Mobilizing Campuses to Protect our Precious Planet
By Sally Slovenski, Director of Campus Climate Action Corps and Executive Director, Maine Campus Compact
Today’s students are faced with the growing impacts of climate change, perhaps the most capacious challenge of our time. At the 2022 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, global leaders declared that there is an urgent need to reduce carbon emissions as quickly as possible. If we do not limit global warming to 1.5°C, our planet will face critical risks to our natural and human systems, including animal and plant extinction, rising sea levels, increased flooding and wildfires, extreme weather events, and numerous biodiversity concerns, which will significantly affect our economy, health, and way of life (IPCC, 2022).
It is increasingly clear that young people today feel the weight of climate change’s impact, including many students from underserved populations who are most affected by the impacts of climate change. According to a 2021 study (Hickman et al), among 10,000 young adults surveyed across 10 countries, 70% reported that they were either extremely worried or very worried about climate change. Eighty-three (83%) of survey respondents also said that they felt people have failed to take care of the planet.
The good news is that it is not too late to do whatever we can to “take care” of our precious planet—and there is much that higher education can do to address this urgent crisis. With higher education’s mission to serve the common good, its ability to prepare students for real-world problem-solving and skill-building, and the wide-ranging research opportunities, departments, and institutes devoted to addressing the climate crisis, there is much we can do together to make a difference on our campuses and in our communities. With over 3,000 higher education institutions across the country that enroll approximately 20 million college students, higher education has a unique and powerful opportunity to mobilize, lead, and perhaps even help revolutionize and expedite climate action.
At Campus Compact, we are committing to do whatever we can to provide opportunities for our member campuses and others to make a difference. For example, through the launch of our new Campus Climate Action Corps (CCAC) initiative, we will help build the capacity of campuses and their community partners to create change that leads to increased energy efficiency and improvements for at-risk ecosystems by implementing local solutions for underserved households and communities.
Programs like CCAC are needed now more than ever to meaningfully address climate change and to avert the most devastating impacts of our changing climate. There are many incredible opportunities for campuses to initiate or deepen their community engagement efforts and design community-based solutions to your area’s most pressing environmental issues—we hope you will join us!
Environmental sustainability in action
These individuals and institutions illustrate different approaches to environmental sustainability and how dedication to making a difference can create powerful impact in communities.
Judge rules in favor of youth plaintiffs in Montana climate lawsuit
After 16 youth plaintiffs brought a climate change lawsuit against the state of Montana, a judge concluded that the plaintiffs have a constitutional right to a clean and healthy environment, paving the way for future legal challenges to combat climate change. More →
Three member campuses recognized as climate-friendly choices for future students
Ohio University, University of Iowa, and University of Minnesota at Morris were recognized by The Washington Post for their environmental sustainability efforts and were recommended as top choices for environmentally conscious students. More →
Campus Compact celebrates Impact Award winner Jennifer Carrera for engaged research in environmental justice
Her research centers the expertise of residents in experiencing and responding to public health crises. Check out the recorded session celebrating Jennifer and others in partnership with IARSLCE. More →
Campus Compact is seeking full-time CCAC AmeriCorps members who will host community environmental education events, conduct home energy assessments, including home energy assistance referrals, and implement low-tech home energy interventions to help advance public knowledge and increase motivation to conserve energy and reduce carbon emissions.
Campus Compact AmeriCorps VISTA member Amanda MacKenzie completed a project at Rockhurst University to create sustainability guides and organize an Environmental Symposium that brought together community members and nonprofit organizations to pursue solutions to local enviromental issues.
Take action: Environmental Sustainability
Consider joining Thriving Earth Exchange as a Community Science hub to provide tailored scientific support to the communities you serve. Each hub partner will receive $50,000 a year for two years to recruit and support twelve communities. These communities will be paired with Community Science Fellows recruited and trained by Thriving Earth staff to provide volunteer project management.
Check out the recording of our recent TRUCEN Network Conversation about how campuses can better support communities in planning for and adapting to climate change.
Find out how the Pathways of Public Service and Civic Engagement framework & survey can help with understanding students’ interests and predispositions regarding approaches to social change.
Find resources from Second Nature and The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) and to improve or begin sustainability efforts on your campus.