling. This child's gentle thoughtfulness is proof positive that his parents are doing an incredible job of teaching him the meaning of life and empowering him to have a stake in the world. Bravo!

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