Community-Scale Climate Change Policy Inquiry: Experiential Environmental Education at the University of Redlands

Dr. Shellie Zias-Roe , Environmental Studies Department, Brendhan Morris - BS Environmental Science 2021, Hannah Thurlow - BS Environmental Science 2022, Skylar Crawford - BS Environmental Science 2022.

A global effort to combat climate change was championed in December 2015, when Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) signed the Paris Agreement. Undergraduate students studying environmental science at the University of Redlands lamented the 45th President of the U.S. decision to withdraw from the Paris Accord. In an effort to instill a resilient mindset, an experiential course was created to investigate and develop a framework centered around how communities in the United States think globally and act locally about climate change. Ten students enrolled in the Resilient Cities: Planning for Climate Change seminar that launched an experiential educational endeavor to assess economic, environmental, and social vulnerabilities as a result of climate change. Students considered local planning efforts through community-scale climate action or adaption plans, economic, environmental, and social capital benefits and threats in the initial phase of discovery. Through further distillation of issues, students critically constructed economic topics such as diversified income streams and livelihoods, housing stock, personal economic security, and education levels. Their environmental examination considered foci such as greenhouse gas inventories, reduction plans and goals, biodiversity, restoration of hydrologic flows, and agricultural yields. By analyzing social equity, students were able to explore the multiple services communities can provide, cultural resilience, gentrification, citizen empowerment, youth involvement and leadership, out-migration of youth, and vulnerable people. By the end of the semester, students gained critical knowledge regarding alternative responses to climate change by engaging in real-world policy analysis, while acquiring professional development skills and developing a resilient mindset.