Community-based Climate Resiliency: Engaging Hearts and Minds

Community-Based Climate
Resiliency: Connecting Hearts and
Minds to Climate Change Issues
Using a Place-Based Approach
Communities Confronting Climate Impacts: A Pivotal Role for
Community Foundations
2014 Fall Conference for Community Foundations
October 19, 2014
Russanne Low, Ph.D.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
[email protected]
Outline of Slide Stack
This presentation highlights one project and one tool designed for community climate change explorations,
developed in conjunction with NASA/NOAA/NSF’s Triagency collaborative climate change education program.
Goals of the projects
Rationale for our use of a community-based, local approach to climate change education, communication and
Example 1: collaborative, community-based project: GIS, Food, Water and Sustainability course, taught
collaboratively and on-line for learners in NYC and rural Nebraska
Example 2: Community Climate Chronicle research tool, designed to prepare communities for discussion about
community climate vulnerability and resilience
Final Remarks
Broad goals of our federally funded work in
climate change education and outreach
Goal 1: broaden access to cutting edge science and high quality educational
Goal 2: build climate literacy amongst our program participants
Goal 3: connect learners to cutting –edge technological tools, including GIS
(Geographic Information Systems)
Goal 4: Evaluate the role of authentic climate change research at the
community level in building climate change literacy and its role in promoting
personal behavioral changes to promote community resilience and
Humanitarian goal: catalyze change in fossil
fuel use and consumption behavior
Computer models evidence that the future of the
Earth’s climate hinges on our now and future
behaviors. If we lower our emissions of heat
trapping gases, we can mitigate against drastic
changes in temperature by the turn of the
century. Our three-pronged approach:
Teach the science
Motivate individuals and communities by making
the science relevant and local
Shift authority about local climate change to
community members through their participation
in local citizen science research
Why community focus?
We need community
engagement… we know that
science alone can’t drive this bus!
The brain lights up
differently and we learn
more efficiently when
emotions are turned on!
Climate change, reported in the media, is described as too far away in time (>50 years)
and too abstract (global impacts, far away) to connect with the hearts and minds of the
majority of people (Hulme 2009).
The problem is too remote- both spatially and temporally to motivate the majority of
individuals to significantly change their behavior
Going from knowledge to action requires engaging both the analytical-rational and the
intuitive-experiential information processing systems of the brain. The rational processing
system is logical and abstract; the experiential is affective (moods, feelings, attitudes) and
A place-based focus on climate change translates abstract concepts into concrete
Making climate change relevant to individuals and communities:
taking cues from research in the social sciences (psychology,
communication, anthropology, sociology…)
Shift nexus of authority from scientists to the community members
Tap into social identities and affiliations, by highlighting local community as
focus of exploration
Get audience’s attention, by focusing inquiry on those aspects of of life in
the community they care about: whether economic, social, sport, or hobby
Encourage group participation, facilitating emergence of necessary changes
in personal behavior and community priorities to ensure a sustainable
Our messaging:
Climate change is real and happening now
-- Prove it to yourself: find evidence in your backyard
You can do something to make a difference
--Take climate change from concept to action in a service learning project
Remove barriers to action by contextualizing climate change as an issue that
can be explored locally
By engaging community members in doing local research, we shift the nexus
of authority from scientists to the community members themselves
The research they conduct is original- at a scale of spatial granularity that is
rarely seen in institutionally funded climate science
In doing so, participants translate abstract scientific concepts into
meaningful concrete experience, engage the intuitive-experiential
information processing system of the brain
UNL Projects funded by the Triagency climate education programs
Courses developed for
teachers, offered through
UNL’s Masters of Applied
Science, Science Educator
Supports teachers in
creation of lessons that
promote authentic student
research experiences and
empower students to be
agents of change
Note: The UNL series of
graduate-level online Lab
Earth courses for educators,
of which these are now a
part, was originally funded
by the Toyota Foundation
(developed collaboratively with Brooklyn College)
Collaboration and sharing of resources by scientists and
climate change educators make this approach possible
Example 1: GIS, Food, Water and Sustainability
Online course collaboratively developed and co-taught at University of
Nebraska-Lincoln and Brooklyn College, NYC.
Brings together learners from urban and rural environments to explore
climate change in these two different areas with respect to access to food
and water, through spatial explorations of data using ArcGIS Online.
Employs open-source learning objects found in digital libraries created by
member of the climate change education community
Example 1: GIS, Food, Water and Sustainability
Online course co-taught at University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Brooklyn College, NYC.
Brings together learners from urban and rural environments to explore what climate change
means in these two different areas with respect to access to food and water, through spatial
explorations of data using ArcGIS Online.
Note: ArcGIS Online is available free to all K-12
schools and is a low-cost option for teaching and
using GIS in the cloud. Evolving quickly, it has
powerful spatial analysis capabilities and web apps
that allow users to upload map products to social
media. Because it resides in the cloud, technical
issues with teaching GIS online are virtually
Example 1: GIS, Food, Water and Sustainability
Employs open-source learning resources created by member of the climate
change and Earth system science education communities found in these
federally-funded digital repositories:
Example 1: GIS, Food, Water and Sustainability
Module 1: Geospatial Technologies and the Earth System. This module provides an
introduction to geospatial technologies and the pervasive roles these play in our every
day lives. Learners explore various applications and become familiar with web mapping
through use of ArcGIS online. Emphasis in this module is placed on improving spatial
and technological literacies related to remote sensing and GIS, and applying them to
the learner’s local community and environmental context
Module 2: Landscape Analysis: Watershed and On-line GIS. Module 2 focuses on
explorations on a landscape scale of analysis, using the concept of a watershed as a
frame of reference. Students compare and contrast the Salt Watershed in Nebraska
with the NYC water supply system, and use an interactive watershed tool to solve
problems of local development and water runoff in a quantitative context
Module 3: Analysis of Large Datasets using ArcGIS online. Students download large
data sets, build deeper understanding of spatial analysis, and explore AR4 climate
change scenarios by building an interactive time-aware web map application.
Module 4: Individual and Group Projects. In past years we have had projects focusing
on Superstorm Sandy (NYC), drought (NE), flood (CO) and sustainability (in conjunction
with Brooklyn College field school in Barbuda, Lesser Antilles.
Example 2: Community Climate Chronicles: A Community
Driven Local Climate Change Research Tool
10 Steps to Community Resilience Planning Readiness
Background knowledge in climate change science
provided by 10 education modules funded by NASA in
PBS Learning Media. Each module engages the learner in
examination of climate change data and coming to their
own conclusions about what climate change means to
The module, going Local with Global Warming, served
as the basis for development of the Community Climate
Chronicle research tool created at UNL.
Climate change educational resources PBS Learning Media NASA, reused in Educator-Climatologist Learning Community Project, UNL, funded by
NASA’s Innovations in Climate Change Education Program. Source: PBS Learning Media,
Example 2
Community Climate Chronicle: A Community Driven Local Climate Change Research Tool
10 Steps to Community Resilience Planning Readiness
Step 1. Engage participants by showing videos that capture non-specialist
narratives of observed changes in communities in the U.S. and around the
Climate change educational resources created by WGBH funded by NSF and NASA, reused in Educator-Climatologist Learning Community
Project, UNL, funded by NASA’s Innovations in Climate Change Education Program. Source: PBS Learning Media,
Step 2. Participants create
their own Community
Climate Chronicle
Coming up with great research
questions: not easy!
The Community Climate Chronicle is a
structured activity to to assist
teachers/community leaders in the
development of place-based research
questions for group exploration.
Currently piloted only in teacher
educator settings for use in classroom,
but designed for implementation by
community groups
Sometimes, there are great insights….
Move climate change from a global,
abstract idea to a local, concrete
Provide structured exploration of
community livelihood and values
Connect people with tools to
discover for themselves what
future climate might meet for their
Provide opportunities for personal
engagement in building awareness
and taking action on a local scale
3. Consult Archival Data Sources
Farmer journals
Hunting logs
Local newspapers
Historical society archives
Engage in original research:
these are analog resources that
are rarely examined by climate
scientists, because finding them
is so labor intensive–
Residents to become the expert
on climate change in their own
community-shifting the nexus
of authority to known and
respected members of the
4. Participate in Citizen Science (Phenology) Konza Prairie
Wildflowers Konza Prairie, KS
flowering in Konza Prairie
Question: Does the change
in flowering time indicate that
average temperatures have
been increasing in recent
Hypothesis: Earlier spring
warmth is causing earlier
Earlier? Higher extremes?
Lower extremes? Averages?
5. Put local observations in a global context
Plot climate model projections in ArcGIS online
Run climate models
Plot historic climate data
Create graphs and scientific visualizations
6. Look at local
historical climate
Noisy data is statistically examined and
demonstrates a trend toward
increased drought conditions since the
late 1800’s
Dustbowl era clearly shown in 19301940’s
Suggests hypothesis that drought
conditions are increasing with time
Climate at a Glance- a great tool that
allows for exploration of a variety of
climatic parameters over time:
7. You be the expert: Compare data you have
collected, observed and analyzed to the regional
synopsis from the 3rd National Climate Assessment
8. Disseminate
Public service announcement (undergraduates)
Service Learning project (K-12 students)
Create Community Action Plans (community members)
explicitly connects service needs and learning goals
builds bridges between cognitive and affective domains
Improve learning and retention
Move learners from information to action
Service Learning activities were developed by teachers to allow students to
collect/use/interpret data and solve a problem in their community related to climate
Planting a butterfly garden…Public Service announcements…Town Hall presentations
School recycling/energy conservation…Personal/family/school carbon footprints
Planting trees…Citizen science environmental monitoring (2012-2013 projects)
9. Evaluate
Example of classroom assessments by Teachers: pre and post activity
“Overall, the CMA4 unit plan coupled with the service-learning project has had an impact on both our students and
Data shows dramatic increases in:
• Concern about climate change
• Understanding of the role of humans in climate change
• Increase in sustainable behaviors among participants
Because more students now understand climate change is serious, ideally, too, we will have enough of a following to
influence the tight political hold that has gripped our current school board (preventing) teachers to teach about climate
change (although we are allowed to if we “teach the other side”…whatever that means).”
Step 10: Community Action Planning
Our project described here is limited to impacting community through
actions of teachers and students.
Step 10 needs leadership and expertise from within communities and
funding from sources that are not targeting K-12 and university education
(A need to be filled!)
Goals and outcomes discussed here fit into this logic model, used for planning of project and evaluation
of outcomes, Triagency Climate Change Education Projects
Source: Dr. Ann Martin, NASA LARC and the TriAgency Evaluation Working Group
Based on sample of 100+ teachers, 3000 students, qualitative and quantitative data
show local research experience and service learning help individuals understand the
abstraction of climate change in a concrete and personally experienced manner and
are more likely to influence behavior and actions than traditional classwork alone
Land is Life is a 501c3 organization dedicated to elevating indigenous voices and upholding the right to self
determination. The Advocacy for Indigenous Peoples’ Rights and Climate Change (publication 2014) includes
repurposed activities and resources developed in conjunction with some of the UNL projects mentioned in this
slide stack.
A decade + of education and outreach research: What
we have done
Federal agencies have supported millions of dollars worth of climate change
education and outreach tools that can be leveraged by communities
Instead of isolated efforts that have impact only at the institutions and
communities where they take place, NASA, NOAA and NSF have created a
triagency structure that encourages and permits project leaders to share
products and outcomes and learn from each other’s successes and challenges
This has led to the adoption of uniformly high standards with respect to
educational products that can be reused and repurposed, as well refining and
standardizing evaluation instruments so that we can better understand the
challenges of building climate change awareness and climate change
A decade + of education and outreach research: What
we have learned
The challenge is greater than communicating the science and making scientists accessible
Climate change is a global grand challenge that requires input from professionals in many
fields, including economics, sociology, communications, psychology, anthropology, and
Our research indicates that climate change science is a baseline of understanding that
people need, but it is insufficient to stimulate action and change in behavior on a large
Our approach is to provide tangible examples of how a changing climate can impact
people in their community and tools that can empower them to make their communities
more resilient in the face of changes that are coming– and the changes are not only
climate, but climate-related changes in the economy- agriculture and industry, changes in
culture, changes in behavior…
Take home messages
Federal agencies have supported millions of dollars worth of climate change
education and outreach tools- created by scientists and climate change
educators, and rigorously tested and assessed by professional evaluators.
These products are available and can be leveraged by communities
Approaches to community resilience action and awareness have been
piloted and assessed in educational contexts and can be employed in other
contexts and by community groups
“Far from being simply a change in physical climates- a change in the sequences of weather experienced in given
places- climate change has become an idea that now travels beyond its origins in the natural sciences,”
and we might ask,
“How does the idea of climate change alter the way we arrive at and achieve our personal aspirations and our
collective social goals?”
(Mike Hulme 2009, Why We Disagree about Climate Change: Understanding Controversy, Inaction and Opportunity)
Contact Information about Projects and Tools:
Russanne Low, University of Nebraska-Lincoln [email protected]
Rebecca Boger, Brooklyn College [email protected]
David Gosselin, University of Nebraska-Lincoln [email protected]
“If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” — African Proverb

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