Black Swans and Hope for the Environment
Written by Pedro Aránguez
The pandemic has had devasting effects, but at least it should offer the youth a lesson of environmental awareness. Like the pandemic, climate change is a “black swan”: a large, unexpected event with major consequences. These types of events have either a low probability of occurring or develop so slowly that there is never a feeling of imminent danger – until it is too late.
Our willful blindness to the current pandemic seems even childish in retrospect. There had been several warnings that our healthcare systems were not prepared for a pandemic and that more resources were needed. When there was an outbreak in China, we did not react. Once the virus was in Italy, we in Spain thought we were safe despite how close (geographically and culturally) we were from danger. When all of Europe suffered from COVID-19, the United States was slow and hesitant in offering solid responses, which has resulted in the death of more than half a million Americans. Even amidst the pandemic, we thought quarantining for a couple of weeks would be enough, and later turned our faith into a vaccine that some thought would only take some months. We have been in a continuous state of denial, believing our societal system was above nature.
We live the same willful blindness with our environmental crisis. Ignoring the problem and being overconfident in finding an easy solution in the future, is a mistake that will have devastating consequences. Young generations are uniquely positioned to solve this: we have more access to information than ever before, and we are to inherit this world. It is difficult to challenge the status quo. But the shock from COVID-19 should remind us that we coexist with nature and we must be prepared for it. With COVID, eventually, we had to make sacrifices. If we had been prepared beforehand, likely fewer sacrifices would have been needed. We must think in the long-term and tackle the environmental crisis now. Our pain from this pandemic can teach us the way to a sustainable future.
How has COVID-19 affected youth and education?
Written by Joel Christoph
Barcelona, 25th March 2021 – The Covid-19 pandemic has rapidly changed education for a whole generation of students. UNESCO estimates that approximately 1.6 million students in over 190 countries, 94% of the global student population, have been affected by the closure of educational institutions during the health crisis (United Nations, 2020).
Around 10 million of the affected students are in Spain, 8.2 million of which are schoolchildren at compulsory stages of education. Before the pandemic, the school-leaving rates in Spain were already above the European average and the onset of the pandemic risks exacerbating this learning crisis, in particular for students at risk of social exclusion and marginalization (UNESCO, 2020). Schoolchildren at risk include those from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds, migrants and ethnic minorities, students with disabilities and those with long-term absences from school. The current closure of schools may lead these children to fall further behind, if not drop out of school permanently. For instance, one in three students worldwide cannot attend online classes because they lack a computer or internet at home (World Bank, 2020). For this reason, UNESCO has proposed to widen the definition of the right to education to include the right to connectivity and access to knowledge and information (UNESCO, 2020).
Spain paints a bleak picture with 17.3% of adolescents stating that they do not want to or cannot continue within their educational system (Martín, 2021), which ranks first in the number of students leaving schools in the European Union (Europa Press, 2020). Every young person that leaves education before the age of sixteen risks, in the longer term, a life in one among unemployment, underemployment or precarious employment, which widens societal inequalities and segments society. Therefore, both the temporary and longer-term losses in enrollment and learning pose a disaster for the prospects of an entire generation with potentially lifelong costs. Nonetheless, the pandemic’s effects and its transmission on education differ by families, children, locations, and schools, providing challenges to identify straightforward mechanisms of causation.
Besides education, Covid-19 has also affected the emotional and economic wellbeing of youth. Research suggests that young people in Spain have been disproportionately likely to suffer emotionally from the pandemic and that their ability to make decisions has also deteriorated (Centre d’Estudis d’Opinió de la Generalitat de Catalunya, 2020).
Centre d’Estudis d’Opinió de la Generalitat de Catalunya. (2020). Enquesta sobre l’impacte de la COVID-19: principals resultats referents a la població jove. Barcelona: Centre d’Estudis d’Opinió de la Generalitat de Catalunya.
Europa Press. (2020, November 12). España se mantiene como el país con mayor tasa de abandono escolar de la UE pese a la mejora de la última década . Retrieved from Europa Press: https://www.europapress.es/sociedad/educacion-00468/noticia-espana-mantiene-pais-mayor-tasa-abandono-escolar-ue-pese-mejora-ultima-decada-20201112162201.html
Martín, J. (2021). El ‘parón’ educativo alimenta los fantasmas del fracaso escolar y el abandono temprano . Retrieved from Radio y Televisión Española: https://www.rtve.es/noticias/20200604/paron-educativo-alimenta-fantasmas-del-fracaso-escolar-abandono-temprano/2015319.shtml
UNESCO. (2020). Education in a post-COVID world: Nine ideas for public action. Paris: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
United Nations. (2020). Policy Brief: The Impact of COVID-19 on children. New York: United Nations.
World Bank. (2020). The COVID-19 Pandemic: Shocks to Education and Policy Responses . Washington, D.C.: World Bank.
Changing perspectives: Has COVID-19 induced any positive changes on the youth in Germany?
Written by Julie Hoffmann
In a statement, professors from the University of Kassel point out that the supposedly positive effects of homeschooling are unjust because of the special form of current homeschooling. According to this statement, the previous research findings on this cannot be transferred to the current situation and the families now affected. Homeschooling requires a lot of motivation, self-control and self-discipline from pupils, but not all children and young people are able to meet these requirements. Schools, teachers and parents also have different approaches and possibilities when it comes to homeschooling during the current pandemic. Schools and teachers differ in their experience and knowledge regarding digital learning and in the support and feedback they give to their pupils. Parents are also very challenged with the support they have to give their children in homeschooling. They often feel that they have to provide huge support to their children to compensate for the disadvantages that come with the lack of face-to-face teaching. This in turn might act as a catalyst for family conflicts. The support children can expect from their parents differs depending on the support options and the available resources of the parents, as well as the value they attach to school education. The professors of the University of Kassel, however, warn against too much direct interference and control, and advise parents to rather support their children indirectly: through cognitive stimulation, emotional support and the promotion of independence. On the other hand, in families with fewer resources and less education, pupils face challenges such as cramped living conditions and a lack of or inadequate technical equipment. They are expected to endure a particular disadvantage regarding their education and development. Another problem is that the daily structure homeschooling requires might collide with the one the home office of the parents requires. In other cases, parents who work outside the home are overwhelmed with the organization of everyday family life.
Despite the difficult conditions (which vary vastly among young people), young people continue to participate actively in the political discourse. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of solidarity community and neighbourhood initiatives as platforms of civil society participation is increasing. Young people in particular have found a way to protest during the pandemic. One example is the international movement called Seebrücke that advocates safe escape routes for refugees, decriminalization of sea rescue and the humane reception of refugees. There are many young people involved in this organization. In April 2020, this movement organised a protest in Frankfurt am Main, in compliance with the hygiene rules, which was dissolved. This resulted in criticism and protest from both citizens and constitutional lawyers. Another example is the big online protest of the Fridays-for-Future movement on 24th April 2020, during which numerous photos, pictures and videos were published on social media channels. In this context, hundreds of protest signs were placed in front of the Reichstag. According to the “Postbank Jugend-Digitalstudie 2020” on sustainability, however, the number of young people taking part in the Fridays-for-Future demonstrations has decreased since the outbreak of the pandemic. While one in three young people participated in activities of the movement, it has only been 6% since the outbreak of the pandemic.
Nevertheless, young people continue to see sustainability and environmental protection as important issues. The study above-mentioned study of the Postbank found out that 61% of the survey respondents pay attention to the use of natural raw materials, the avoidance of plastic and other environmental criteria when buying clothes and shoes. When it comes to cosmetics, 53% of the young people consider these criteria, and when it comes to the purchase of fashion accessories such as sunglasses or bags, 42% think about the environmental impact. Half of the survey respondents said they pay attention to the environmental friendliness of products that influencers recommend on social media.
Young people are also increasingly concerned about health. According to the “SINUS-Jugendstudie 2020”, the youth have changed their view on health during the pandemic. Before, some of the young people considered health to be fate and believed that one could not influence it through one’s own behaviour. In the follow-up survey during Corona, however, this attitude disappeared. The consensus was that one indeed can influence one’s health through one’s habits but that there are also diseases one cannot avoid (for example due to a genetic predisposition). In addition, young people were more aware of the importance of enough sleep for their health and said they were paying more attention to getting enough sleep. Nevertheless, many of the young people indicated that their sleep quality has not improved and that they feel tired all day out of boredom. Only young people from more educated households reported thinking that a mental attitude is important for health. Some people of this group also indicated that they paid more attention to enough sports and created training plans. In terms of eating behaviour, only one in 4 survey respondents said they eat healthier and more consciously. Another 25% said they eat less, or more and unhealthier than before, and at different times.
This pandemic and its consequences mark a major change in the lives of young people, as well as people in general. The living conditions of young people vary vastly from each other. Therefore, young people are affected to different degrees by the negative consequences of the pandemic. In Germany, young people are more concerned about health than before. Climate protection remains a very important issue for many of them. However, this often depends on the conditions under which they live.
University of Kassel. (2020). „Kinder und Jugendliche in der Corona-Krise…“. Retrieved from: https://www.uni-kassel.de/fb01/fileadmin/datas/fb01/Institut_fuer_Erziehungswissenschaft/Dateien/Grundschulpaedagogik/Pr%C3%BCfung/Fischer_Heinzel_Lipowsky_Z%C3%BCchner_Corona_Hilfen_fu%CC%88r_Kinder_und_Jugendliche_final_01.pdf
Deutscher Volkshochschul-Verband. “Jugendpartizipation in Zeiten von Corona“. Retrieved from: https://www.volkshochschule.de/verbandswelt/projekte/politische_jugendbildung/online-dossier-teilhabe-und-corona/fachbeitrag-jugendpartizipation.php
Fachkräfteportal der Kinder- und Jugendhilfe. (2020). “Umfrage: Corona-Krise drängt Engagement der Jugendlichen für Klimaschutz in den Hintergrund“. Retrieved from: https://www.jugendhilfeportal.de/fokus/coronavirus/artikel/umfrage-corona-krise-draengt-engagement-der-jugendlichen-fuer-klimaschutz-in-den-hintergrund/
BARMER. „SINUS-Jungstudie 2020: Auswirkungen der Corona-Krise auf Einstellungen und Lebenswandel von Jugendlichen“. Retrieved from: https://www.barmer.de/gesundheit-verstehen/coronavirus/sinus-studie-corona-248390#Jugendliche_werden_durch_die_CoronaKrise_gesundheitsbewusster
Written by Nicholas Argyros
It has been over a year since Greece implemented quarantine measures for the first time. Τhe so-called Generation Z had to come to terms with their second life-changing crisis in their lifetime, after the infamous ten-year Greek government-debt crisis. During the first outbreak of the Coronavirus, both citizens and government had exemplary success in preventing the spread of the disease. Had it not been for the resilience and the solidarity we showed towards the struggle of our fellow citizens, the damage would be immeasurable.
Nevertheless, things have never been the same since the start of the second and still going quarantine, in November. The need to socialise and interact with fellow teenagers has been stronger than ever in a country with the intense nightlife and bustle of Greece. A year has passed since the last time universities were open to every student willing to learn and develop through the Greek university learning process. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, education faced unprecedented challenges and obstacles and in many cases, failed to serve students’ learning needs.
However, a surprisingly increased number of European students decided to be creatively fulfilled by getting involved in youth organizations. This involvement has proved to be a recourse for the young Greek population and helped many students nationwide to develop both their soft and their hard skills. This positive change is going to have an invaluable impact on the lives of our generation, the students of today and the leaders of tomorrow