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Natural Awakenings Washington DC Metro

Climate Change Update from MIT’s Conference Crowds & Climate: From Ideas to Action

Dec 04, 2014 06:34PM
By Rana Koll-Mandel

A delegation from the greater D.C. area had the honor to participate in the 2014 MIT Climate CoLab Conference, Crowds & Climate: From Ideas to Action held in Cambridge, Massachusetts in early November. As part of this conference, the Climate Change Is Elementary (CCIE) team was one of only 34 proposals (out of 600 submitted) chosen to make presentations. CCIE conducts in-school events, to educate and empower students in grades kindergarten through eighth on protecting the environment. The program is led by educational consultant, Dave Finnigan, who has more than 30 years of experience working with students.

CCIE received the Judges’ Choice award in the category of Youth Action on climate change, answering the question: “How can adults enable young people to take leadership now and make a difference against climate change?” The conference provided a platform for awardees, attendees and experts knowledgeable about science, communications, community-building, media and storytelling, and change-agents to review and comment on the proposals, thereby providing a direct benefit from the exchange of ideas and sharing of contacts.

Designed to help the winners move their ideas forward, the interactive breakout sessions showcased their concepts, while encouraging discussion from experts and attendees alike. Though proposals came from Africa, Asia, Australia and the U.S., each represented an alternative channel and opportunity to communicate the urgent yet hopeful messages about global climate change.

Keynote speakers included Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communications, who is a widely recognized expert on American and international public opinion on global warming and Jeremy Grantham, founder of the Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment, which supports communication and collaboration in environmental protection with an emphasis on climate change. Expert panelists included professors from MIT, Harvard and Tufts, as well as, business leaders from large and startup companies, venture capital firms, federal, state and local governments, nonprofits and community leaders from around the globe.

A few important conference takeaways—nearly 2 billion people worldwide have never heard of climate change; however, when asked about the current state of their lives, many clearly stated they understand that their lives, communities, livelihoods and local weather have already changed dramatically and continue to change. Also noted that to explain the complicated concept of climate change, it is best to keep the message simple by posting these facts to your Facebook page and tweeting them to all you know: “it’s real; it’s us; it’s bad; scientists agree and there’s hope.”

In order to create sustained recognition of climate change problems, global educational and communication efforts need to shift focus from the individual to communities, NGOs, government and businesses, who then must find common ground and work together. One of the goals of every community group should be to mobilize already existing communities, educate them about climate change and stimulate them to take action, regardless of what other beliefs the group may hold. We are all in this fight together and it is the race of our lives.

Rana Koll-Mandel, Principal of WE R 1 Communications, which specializes in PR and strategic marketing for film festivals and filmmakers, is committed to winning the propaganda war about climate change. She is media director for Climate Change Is Elementary and a founding member of 350.orgMoCo. 

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