Italy is going to school on climate change. The government announced Tuesday that starting next year it will become the first country to institute a mandatory course on climate change and sustainable development in all public schools.
“The entire ministry is being changed to make sustainability and climate the center of the education model,” Italian Education Minister Lorenzo Fioramonti told Reuters, which first reported the story. “I want to make the Italian education system the first education system that puts the environment and society at the core of everything we learn in school.”
Fioramonti is from the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and has been an outspoken supporter of green and progressive policies. He received both ire and praise this September for encouraging students to skip school in order to attend climate protests instead.
When kids show up to school next September, they’ll have about an hour a week (or 33 hours per year) of a climate-change-related course. The Education Ministry will develop the curriculum with the help of scientific experts.
Other subjects, such as geography, math and physics, will also incorporate sustainable development, Vincenzo Cramarossa, Fioramonti’s spokesman, told CNN.
“The idea is that the citizens of the future need to be ready for the climate emergency,” Cramarossa said.
Fioramonti, a former economics professor at South Africa’s Pretoria University, has also called for new taxes on airlines tickets, plastics and sugary foods (the proceeds of which would fund education) and for removing crucifixes from classrooms to be more inclusive of non-Christians.
His opponents in Italy have roundly rejected these ideas. Nonetheless, this week the Italian government presented a budget proposal to parliament that included both the plastics and sugary drinks taxes.
“I was ridiculed by everyone and treated like a village idiot, and now a few months later, the government is using two of those proposals, and it seems to me more and more people are convinced it is the way to go,” he told Reuters.
Fioramonti’s vision for an environmentally focused curriculum comes at a time when young people such as Greta Thunberg and students in groups like Extinction Rebellion are leading the political charge in taking climate change more seriously.
His proposal also reflects political divides within Italy: In September, the Five Star Movement formed a ruling coalition with the center-left Democratic Party in order to keep out the right wing League Party, led by Matteo Salvini, from the government.
For Fioramonti, climate change is just one of Italy’s existential threats.
“I want to represent the Italy that stands against all the things that Salvini does,” Fioramonti said.