Climate Change resilience:

Services can lead by example

Early childhood services could increasingly be seen as sites for community relief.
As the impact of climate change takes hold in Australia, early childhood services could find themselves at the forefront of emergency relief efforts, Bedrock Journalist Suzanne Kowalski-Roth writes.

We are experiencing increasing temperatures and heat waves in summer and winter. Weather events are becoming more intense and frequent.

No one is immune from the impact of changing climate. The bottom line can be seen in the world of insurance. In Australia insurers are now working with councils to lessen exposure to risk, as many councils can’t afford the rising insurance premiums due to the increasing risks climate change brings.

Communities who are prepared for change and who have thought carefully about how to manage extreme weather and its fallout will be much more resilient than those who haven’t.

Professor Julie Davis, Associate School of Early Childhood at Queensland’s University of Technology, says it has been calculated that climate change is already responsible for over 400,000 deaths globally, mostly from communicable diseases and hunger.

Air pollution, a by-product of the carbon-intensive energy dependency that is driving climate change, is thought to cause another 4.5 million deaths around the world.

Children are particularly vulnerable to flood, heat waves, droughts and extreme weather and to epidemics from contaminated water and infectious diseases and increasing plant allergens which can trigger other issues like asthma, she says.

Early childhood services on sites that are already vulnerable to fires, floods and storm damage can expect to feel such effects more deeply and frequently.

“This behoves services to audit their structures and grounds and to seek ways to reduce impact,” Professor Davis says.

“Down the track, some vulnerable sites might need to consider relocation, especially when combined with the effects of disruptions to roads, bridges and other transport services that bring children and their families into and out of a service”.

Early childhood services could increasingly be seen as sites for community relief says Ms Davis.

Are such considerations something early childhood services consider as part of their community sustainability measures, especially in rural and remote regions?

Passively waiting for climate change is not on her agenda.

“It is a matter of ethics and morality – a matter of intergenerational justice - the injustice of one generation to future generations. To leave the world better off for our children and grandchildren should stir our conscience and drive immediate action."

In Australia, early childhood services can be leaders in driving change.

“We have the Early Years Learning Framework and the National Quality Standards to help early childhood education services implement education practices around sustainability that are child appropriate, teacher friendly and that build community capacity for change,” says Ms Davis.

Interested in more?
Queensland Early Childhood Sustainability Network
Environmental Education in Early Childhood (Victoria) Inc.
NSW Early Childhood Environmental Education Network