Who We Are.
ClimateSpeak was started concieved in 2017 by Sally Neas when she was a masters in Community Development. She was studying how to effectively engage youth with climate change. She created a list of best practices for youth engagement around climate change as a part of her thesis. Then, hungry to put these practices in place, she started working with educational organizations to design climate engagement curriculum. She began piloting this curriculum in 2018 with high school environmental science classes at Oxbow School in Napa, CA and the Watsonville Wetlands Watch in Watsonville, CA, where she worked with an afterschool high school program. In this project, the students created digital stories about climate change. Some of these stories are truly incredible– they give a glimpse into a generation of youth growing up in the face of climate change. In partnership with Napa Climate Now, these films were then screened in several public schools with over 400 students, where they were used to facilitate conversation among youth about climate change.
In doing this project, one things became incredibly apparent: teachers need tools to talk with youth about climate change. While most teachers want to teach about climate change, it is a really hard topic. They are worried about causing despair among students and are unsure of how to do anything else. They are worried about backlash. They have their own fear and guilt about it. ClimateSpeak was started to give them the tools to do that.
Climate Change is Hard to Talk About.
Did you know that most people believe climate change is happening, and accept that it is caused by humans? Or that even more people support regulating carbon dioxide as a air pollutant? Or that support for renewable energy is nearly unilateral among the public? And yet, with a vast vacuum of substantial climate action, all of these things couldn’t feel farther from the truth.
The general public has known about climate change since the 1980’s, when NASA climate scientist Jim Hansen testified before Congress. What followed was a flurry of news and media about climate change. However, for as long as the public has known about climate change, there has been public inaction on climate change. This gap between knowledge and action on it is called the “knowledge-action gap” and is widely documented. What causes this?
“I used to think that top environmental problems were biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse and climate change. I thought that thirty years of good science could address these problems. I was wrong. The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed and apathy, and to deal with these we need a cultural and spiritual transformation. And we scientists don’t know how to do that.”
–Gus Speth, co-founder, Natural Resources Defense Council
We Need New Strategies.
Understanding the knowledge-action gap is complex. However, there is one thing that we do know: more information doesn’t help. Simply giving more people about climate change doesn’t inspire action. The ineffectiveness of this strategy is perhaps as widely documented as the knowledge-action gap.
Instead, people need opportunities and experiences to understand the story they have about climate change: to make meaning out of it and relate it to their own lives. And most important, to put themselves within the story. This is what climate engagement is, and it is how people actually move from understanding to action
That is what ClimateSpeak does. We design, implement and assess programs to help youth and communities make sense of climate change. We partner with schools and other educational organizations to design strategies to fit their educational context.
Fostering Hope and Empowerment Among Youth.
As climate change exacerbates, youth will inherit the worst it has to bring. If the purpose of education is to prepare youth for their future, we need to be realistic about what that may look like. In even the best-case scenarios of 1.5-2 of global warming, youth will face massive environmental destruction, rising tides and food shortages. While this is depressing, educators have the opportunity now to give youth the tools to forge bright futures in the face of this hardship.
Unfortunately, research shows that most are not. While 86% of teacher support teaching climate change in schools, only 42% of them even address the topic. And, when it does come up, numerous studies have shown that most educational efforts focus on informing youth about climate change, despite the fact that this strategy has been proven ineffective in inspiring action. These strategies can also lead to emotional distress and ultimately disengagment.
ClimateSpeak helps teachers and schools overcome this. Through consulting and collaborative curriculum design, we help teachers adopt strategies that don’t just inform youth about climate engage, but engage them with it. We use research-informed best practices to help teachers present climate change in a way that inspires and empowers students. We also help teachers work through concerns and hardships when teaching climate change.
Through our services, we foster hope and action on the most pressing global issue.
“No, climate change isn’t our fault. It’s not our responsibility. But we youth are going to make a better world for ourselves.”