Dear Boards of Directors of Dutch Higher Education Institutions,
We are calling on you because you lead organizations that bear the responsibility of preparing students for their future as professionals. Together with a community of teachers, researchers and support staff, you perform this task with great dedication and care.
Over the past few decades, it has become increasingly evident that the future of students and their contemporaries is threatened by the climate and ecological crisis. We therefore urge you to include mandatory climate education in all curricula in order to familiarize students with the systemic nature of the climate and ecological crisis and empower them to take action.
The latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change leaves no room for doubt or delay. Only with a dramatic, concerted effort will we be able to avert the worst. This is the backdrop against which universities educate the generations that will have to deal with a fundamentally disrupted world. Lack of understanding of the scale, urgency and causes of the problem will leave students vulnerable to misrepresentations by politicians and media outlets. Higher education institutions have a duty to educate students and to foster their development as responsible members of society. We are convinced this implies preparing the students to face the challenges posed by the climate and ecological crisis, and equipping them to lead and effect change.
A mandatory climate course across all higher education institutions should be the first step. This course, to be implemented urgently, should offer a comprehensive overview of the systemic causes and consequences of the climate and ecological crisis and potential solutions. The complex nature of the problem requires action and leadership from individuals and organizations across all sectors of society. This course would be tailor-made for each study programme, including at least the basic science on global heating and its consequences, and discussing feasible mitigation pathways, and questions of global equity and justice.
We emphasize that this education proposal is not about promoting a political agenda. The scientific consensus on the severity and the causes of the climate and ecological crisis is well established, as documented in the IPCC report.
Universities in France and Spain have already taken the necessary steps to introduce a mandatory climate course. Dutch higher education should not fall behind. Students in the Netherlands and around the world are demanding change and it is time for a bold response.
The climate and ecological crisis is the elephant in the lecture hall. Higher education institutes owe it to their students, the community and future generations to take decisive action.
We urge you to implement a mandatory course on the climate and ecological crisis – now.
This open letter was put forward by Juliette Alenda (Radboud University), Ivo Bouwmans (TU Delft), Harald Buijtendijk (Breda University of Applied Sciences), Fabian Dablander (University of Amsterdam), Guus Dix (University of Twente), Edina Dóci (VU Amsterdam), Loes Kreemers (Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences), Koen Lemaire (VU Amsterdam), Maien Sachisthal (University of Amsterdam) and Jorim Tielbeek (VU Amsterdam).
The open letter has been endorsed by Scientist Rebellion Netherlands and Scientists for Future Netherlands.