Let's empower the next generation of Ontarians to think critically about climate change. Let's give them a place to have their thoughts heard. Let's give them a project that fully embraces their individuality and creativity.
The Climate Change and You program started with a question: “What can a graduate student do in the real world, with real people, to alleviate the fundamental problems of poverty, prejudice, and climate change?”
The answer is, of course, not trivial. The question lead to debate, lead to more questions, lead to more non-trivial answers. And so, the question narrowed. The problems of poverty and prejudice must be challenged every day, in every way, in every decision we make. But the onus of leadership cannot be taken on by a graduate student. Or put more appropriately: the people who take the reigns of leadership on these issues must be special in their own ways, in ways that don’t rely on their being a graduate student, full of technical expertise and scientific understanding of physical phenomena. The fight against poverty and prejudice belongs to everyone, and leaders are required, but it is not necessarily a graduate student’s place to plant the flag at the forefront of these fights.
Climate change, however, demands the leadership of academics: of scientists, technologists, and engineers who have committed their entire careers to understanding our planet.
But it is folly to think that academics can solve the problem by pursuing research. We can help define the scientific truth of the thing, the outcomes and causes and impacts, and we can help identify potential pathways to success, noting beneficial changes to our economy or ways we can live to minimize the impact of humanity on the environment, but we cannot on our own initiate and move forward on solutions. To solve the problem of climate change, we need to reach out beyond our academic circles, break down the walls of our scientific expertise, and get people involved.
People! The everyday citizens who live life and do not have time to ponder climate change solutions. The mother working two jobs to support her children. The couple fighting each month to get their mortgage payment in order. The part-time worker looking to get an extra shift. The young graduate looking for a job. The tired adult dreaming about their next vacation. The frustrated rural resident tired of bureaucracy which supports dense population centres while leaving their home to whither away. The child so full of promise who will soon have to worry about all these things. If we cannot get people to care, then we cannot expect our government and our institutions to prioritize the fight against climate change. If we cannot convince people to fight against climate change, then all our research, all our insight, is of much less value than we imagine. We have a duty to try and raise awareness about this issue, to try and get people to care. And this is the heart of the Climate Change and You program.