Meditation: Julianna Gwiszcz, MSSW, Ph.D., Senior Sustainability Scientist, Global Institute of Sustainability and Innovation at Arizona State University and a member of the YCL Academic Advisory Committee;
Andy Dosmann, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Natural Sciences at Minerva;
Jaimie P Cloud, Founder and President of the Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education in New York;
Kate Guy, DPhil student in International Relations at the University of Oxford;
Leonildes Nazar, Coordinator of Amazonia Urbana, at the Instituto Clima e Sociedade (iCS) in Brazil
LESSON: To thrive in the 21st century, we need to navigate through complex challenges and implement radical changes, an education model that prepares, supports, equips and instigates knowledge in action to realize a possible future that is more equal, sustainable, and safe for everyone!
An all-star panel moderated by the YCL’s very own talented Academic Advisor, Julie Gwiszcz, shared their wealth of perspectives on the future of climate education by elaborating on three overarching inquiries: climate education for whom, by whom, and for what purpose? Joining the panelists was an eager cohort of participants, united in genuine excitement and interest for this critical topic.
“I am personally here because I believe in education being a core element of climate action strategies, and I am very excited about the blossoming/mainstreaming of interest in the subject lately” ~ Téïlo Piedrahita Rosero (participant)
It —climate education—must begin ‘FROM THE FIRST GO’ for everyone as knowledge builds consciousness and thus forms culture. And we know that we care for what we know. Jaimie Cloud brilliantly provided a brief history of climate education (evolving from education for sustainability (ESD) or environmental education) providing perspective on how we got here and the inherited limitations; “[we’ve] admired the problem for way too long… [the current system of education] educate[s] for unsustainability more than educate[s] for a sustainable/regenerative future... the brain wants to focus on the threat… [and] the more you focus on the symptom the more you will shift the burden.” To evolve beyond these tendencies each panelist stressed the importance of shifting the educational paradigm to firmly instill the “importance of being a lifelong learner and ‘learning to learn’” and that “there is no end” to learning (Andy Dosmann). Andy stressed that “what you know now, is likely not going to be sufficient with such changing dynamics… knowledge is a living entity that needs to be fostered.” Kate Guy reminded us that this awareness is especially relevant for the 21st-century professional as “you are caught flat footed… if you’re not teaching yourself about this topic [climate change].” Kate elaborated on how “people are going to have to be retrained… [and] that’s a good thing.” Especially those at ‘the top’, many of whom “did not have any exposure to climate change or environmental issues in their [formal] education.” Kate provided a testimony from her own consulting work with national security and foreign policy administrators and a security threat assessment she collaborated on: A Product of the National Security, Military and Intelligence Panel on Climate Change. Kate used this as an example to elaborate on a very important point: “we have a pretty good understanding of the threats... but we don’t do a very good job of putting that in laypeople's terms to communicate that to policy makers so they know how to integrate in the work they are doing.”
The climate educator workforce must be as broad as possible as we need all perspectives, because there is no such thing as one expert, no one source of information, one solution, or one context for such a pervasive issue. Jaimie recommended that convening ‘learning communities’ would provide a capable container for this diverse edu-culture, as “[traditional] schools weren’t designed for quick changes.” These would be diverse communities of learning wherein knowledge exchanges can be done dynamically, efficiently and democratically, emphasizing participant engagement for increased capacity building. Ultimately instilling an entrepreneurial mindset, wherein problems are seen/understood as opportunities.
While these communities recognize and embrace autonomous learning, thereby facilitating greater access points/channels (online) for more and more learners to have opportunities for self knowledge, to ‘build their own curriculum’. Even today motivated students are bypassing traditional edu structures that are lacking/not providing up-to-date content/curriculum. Leonildes Nazar stressed the critical importance that these be inclusive and supportive environments. Wherein climate educators are fully versed in “a powerful mindset” that “takes into account racism, vulnerabilities, adaptation and choices” whereby facilitating climate education “that strengthens the global view of the importance that black lives, indigenous lives matter.” Because it is awareness and empowerment that should be the drivers for climate education. Each panelist agreed that indigeneous knowledge, or the traditional, core, deep wisdom, should be central to the planning of education curriculum. Therein fully recognizing indigenous peoples as experts and [re]framing the mainstream recognition of ‘expertise’. Kate emphasized the importance of this frame of thinking to confront the “technocratic fixes to technological problems” and how traditional knowledge can help our global society “understand how to relate to the world [and] form a deeper understanding of human relation to the environment.”
FOR WHAT PURPOSE?
HOPE IS A CATALYST FOR LEARNING. We must “think about our thinking… [because] thinking drives behavior,” Jaimie Cloud. Jaimie stressed that we want young people to “know that there are the worse case scenarios and then there are the other scenarios.” Because “we have to be careful of the bummer mental mindset... [that results in] no reason to do anything if there is no hope.” We must come together to:
understand what is undermining our collective sustained/sustainable future. Approaching this with a core understanding that “there is no such thing as not making a difference, everything we do and don’t do makes a difference [bad or good]”, Jaimie Cloud. While recognizing the gravity of the situation, “an evitable scenario if we don't address global climate change… [will be] the social collapse if we don’t incorporate climate education, anti racism and anti-inequality axis” (Leonildes Nazar).
recognize that education is a transformational process from the personal to a societal level. And together we can decide what to keep and what not to; cultural preservation vs transformation. Defining what people have to know -- the mindset(s) and mental models that foster perspective taking. While recognizing that to critique you must have (a) reference point(s).
KNOCK DOWN THE SILOS. Climate education is INTER-connective/disciplinary; it “highlights global interconnection”, Leonildes Nazar. Based in systems thinking, both its perspectives & strategies. Clear example of “stocks and flows… [we] can’t take out faster than can be replenished”, Jaimie Cloud.
educate for diverse roles; the “one solution fits all” doesn’t work for such a complex, pervasive issue. We must “educate for ‘adaptive capacity’”, Julianna Gwiszcz. Crucial to “educate for broad skill sets… centered through a problem-solving perspective”, Andy Dosmann.
root justice-centric thinking; “without justice there is no chance to thrive… diversity makes complex life possible, there is no life on this planet without diversity,” Jaimie Cloud. Jaimie provided an real world example from our current learning paradigm: “upstream problems… [like] self righteousness, the culture of putting down others in order for someone to rise up… [is] not ‘human nature’, rather a [learned] habit”
We thank each of our brilliant panelists and participants. Education is the crucial catalyst to realizing more climate professionals. It is in its nascent stage and our global society still has much work to do, as Leonildes reminded us “the climate change agenda still faces the mismatch between political repertoire and day-to-day practices.” But we are committed to supporting the growth of this critical field. See the record of the talk below:
About the Day of the Climate Professional:
The Day of the Climate Professional (DCP), celebrated on November 24, is an annual date to celebrate and catalyse the professionals accelerating solutions to the climate crisis. The 2020 inaugural edition was marked by an all-day virtual summit—networking activities, workshops, keynote presentations, interactive Q&As, and more—fostering reflections and actions on the interdisciplinary of climate change, its urgency, and the importance of working to tackle it through varied professions and sectors of society. Learn More.