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Do young people in Israel care about the climate crisis?

New findings reveal that Israeli youth are aware of and interested in environmental problems and feel responsible for the climate issue. The chance for a better future is getting better and better

By Yonatan Sher, Zveta - news agency for science and the environment

Today's young people, believe me, are only interested in TikTok, Instagram and the climate crisis. At least that's how it seems to others The biggest climate demonstration that has ever been held in Israel, for which about ten thousand participants arrived in Tel Aviv last month from all over Israel - including thousands of young people who dropped out of school to make it clear to our political leaders that they demand that they act vigorously to prevent the deterioration of the climate crisis (even if they do not yet have the right to vote ).

But with all due respect to the thousands of protesters, how representative are they of their age group? In two new surveys recently carried out, it was examined to what extent the environmental issue is of interest to the youth and young people in Israel, to what extent they feel a responsibility to act against the climate crisis - and where do they get information on the subject.

The first survey It was recently carried out on behalf of the Electrolux company, and included almost 14 20-15 year olds from around the world, of which 1,255 were Israelis. According to the survey, 46 percent of young people in Israel believe that sustainability is the most important global issue today. also, 40 percent It is believed that they are the ones who will lead the change towards a sustainable future, this in contrast to only 6 percent who trust the adults to take on this responsibility.

The second survey Last edited by The Israeli Association for Ecology and Environmental Sciences, with the aim of finding the best ways to make environmental and ecological issues accessible to young people. Of the 301 Israeli teenagers and young adults aged 25-14 who were surveyed, 83 percent stated that they were interested in at least one issue related to the environment and sustainability, with the most disturbing environmental issues in the eyes of the respondents being pollution (air, land and water), natural disasters and the climate crisis. About a third of those surveyed also reported that they consume content related to the environment and sustainability on a weekly basis, mainly through Instagram, news sites, YouTube and TV channels.

Not because of the school

There may be a connection between the various information platforms that young people use and the growing awareness among them when it comes to environmental and climate issues. "One of the things that has greatly increased the scope of activities of teenagers and young people in environmental contexts is social networks," explains Dr. Iris Elekhar, a researcher and senior lecturer at the Kibbutzim Seminary College in the field of sustainability education and a partner in the college's Center for Sustainability Education. "The information revolution has led to the fact that young people have access to current global information in the media that suits them, they are exposed to different lifestyles from the world and this causes much more thinking and reflection regarding the ways in which they wish to live. Unlike the previous generation, they are no longer confined only to the small bubble of Israel, where if the teachers don't tell them something, they won't know it."

According to Electrolux's survey, 80 percent of young people in Israel believe that sustainability education is a solution to living in a more sustainable society - but according to Alekhar, the environmental issue still does not receive enough attention in the education system. "In the research that is currently being conducted by one of my students, Hila Larnau from Tel Aviv University, only about 10 percent of the youth who were asked talked about figures from the formal education system as inspiring figures in the context of dealing with the climate crisis," she says. "They talked about Greta Thunberg, their parents (if they have environmental awareness) or elements from youth movements - and if the education system was mentioned, it was usually in the context of disappointment. Their expectation was that the education system would take on the occupation of the climate crisis much more".

According to the Electrolux survey, 80 percent of young people in Israel believe that sustainability education is a solution to living in a more sustainable society. Infographic: Electrolux

However, Elkhar points out that in recent years there have been efforts by the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Environmental Protection and local authorities to increase engagement with environmental issues and the climate crisis in formal education settings. "Since 2004, there are educational institutions that receive certificationGreen schools' and 'persistent schools', which requires them to teach environmental content, implement an environmental community project, save on the consumption of resources in the institution and cultivate environmental leaders among students and teachers. Since the corona virus, the spread of 'forest education' has also increased, which implements environmental education by learning outside the classroom by being outside regularly and observing the inside and outside, mainly in kindergartens and elementary schools, which strengthens the connection of students to the environment."

12-year-old activist

The WhatsApp profile picture of Yael Kowalski, 12 years old and a member of the movement The youth protest for the climate, she is (as of the time of writing) the "Save the Date" ad for the climate march held in Tel Aviv - which she also helped organize. "At home we always dealt with environmental quality, but I didn't understand the details and the magnitude of the crisis," she says. "Everything changed nine months ago, when I saw a YouTube video about polar bears and melting glaciers. For two days I cried and didn't know how I could help. Then, I found the 'Youth Protest for the Climate' on Instagram and wrote to them, and I found my way to influence."

Although the changes in Kowalski's attitude towards environmental activism came through YouTube and Instagram, (similar to many of the young people included in the survey by the Israeli Association for Ecology and Environmental Sciences), she says that the sources from which she receives information are extremely diverse. "Social media is what our generation uses, which is why the 'Youth Protest for the Climate' movement has an Instagram, Tiktok, Facebook and Twitter channel," she says. "But due to the fact that it is impossible to know what is real and what is not real on Instagram, I try to search for information and articles on Google - especially when someone asks a question that I don't know how to answer."

Yael Kowalski
"I found my way to influence". Yael Kovalski, photo by Ilan Bar

"Nowadays, many of the youth do not wait for the teachers to give them the information, because they can find it on their own", explains Elkhar. "This autonomy is something that the education system should foster - it should encourage students to access different sources of information and examine their quality." However, according to her, the fact that the traditional role of teachers is perceived by students as less relevant does not make their influence any less significant. "Today, the teacher has a different role: to be a guide, and to direct the students so that they can carry out the learning themselves - and in the environmental context, to encourage the students to work towards creating a better world", she says.

Young people as agents of change

So who will lead the fight against the climate crisis - the young or the old? "Revolutions in the world are usually led by young people - and also on climate and environmental issues, studies show that young people in Israel, like young people in other countries, see themselves as agents of change," says Alekhar.

Kowalski's (who is probably the most eloquent 12-year-old on a slowly warming planet) answer to that question is more complex than those given in the Electrolux survey. "I think everyone has the power to change," she says. "At the political level, governments and politicians can change more than I can, even if I reduce my carbon emissions, because they have an impact on the whole country. However, you can see that our generation is the main age group that calls them to act, because we see more the consequences and the risk to our future", she concludes.

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