CHANGE in the MAKING
United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, recently warned: "Climate change is the defining issue of our time – and we are at a deﬁning moment. We face a direct existential threat. Climate change is moving faster than we are – and its speed has provoked a sonic boom SOS across our world." We know our readers are aware of the severity of the threat. We also know we are all awash in gloomy predictions. Don't stop reading; some good news follows.
In August of 2018, Greta Thunberg, the Rachel Carson of climate change, engaged in a solitary strike on the steps of the Swedish Parliament. Her brave act sparked this September's worldwide Climate Strike. The young strikers know the challenges for their generation are enormous and require scientifically and civically informed action. Secretary Guterres's remarks and Greta's "How Dare You" speech before the United Nations Climate Change Action Summit on September 23 underscore the urgency while stoking hope: hope that these events are harbingers of needed change in our values and behaviors. As the Secretary said, "... if we want to get out of the hole, we have to stop digging."
Both Greta and Secretary Guterres are global leaders calling for action to meet the challenges of climate change. Greta, with the aid of social media, is capturing the attention and passion of millions of young people throughout the planet and turning despair to hope and hope to action. Similarly, Secretary Gutteres is using his bully pulpit to commit world leaders to action – sadly not included is the USA. Both state climate change is the result of human behavior and, at its core, is an existential and moral dilemma. So why is this good news, you may ask? First, naming the problem right is the beginning of a solution. Secondly, both Secretary Gutteres and Greta share:
• Pulpits reaching out to large and diverse audiences (e.g., The Strike and the UN Climate Change Summits);
• Hope in our resilience and intellect, rooted in a spirit of co-evolution, will lead us to needed changes;
• Optimism embedded in the believe through science and civic action we can build a sustainable world.
These shared attributes assert a new definition of power for change. Similar to Winona LaDuke's view: “Power is not brute force and money; power is in your spirit. Let us be the ancestors our descendants will thank.” LaDuke, an Objibwe, is a prolific writer and formidable social activist. Among her many achievements include the founder of the non-profit White Earth Land Recovery Project and a run for the Vice-Presidency on Ralph Nader's ticket. White Earth's mission is to create a locally-based model for sustainable production of everything from food to energy. "Power”, she goes on to say, "is in the earth; it is in your relationship to the earth." She represents a voice not commonly quoted, yet her work exemplifies a spirit and set of values that build sustainability from local or tribal outward. While not singular in this, her work exemplifies community-based stewardship (CBS).
To have agency, one need not operate on a national or global level, nor does one have to believe they have to do it all. As there are many hands needed, there to are many ways to help. Building hope that change is possible is required at all levels. GOMI has chosen the local level with an emphasis on educating youth in the skills and values to meet the challenges of climate change. Hope is a psychological state necessary for imparting optimism, leading to action and a sense of agency. It is a well-accepted idea in social psychology that both hopelessness and hope are conditions influenced mainly by how we experience the outside world. There is a growing body of literature on the negative effects fear of the future are having on our youth. The Strike speeches and placards amply illustrate this.
There is evidence students can develop hope and a sense of agency by engaging in their communities on relevant climate change issues and projects. Rachel Ameen, in researching her article "Kids” These Days,finds promising evidence that decisive action can disperse despair as it builds a sense of agency. She concludes: “The youth are at the very heart of this cultural change. It is our future that we are fighting for, and while it might not be an easy fight, protecting our planet and our people is absolutely worth it.”
Dr. Pamela Morgan's article, Perspectives on Teaching and Learning in a Time of Climate Change, reports similar outcomes from the joint CBS pilot project she helped spearhead. Upon the completion of the project's first year, Dr. Morgan states: “If we want students who are prepared to engage in creating solutions to complex issues like climate change, we need to include more courses like these in the middle and high school years. Perhaps then young people will look to their schools to help them acquire the knowledge, learn the skills, and make the connections that will help them to be successful in their quest for a safe climate future.”
The high school students' projects reported on in this issue reflect further students’ competency in doing fieldwork and the local setting’s capacity to offer substantive CBS learning opportunities. In our view, rural, urban, suburban, coastal, or inland settings all offer similarly significant learning possibilities. GOMI’s continuing goal is to connect teachers and their students to those opportunities.
For a video recording go to <https://youtu.be/q6jbq1scma4> <https://youtu.be/VFkQSGyeCWg respectively>.
John P. Terry, founded the Gulf of Maine Institute in 1999. John was Editor-in-Chief, CYD (Community Youth Development) Journal from Aug. 1994 to Nov. 2002. John has broad teaching and administrative experience at the university level including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1969-1984, University of Massachusetts, Lowell, 1985-1992, and Union College, Schenectady, NY, 1964-1969. John received national recognition in 2006 when selected as Civic Ventures,’ Lead with Experience Program 2006 Purpose Prize Fellows. He is also a 2008 recipient of the Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment Visionary Award.