Do you ever wonder how you can positively engage in the climate crisis and its widespread impacts? We do too, and we’re here to share our thoughts and resources relevant to you as a student, from signing up for a climate science class, to volunteering with a local green initiative, to running a World Climate event for others in the community.
Are you a UMass Lowell student? Explore climate change-related academic programs at UML, join the Student Society for Sustainability, or check out our Office of Sustainability’s listings for engagement and employment opportunities!
Learning for Action
Climate change is a complex challenge to address because it involves many interconnected systems: ecological systems, economic systems, and social systems. Because the challenge is so complex, a good first step is to learn more about what is happening–how is this system structured, and how do those structures continue to drive our experiences and observations in the natural world and in society? While individual responsibility is important, it’s also important to draw attention to powerful structures at play.
While you continue to learn about climate change, you want to understand how you can take action in your own life, in your school or community. As a student, you have great power to impact the world around you, and there are many opportunities for you to take action. We encourage you to explore the opportunities highlighted below, and write to us if you have other ideas or questions about how you can connect to the movement, or connect with the Climate Change Initiative’s research, education initiatives, or community engagement.
Remember, because climate change operates on a grand and complex scale, it is especially important that all voices are included in the conversation around solutions—each person, including you, has a unique and important contribution to offer.
Each person in the world has an ecological footprint, or an impact on the environment, expressed as the amount of land required to sustain your use of natural resources.
Go online to calculate your personal ecological footprint so you can be aware of how your own personal choices fit into the larger global system. The calculator can give you some ideas on how to take small, personal actions such as riding bikes to school or eating less meat. Have a conversation with your parents about making intentional decisions around the food you eat, the transportation you use, and the way you heat your house.
Even though personal action can have an impact and be empowering, we live in a complicated world and there are many factors that can limit your family’s ability to change their lifestyle. No one person can solve this problem; we do need systemic, large-scale change.
Even if your university doesn’t have a designated environmental program, ask around and see who might be teaching about climate change in their curriculum.
Some universities have sustainability offices where students and educators can learn about sustainable curriculum, upcoming events, student groups, and volunteer and employment opportunities. Through a sustainability office, you can learn about your university’s progress on sustainability initiatives on and around campus. There may be a sustainability plan on your campus that your students would be interested to hear about. Your university may also be associated with the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) and report for their STARS sustainability tracking system. You can learn more about sustainability in higher education with AASHE webinars.
- To find information about sustainability on your campus, look for your university report here. These reports include lists of sustainability course offerings, campus programs and clubs, current emissions, sustainability plans, and more.
- If your school is not a STARS reporter, you can get started by registering your school.
Whether you can or cannot vote yet, you can help to engage your community (school, town, etc.) in conversation around understanding the causes and impacts of climate change, and the ways your community could start to collectively transition to a more sustainable system.
If you participated in a World Climate event and used the U.S. Climate Alliance group, then you would have learned how important of a role individual American cities and states have when it comes to combating climate change. Many states and cities have their own climate action plans and sustainability offices that want to engage the local community. Look to resources like We Are Still In and Climate Mayors to see how leaders across the country are planning low-carbon transitions.
A quick online search for your city or state’s climate initiatives can provide invaluable information and resources, as well.
Check these links to see if your city, state, or region has a climate plan:
If your community does not have a designated climate plan, don’t worry, you’re not alone. You can research plans in similar types of communities to see what is viable action for your town. You can also focus on national and even international action: every year more elected representatives are talking about climate change and sustainability.
There are many national initiatives and organizations that are dedicated to climate action. Many of these initiatives are focused on involving young people in their work and offer volunteer and public action opportunities for students across the country..
- Sunrise Movement is a movement of ordinary young people looking to stop climate change and create millions of good jobs in the process.
- iMatter : Designed by young people, for young people: addressing the climate emergency by doing something real.
- Green For All : Founded by Van Jones, Green For All advances solutions that bring clean energy, green jobs, and opportunities to the poorest, and most polluted communities in the country.
- Our Climate mobilizes and empowers young people to educate the public and elected officials about science-based, equitable climate policy solutions that build a livable world.
- SustainUS is a youth-led organization advancing justice and sustainability by empowering young people to engage in advocacy at the domestic and international levels.
- Alliance for Climate Education aims to educate young people on the science of climate change and empower them to take action.
- 350.org uses online campaigns, grassroots organizing, and mass public actions to build 100% clean energy solutions that work for all.
- RepublicEN is educating the country about free-enterprise solutions to climate change. Its members are conservatives, libertarians, and pragmatists of diverse political opinion.
- Environmental Health Coalition is dedicated to achieving environmental and social justice, believing that justice is accomplished by empowered communities acting together to make social change.
- National Association of Black Geoscientists is an organization dedicated to inform, financially support, and connect students to geoscience careers and entrepreneurial pursuits. (Annual conference September 4-7, 2019 – Fayetteville, Arkansas)
- Green 2.0 is an initiative dedicated to increasing racial diversity across mainstream environmental NGOs, foundations and government agencies.
Your local community can offer opportunities to be connected with green jobs or green volunteer work. From bike share programs and community gardens, to solar panel installation and wind farms: every year there are more and more green programs and opportunities across the country. Look in your community for a green professional who is willing to be a guest speaker. You can find your local chapter of an environmental activist group such as the Sierra Club or a green building project such as with Habitat for Humanity. Search on Idealist.org for local career and volunteer opportunities. You may want to apply to work with a program like GreenCorps to get hands-on training on environmental organizing.
Sustainability approaches in communities around the country are as diverse as America itself. Don’t be discouraged if you do not live in a city with climate action plans. There are many aspects to sustainability so you can focus on areas like sustainable farming, energy efficiency, water quality, renewable energy production, or recycling.
Here are some examples of STEM/green jobs and industries that you can find in your community:
- Sustainable agriculture and forestry
- Land restoration and conservation
- Urban growers
- City/green infrastructure planner
- Solar energy engineers, installers
- Wind energy engineers, wind turbine technicians
- Geothermal technicians
- Wave energy producers
- Recycling and reclamation workers
- Energy auditors
- Energy efficiency (electrical engineers, mechanical engineers, insulation, weatherization installers, heating and air conditioning mechanics)
- Water quality technicians
- Green builders and green design professionals
- Park Ranger, Naturalist educator
- Green NGOs
Many religious denominations are urging concern over climate change and taking action. You may find that faith-based groups within your community offer a way to get involved with combating climate change. You may even be motivated to run a World Climate simulation session for your religious community to share your knowledge and understanding.
- National Climate Assessment – The National Climate Assessment summarizes the impacts of climate change on the United States, now and in the future. A team of more than 300 experts guided by a 60-member Federal Advisory Committee produced the report, which was extensively reviewed by the public and experts, including federal agencies and a panel of the National Academy of Sciences.
- Climate Central – Climate Central is an independent organization of leading scientists and journalists researching and reporting the facts about our changing climate and its impact on the public. Their website is full of interactive maps about climate impacts (including sea level rise) as well as graphs, graphics, video shorts, reports and more.
- Our Climate Our Future – Produced by the Alliance for Climate Education and designed specifically for high school and college students, Our Climate Our Future walks you through the science, impacts, justice-implications and solutions to climate change in a series of engaging and accessible video shorts.
- Years of Living Dangerously – Years of Living Dangerously is an Emmy Award winning documentary TV series focused on climate change that airs on Showtime and the National Geographic Channel. Each episode features a celebrity correspond (ex: Matt Damon) that explores an aspect of the science, politics, impacts and solutions to climate change around the globe.
- Earth: The Operators’ Manual – This 60 minute PBS documentary hosted by world renowned climate scientist Richard Alley walks viewers through the science and solutions of climate change in a fun, accessible and easy-to-understand way.