- (Public Value) UCANR: Building climate-resilient communities and ecosystems
- Author: Sarah-Mae Nelson
We've been working hard behind the scenes this year to launch the new UC Climate Stewards course in fall 2020. The 40-hour certification course from UC ANR's UC California Naturalist Program, empowers individuals to become leaders within their communities on climate solutions. Courses are delivered throughout California by trained partner organizations with expertise in science education. Many UC Climate Stewards partners will already be familiar to certified California Naturalists! Our fall partners include Pasadena City College, Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History, Community Environmental Council, and UC Riverside Palm Dessert Center.
The UC Climate Stewards course addresses the growing demand for training on the skills needed to effectively communicate and advance community and ecosystem resilience. Instructors combine in-person, online, and field experiences to achieve this goal. The course's five units are designed to help participants connect with each other through their personal experiences with climate change; communicate with a wide range of audiences and leverage their community connections; understand the science behind climate and earth systems along with observed and expected climate changes; develop the skills to engage in community and ecosystem resilience efforts; and demonstrate their own ability through a service oriented capstone project. A focus on the importance of social and emotional support for climate educators and learners, using systems thinking to address root causes, emphasizing community-level solutions, and the role of community and citizen science help set the course apart from other climate change education efforts.
Building on the success of the UC California Naturalist network, UC Climate Stewards will establish and support inclusive communities of practice that develop and share knowledge, as well as build statewide support and capacity to advance local and state climate goals. Our vision is for a California with engaged communities and functioning ecosystems that are resilient in a changing climate.
- Author: Olivia Cooper
Text and image by guest blogger Olivia Cooper. Olivia is an undergraduate at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. She worked with former California Naturalist founding director Dr. Adina Merenlender on the research presented in this blog post.
In order to probe this question, UC California Naturalist founding director, Adina Merenlender, and I embarked on an independent research project, focusing on what makes up climate literacy, according to a sample of higher education climate change syllabi. A syllabus (or its plural, syllabi) is a document shared with students enrolled in a class. It provides an outline of course content, expectations, and learning objectives. My primary job was to find, analyze, and interpret climate change syllabi content available online. I searched the internet for public access syllabi, collected, cleaned, and sorted through data, the titles and descriptions that comprise climate change education. Next, I tossed the individual words together, simmering down the mixture with coded categories, baking at 350º for a few weeks of analysis, all to produce a collection of pie charts and hierarchical clusters rich with information about the components of climate change education.
Diving into the data, we found a clear emphasis on biogeophysical sciences, strength in social sciences and consequences, and some gaps in climate change communication strategies. We also noted a few gaps in the finer categories of climate literacy. While the hard sciences dominated the syllabi, terms related to conservation, biodiversity, and non-human species or systems were relatively rare. Place-based solutions terms were also not well represented in the syllabi, even though relevance to local context would be more relatable and foster dialog among the students, and is a key strategy to increase climate science literacy. Another notable gap was next steps--mitigation, adaptation, and communication terms were not consistently included in the syllabi.
Gaps like those we found in our sample of syllabi illustrate the increased need to address the interdisciplinary nature of climate literacy. For example, we know that focusing on tangible solutions and highlighting success stories increases motivation, efficacy, and persistence in utilizing new knowledge pertaining to climate change, as this encourages environmental stewardship through feelings of connection and attachment to place. It is insufficient to understand only the geology, biology, chemistry, and physics of climate change, although these areas are essential. Beyond understanding the biogeophysical sciences and social sciences at play, it is important to address how we directly interact with and are affected by this global change—what traumas are being faced by different groups, how can we mitigate and adapt to these changes, and how can we act? Even further, how do we include others in this network of climate literate people, and how can we communicate our climate literacy responsibly and effectively? Overall, we found the curricula to be very strong regarding both the biogeophysical and social mechanisms and consequences of climate change, and to generally cover potential solutions to climate change. It may benefit by including more discussion on how to understand rhetorical strategies to effectively communicate and process this global crisis.
To read the full publication, please see Cooper O, Keeley A,Merenlender A. Curriculum gaps for adult climate literacy. Conservation Science and Practice. 2019; e102.
The Climate Stewards Initiative is currently conducting a needs assessment to inform content creation for the course curriculum. If you would like to contribute to the formation of this new course, please follow this link.
If you have questions about the UC Climate Stewards Initiative, please contact Sarah-Mae Nelson (408) 482-4633; email@example.com