Skip to main content

The challenge of coordinated civic climate change education

Abstract

Many sustainability educators want to more effectively engage their students with climate policy. They also seek to support students’ civic and change agent skills and dispositions to take on critical social, economic, and environmental challenges that require collective action. Training young people for civic leadership and collective action is integral to the mission of higher education and part of achieving that mission has been to share success stories. This article shares anecdotal but research-informed reflections on the Power Dialog, a twenty-state, multi-month, civically minded, coordinated climate change educational program developed for college students to provide input to state governments on the Clean Power Plan. The Power Dialog was crafted on theories and practices of democratic education, behavioral economics, policy theory, and up-to-date climate science and risk assessments. This reflection shows that factors in state government, strong interinstitutional networks and leadership, and programs inside of the universities themselves were critical for success. The article concludes by recognizing that the national, state, and local political landscapes have shifted with the Trump administration and educators will need to respond accordingly.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  1. Akadjian D (2015) 7 things our founders believe about public education. Daily Kos. Accessed from: https://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/1/27/1360440/-7-things-our-founders-believed-about-public-education

  2. Alliance for Climate Education (2016) What We Do. Accessed from: https://acespace.org/what-we-do

    Google Scholar 

  3. Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (2018). Who We Are. Accessed from http://www.aashe.org/about-us/who-we-are/

    Google Scholar 

  4. Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE) (2006) Research on outcomes and processes of intergroup dialogue. Higher Education Report 32(4):59–73

    Google Scholar 

  5. Bell DR (2005) Liberal environmental citizenship. Environ Politics 14(2):179–194. https://doi.org/10.1080/09644010500054863

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Berke J (2017) More than 50 US mayors just signed a charter to meet the Paris Agreement goals without Trump. Business Insider. Accessed from: http://www.businessinsider.com/paris-agreement-2-year-anniversary-us-mayors-step-up-2017-12

  7. Brown D (2013) Climate change ethics: navigating the perfect moral storm. Routledge, New York

    Book  Google Scholar 

  8. Citizens Climate Lobby (2017) Carbon fee and dividend policy & FAQs. Accessed from: https://citizensclimatelobby.org/carbon-fee-and-dividend/

  9. Colby A, Ehrlich T, Beaumont E, Stephens J (2003) Educating citizens: preparing America’s undergraduates for lives of moral and civic responsibility. Jossey-Bass, San Francisco

    Google Scholar 

  10. Cusick M (2016) Despite legal limbo, Pennsylvania continues work on Clean Power Plan. State Impact PA. Accessed from https://stateimpact.npr.org/pennsylvania/2016/04/05/despite-legal-limbo-pennsylvania-continues-work-on-clean-power-plan/

  11. Democratic Part (2016) Democratic Party Platform. Accessed from: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/papers_pdf/117717.pdf

  12. de Vogue A (2016) Appeals court hears high-stakes challenge to Obama’s clean power plan. CNN Politics. Accessed from http://www.cnn.com/2016/09/27/politics/clean-power-plan-obama/

  13. Dewey J (1927) The public and its problems. Swallow Press, Athens

    Google Scholar 

  14. Engle E, Barsom S, Vandenbergh L, Sterner G, & Alter T (2016) An exploration of competencies in sustainability: working paper 2014–2015. Accessed from http://sustainability.psu.edu/fieldguide/resources/engle-e-barsom-s-vandenbergh-l-sterner-g-alter-t-2016-an-exploration-of-competencies-in-sustainability-working-paper-2014-2015/

  15. Environmental Protection Agency (2016) Clean Power Plan: state at a glance: Maryland. Accessed from https://archive.epa.gov/epa/sites/production/files/2016-09/documents/maryland.pdf

  16. Garvey J (2008) The ethics of climate change: right and wrong in a warming world. Continuum International Publishing Group, London

    Google Scholar 

  17. Governor’s Press Office (2016) Governor Cuomo announces establishment of clean energy standard that mandates 50 percent renewables by 2030. Accessed from https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-establishment-clean-energy-standard-mandates-50-percent-renewables

  18. Gurin P, Nagda BA, Sorenson N (2011) Intergroup dialogue: education for a broad conception of civic engagement. Lib Educ 97(2):46–51

    Google Scholar 

  19. Hauer ME, Evans JM, & Mishra DR (2016) Millions projected to be at risk from sea-level rise in the continental United States. Nat Clim Change

  20. Heath C, Heath D (2012) Switch: how to change things when change is hard. Broadway Books, New York

    Google Scholar 

  21. Henderson J, Long D, Berger P, Russell C, & Drewes A (forthcoming) Expanding the foundation: Climate change and opportunities for educational research. Educ Stud

  22. Hopey D (2015) DEP names new Environmental Justice Office director power source. Accessed from http://powersource.post-gazette.com/powersource/policy-powersource/2015/10/29/DEP-names-new-Environmental-Justice-Office-director-named/stories/201510290233

  23. Inglis B (2013) Changing the dialogue on energy and climate: Bob Inglis at TEDxJacksonville. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FUmcnxIQU24

    Google Scholar 

  24. Jacoby, Barbara and Associates (2009) Civic engagement in higher education: concepts and practices. Jossey-Bass, San Francisco

    Google Scholar 

  25. Johnston L, Collins B, Boyle A, Womack HD (2012) Looking at sustainability through a different LENS. Sustainability 5(4):244–247. https://doi.org/10.1089/sus.2012.9943

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Kahan DM, Peters E, Wittlin M, Slovic P, Ouellette LL, Braman D, Mandel G (2012) The polarizing impact of science literacy and numeracy on perceived climate change risks. Nat Clim Chang 2(10):732–735. https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate1547

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Keast R, Brown K, Mandell M (2007) Getting the right mix: unpacking integration meanings and strategies. Int Public Manag J 10(1):9–33. https://doi.org/10.1080/10967490601185716

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Kenward A, Sanford T and Bronzan J (2016) Western wildfires: a fiery future. Climate Central. Accessed from http://assets.climatecentral.org/pdfs/westernwildfires2016v2.pdf

  29. Kingdon JW (1995) Agendas, alternatives, and public policies, 2nd edn. Addison Wesley Longman, New York

    Google Scholar 

  30. London S (2010) Doing democracy: how a network of grassroots organizations is strengthening community, building capacity, and shaping a new kind of civic education. Kettering Foundation, Washington, D.C.

    Google Scholar 

  31. Maniates MF (2001) Individualization: plant a tree, buy a bike, save the world? Global Environ Polit 1(3):31–52. https://doi.org/10.1162/152638001316881395

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Mann M (2012) The hockey stick and the climate wars: dispatches from the front lines. Columbia University Press, New York. https://doi.org/10.7312/mann15254

    Book  Google Scholar 

  33. McLendon MK, Cohen-Vogel L (2008) Understanding education policy change in the American states: lessons from political science. In: Cooper BS, Cibulka JG, Fusarelli LD (eds) The handbook of education politics and policy. Routledge, New York, NY, pp 30–51

    Google Scholar 

  34. McCright AM, Dunlap RE (2011) The politicization of climate change and polarization in the American public’s views of global warming, 2001–2010. Sociol Q 52(2):155–194. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1533-8525.2011.01198.x

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Milman O (2017) The Republicans who care about climate change: ‘They are done with the denial’. The Guardian. Accessed from: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/apr/27/climate-solutions-caucus-republicans-trump

  36. National Commission on Civic Renewal (1998) A nation of spectators: how civic disengagement weakens America and what we can do about it. National Commission on Civic Renewal, College Park

    Google Scholar 

  37. National Wildlife Federation (2016) Campus ecology. Accessed from: http://www.nwf.org/campus-ecology.aspx

  38. Natural Resources Defense Council (2016) The road from Paris: the United States progress toward its climate pledge. Accessed from: https://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/paris-climate-conference-US-IB.pdf

  39. Oreskes N, Conway E (2010) Merchants of doubt: how a handful of scientists obscured the truth on issues from tobacco smoke to global warming. Bloomsbury Press, New York

    Google Scholar 

  40. Orr David (2004) Earth in mind: on education, environment, and the human prospect. 10th Anniversary Edition. Washington, D.C.: Island Press

  41. Penn State University (2016) Our Commitment to Impact. The Pennsylvania State University’s Strategic Plan for 2016–2020

  42. Peters SJ, Alter TR, Schwartzback N (2010) Democracy and higher education. Michigan State University Press, East Lansing

    Google Scholar 

  43. Powell JL (2011) The inquisition of climate science. Columbia University Press, New York. https://doi.org/10.7312/powe15718

    Book  Google Scholar 

  44. President’s Commission on Higher Education (1947) Higher education for American democracy, volume 1, establishing the goals. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office

  45. Raworth K (2017) Doughnut economics: 7 ways to think like a 21st century economist. Chelsea Green Publishing, White River Junction

    Google Scholar 

  46. republic[En] (2017) Environmental tax reform. Accessed from: http://www.republicen.org/taxreform

  47. Risky Business (2017) From risk to return: investing in a clean energy economy. Accessed from: http://riskybusiness.org/site/assets/uploads/sites/5/2016/10/RBP-FromRiskToReturn-WEB.pdf

  48. Rockström J, Steffen W, Noone K, Persson Å, Stuart Chapin F, Lambin EF, Lenton TM, Scheffer M, Folke C, Schellnhuber HJ, Nykvist B, de Wit CA, Hughes T, van der Leeuw S, Rodhe H, Sörlin S, Snyder PK, Costanza R, Svedin U, Falkenmark M, Karlberg L, Corell RW, Fabry VJ, Hansen J, Walker B, Liverman D, Richardson K, Crutzen P, Foley JA (2009) A safe operating space for humanity. Nature 461(7263):472–475

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  49. Scobey D (2010) Across: heterogeneity of civic education. In: Smith MB, Nowacek RS, Bernstein JL (eds) Citizenship across the curriculum. Indiana University Press, Bloomington, pp 185–198

    Google Scholar 

  50. Second Nature (2018) Climate Leadership Statement. Accessed from http://secondnature.org/wp-content/uploads/Climate-Commitment-2017-Second-Nature.pdf

    Google Scholar 

  51. Shriberg M and MacDonald L (2013) Sustainability leadership programs: emerging goals, methods & best practices. J Sustain Educ 5. Accessed from http://www.jsedimensions.org/wordpress/content/sustainability-leadership-programs-emerging-goals-methods-best-practices_2013_06/

  52. Shortle J, Abler D, Blumsack S, Britson A, Fang K, Kemanian A, Knight P, McDill M, Najjar R, Nassry M, Ready R, Ross A, Rydzik M, Shen C, Wang S, Wardrop D, and Yetter S (2015) Pennsylvania climate impacts assessment update: May 2015. Environment and Natural Resources Institute. Penn State University. Accessed from http://www.elibrary.dep.state.pa.us/dsweb/Get/Document-108470/2700-BK-DEP4494.pdf

  53. Smith W, Litzky B, Fadigan K (2015) The pursuit of pura vida in the educational experience. Proceedings of the International Association for Business and Society 26:212–219. https://doi.org/10.5840/iabsproc20152619

    Article  Google Scholar 

  54. Thayer-Bacon B (2004) An exploration of Myles Horton’s democratic praxis: highlander folk school. J Educ Found 18(2):5 Retrieved from http://ezaccess.libraries.psu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/1468389644?accountid=13158

    Google Scholar 

  55. The National Task Force on Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement (2012) A crucible moment: college learning and democracy’s future. Association of American Colleges and Universities, Washington, D.C.

    Google Scholar 

  56. US Census Bureau (2013) Current population survey, November 2013: civic engagement supplement file. Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/cps/technical-documentation/complete.2013.html

  57. Virginia’s Legislative Information System (2016) HB 2 Clean Power Plan; state implementation plan, General Assembly approval. Accessed from https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?161+sum+HB2

  58. We Are Still In (2017) Homepage. Accessed from: https://www.wearestillin.com

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Peter Buckland.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Buckland, P., Goodstein, E., Alexander, R. et al. The challenge of coordinated civic climate change education. J Environ Stud Sci 8, 169–178 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13412-018-0473-x

Download citation

Keywords

  • Behavioral economics
  • Civic engagement
  • Climate change education
  • Coordinated education
  • Education for sustainability
  • Energy policy
  • Policy window