Creating spaces for climate education

Tone Lanzillo

In an April 26 article in Time magazine, “Climate Is Everything,” Justin Worland wrote, “The course of climatization – the process by which climate change will transform society – will play out in the coming years in every corner of society. Whether it leads to a more resilient world or exacerbates the worst elements of our society depends on whether we adjust or just stumble through.”

Worland talked about how climate change is touching everything, from health care and schooling to a surge in migration, a spike in crime and reduced productivity.

Yes. Even Duluth is slowly beginning to acknowledge that the climate emergency is showing up in many different places of our personal and public lives. We are not climate-proof and are starting to recognize where the city is beginning to face various climate challenges.

And because climate is everything, the latest news and information about climate change needs to be front and center for the citizens in Duluth. 

There needs to be “spaces” throughout the city where climate education for the greater community is available to anyone, and where everyone is given the opportunity to take that knowledge to help Duluth become a more resilient, sustainable and environmentally just city.

In his book "Good Thinking," scientist David Robert Grimes talks about the many people who do not acknowledge or even deny climate change because they tend to believe what ideologically appeals to them and will filter out information that conflicts with their deeply held beliefs. He stresses that to address climate change and change minds we must engage each other not only on a cognitive level but also on an emotional level.

“All the facts, arguments and logic in the world are for nothing if we cannot connect on an emotional level.” Grimes also states, “We must be willing to adapt in the face of new information, to jettison wrong-headed beliefs when required, and to embrace truth even when unpleasant.”

For the past several years, we have been inundated with a growing num-ber of climate challenges that will increasingly impact all of us; especially the most vulnerable in our city. What better way to empower ourselves and prepare for the future than to provide climate education to all of our citizens and community stakeholders.

Making climate education available, and also providing a safe and secure environment to process our emotions and examine long-held beliefs that may cause some discomfort, is essential to the future of this city on the hill.

With an essay titled “Education Is A Space To Change Your Mind” for the book "Radical Humility: Essays On Ordinary Acts," Troy Jollimore, a philosopher and poet, wrote, “The thing about the pursuit of wisdom, though, is that it requires humility; it requires that you believe that you are not already wise, or at least that you could become wiser ... It requires that we work toward developing a sense of the world as a vast and complex place that we can, and ought to, continue to learn about for the rest of our lives without ever coming to master.”

Given that climate is everything and that the climate emergency in our city is a vast and complex challenge, we must come to terms with the fact that learning about climate change and figuring out how to effectively adapt will be a long-term process.

While we will never have a complete understanding of what’s happening around and to us, with community-based climate education we will hopefully make more insightful and inclusive decisions.
Grimes’ words provide some sense of direction when he wrote, “There are huge questions over how we best address climate change, and frank conversations on the subject are sorely needed … constructive solutions can only be found when we acknowledge reality; problems cannot be rectified if they are not recognized.”

It is through climate education that we can ask those questions, have frank conversations and acknowledge what’s taking place in the real world.

Recently, I’ve been talking to several people in Norway who established the World Climate School. Their mission has been to provide what they call “transformative education” that encourages climate action. With chapters in Finland, India, Nigeria and seven other countries, we discussed the idea of bringing their school to the U.S.

Maybe, the World Climate School can offer another alternative to engaging, educating and empowering the citizens of Duluth.

Maybe, just maybe, this school can help all of us elevate the conversation about climate change in our city and create a collective sense of urgency in figuring out how to wisely and constructively address the climate emergency.