Think Global, Act Local: Perspectives from Aspen Ideas Climate
Updated: Apr 29
This past week I was grateful to attend Aspen Ideas Week:Climate. This event grew out of Aspen Ideas and featured programming from top leaders, advocates, and scientists to discuss emerging and innovative climate ideas. Beforehand I, along with 200 young change-makers from around the world were invited to connect with each other.
I reflected on my own climate journey this week- from 2012-2016 I spent my years working on Climate Education. Working with high school students and running environmental education trainings with the Sierra Student Coalition, and the Alliance for Climate Education. The next five years, from 2017-2021, I worked on helping build the financial and operational infrastructure at advocacy organizations like the SSC and the Sunrise Movement, helping strengthen them to advocate for environmental reform.
And from 2022 to now we are in a place in the United States and globally where we need to put policies and legislation into action. Some of the major themes at the conference were around the framing of climate change, climate education, and how both of those themes can be drivers or breaks on how fast we make climate action a reality.
Although over a billion dollars has been committed in the United States in the last year through federal legislation, from permitting issues to local uproar, the sharp politicization needed to pass legislation has created misinformation campaigns, and spliced climate education for the general public. News in general is becoming more fragmented leading to different realities, including one that is strongly anti-climate .
However, when talking to people from places like Trinidad and Kenya, I learned that in places with acute issues like lack of potable water, huge unemployment numbers , etc climate was actually not politicized. There was a local appreciation of the environment but the issue of climate change was not known widespread. Instead disasters and droughts are attributed to superstition or religious reasoning.
In places where internet access was widespread, social media was the only climate education available in many countries. Because it's a nascent topic we lack a comprehensive climate curriculum in schools around the world. The issue is that social media and the news cycle has historically been sensationalist and disaster driven .
There is this sense of climate doom leading to eco-anxiety for many young people that happens when climate education comes through social media.
This made me think about nature and action-based learning. We need to ensure that we are learning to love the planet and hear powerful stories about people taking action to solve the issue instead of stories that highlight the doom and gloom. Climate education should have a goal not only of imparting facts but also emotional states onto its readers. We've seen how social media can negatively affect young peoples mental states and we can't afford to have a generation of young people feeling a sense of powerlessness on climate.
We need to rethink traditional media that is focused on easy clicks and advertising revenue and like we heard from The Guardian, show that positive climate stories can also drive engagement. Shifting moods of hopelessness and despair towards empowerment and confidence can change the narrative on climate.
This narrative shift is needed if we want communities around the U.S and around the world to be excited about the work that must be done, and how positive climate action can look like in their communities. Only when we are able to impart those feelings onto communities along with education will they be excited to build on climate.
We know that shifting to a clean energy economy and using this federal money to strengthen the economic and social fabric of communities will lead to better livelihoods and increased wellbeing for Americans and move us away from the current crumbling infrastructure and economic uncertainty we live in today - and communities deserve to know it too.