Event Title

Roundtable Discussion on “Inspiring Action in Grim Times”

Start Date

10-8-2010 3:30 PM

End Date

10-8-2010 5:00 PM

Description

Education for sustainability should overtly inspire and empower students to take action to make our societies more sustainable. But many, or even most, students come to our programs with what Atlee (2003) has termed ‘crisis fatigue.’ This is a result of these students being exposed to an abundance of information documenting the myriad threats to our environment but with very little work done on helping them to see how they could make a positive contribution to addressing these threats. The resulting sense of powerlessness usually leads to despair and an emotional numbness that is an unconscious effort to defend oneself from the pain associated with facing multiple and seemingly insurmountable threats to our environment. This leads to inaction.

Helping students create positive visions of the future and the role they can play in shaping it is vital to our mission. This was not too difficult back five to ten years ago when the best science was suggesting that we needed to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by 60% to 80% by 2050 in order to have a good chance of averting catastrophic climate change (see e.g. Steffen 2006). It was easy to present to our students feasible scenarios in which this could be achieved without major changes in our lifestyle and reductions in our standard of living.

Unfortunately, the most recent science demonstrates that we need to bring our emissions to zero as soon as possible and to quickly remove excess greenhouse gases from the atmosphere (Spratt and Sutton 2008). This cannot be achieved with “business-as-usual” politics or without fundamental changes to our lifestyles. At the same time, it is clear that vested interests such as coal and oil companies have engaged in a well-funded and highly effective campaign to sow confusion around the science of climate change and have succeeded in reducing public support for action to address it. In the face of such challenges, it has been much harder to help students maintain hope their enthusiasm for action. How can we inspire our students to take action in these grim times?

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Aug 10th, 3:30 PM Aug 10th, 5:00 PM

Roundtable Discussion on “Inspiring Action in Grim Times”

Education for sustainability should overtly inspire and empower students to take action to make our societies more sustainable. But many, or even most, students come to our programs with what Atlee (2003) has termed ‘crisis fatigue.’ This is a result of these students being exposed to an abundance of information documenting the myriad threats to our environment but with very little work done on helping them to see how they could make a positive contribution to addressing these threats. The resulting sense of powerlessness usually leads to despair and an emotional numbness that is an unconscious effort to defend oneself from the pain associated with facing multiple and seemingly insurmountable threats to our environment. This leads to inaction.

Helping students create positive visions of the future and the role they can play in shaping it is vital to our mission. This was not too difficult back five to ten years ago when the best science was suggesting that we needed to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by 60% to 80% by 2050 in order to have a good chance of averting catastrophic climate change (see e.g. Steffen 2006). It was easy to present to our students feasible scenarios in which this could be achieved without major changes in our lifestyle and reductions in our standard of living.

Unfortunately, the most recent science demonstrates that we need to bring our emissions to zero as soon as possible and to quickly remove excess greenhouse gases from the atmosphere (Spratt and Sutton 2008). This cannot be achieved with “business-as-usual” politics or without fundamental changes to our lifestyles. At the same time, it is clear that vested interests such as coal and oil companies have engaged in a well-funded and highly effective campaign to sow confusion around the science of climate change and have succeeded in reducing public support for action to address it. In the face of such challenges, it has been much harder to help students maintain hope their enthusiasm for action. How can we inspire our students to take action in these grim times?