Oct. 7, 2017

Get Local

A discussion of taking positive action on climate change is multifaceted. Education, renewable energy, local community issues and values as well as local economics are places to begin.

Education is obvious. Understanding the science is important, it is part of the rationale. Helping learners connect the dots between carbon in the atmosphere, greenhouse effect, and the use of fossil fuels is a place to begin. Also, discussing cycles in ecosystems and the services that nature provides encourages learners to consider how important these cycles are to all living organisms on the planet. Focus on the benefits of sustainability and renewable energy. But there is so much more than the facts. Project WILD, a teaching resource produced by state parks and wildlife organizations has a myriad of engaging environmental learning activities in all content areas. Also, the Science, Technology, Society approach encourages the use of local environmental issues as a context for project-based learning. In addition, an overall approach is place-based education- bringing classrooms into communities. Place-based, learning in the places where we live, makes learning local and localization is key to sustainability.  

If we are encouraging learning locally, we should also include local action on local issues. Talking about polar bears or rainforests may not impact many Americans. There are plenty of local environmental issues to consider. Let’s focus on the effects of climate change on different people’s livelihood, for example how fishing communities will suffer from ocean acidification or rising sea levels, how farmers will experience drops in production, or the increasing costs of dwindling petroleum resources. Appeal to community values. If people don’t care about the issue then it’s important to communicate the things that we all would want for ourselves - things like health, community development, and having a clean and safe environment. 

Instead of debating facts about climate change focus on renewable energy and the energy reliance and security that brings. To an extent, it has been our addiction to petroleum that has caused the United States to become mired in Middle-Eastern politics and wars.

"When we say we want a world powered by 100% renewable energy, people understand what is needed to happen; it is physical and concrete." Wael Hmaidan, executive director, Climate Action Network, Beirut, Lebanon

Also, in the long run renewable energy will save money.

"Focus on economic growth has been relentless and while I don’t think we should reduce the benefits of action on climate change down to a “value for money” equation, it’s important to tackle the misguided assumption that climate change policies cost, rather than benefit it."  Emma Pinchbeck, head of climate and energy, WWF-UK, Woking, UK

Lastly, focus on personal stories and climate heroes. There are many stories of how one person or small groups of people made a difference in their local community through environmental agency. Here are some links to explore these environmental heroes such as Maathai Wangari’s greenbelt movement that transformed communities environmentally and economically, the Earth Guardians and the Eco-warriors.