Means&Matters
Stories of Money and sustainability

Educating Our Way Out of the Climate Crisis

BY Julia Jackson as told to Lola Méndez

Jul 6th 2021

My father died of cancer. In my grief, I turned to education to better understand his disease. I learned about the connections between environmental degradation and the Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that took his life. But rather than finding solace in my research, I found a new sense of despair: environmental damage threatens us all.

Grief was my gateway to environmental activism. Just as I sought answers to my father’s illness, now I seek answers to the climate crisis—real solutions—through my organization Grounded.

I founded Grounded because information and education are climate change solutions. Just 59 percent of Americans think the effects of climate change have already begun—a number that has remained virtually unchanged since 2016. In an all-hands battle like climate change, we need everyone to know more and do more.

Climate education became the antidote to my despair.

Climate education became the antidote to my despair. Action-oriented education inspires, directs, invigorates, and empowers. And it will be central to the content we produce in our Climate Academy, all focused on solutions. Here’s why climate education is so important and how we at Grounded and others are leveraging it to make a difference in the world.

It Helps Achieve Outcomes

Grounded convenes climate solutionists—people who have developed actionable tools to reverse the climate crisis—who deserve a platform and support. That support includes, for example, grants to organizations that support Indigenous communities, legal protection of the Earth, and scientific frameworks that are committed to keeping global warming under 1.5°C. Our inaugural summit in 2019 was in-person, but for 2021, we’re bringing the summit experience online through our Climate Academy, an educational experience aimed at achieving positive outcomes for the planet. The Climate Academy is a digital content and event series that will include films, live panels, breakout rooms, and digital networking that will amplify solutions to reverse the climate crisis and the innovators behind them.

We’re also building an interactive community online for summit attendees and presenters. This digital platform will be a place where all members can cross-pollinate ideas about major carbon sinks, regenerative agriculture, permafrost, food waste, renewable energy, Indigenous knowledge, or other key Grounded topics. We want people to be educated about the environment and be a part of a community dedicated to turning the climate crisis around.

Through Climate Academy, Grounded will provide education and resources for people to take systemic and individual action and guide them to organizations that need support to do this important work. With these tools, our goal is to educate as many people as possible to ensure climate action.

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A Grounded trailer for a film on permafrost—one example of the content that will be available through Grounded’s Climate Academy.

It Can Help Close the Climate Funding Gap

The biggest existential issue of our time is the climate crisis, yet, as of 2017, just three percent of philanthropic giving went to the environment. If we don’t have our planet, no other philanthropy matters. Fortunately, many solutions already exist—and they just need to be funded.

Education is a part of the path to closing the climate funding gap. Individuals can learn how to shift their giving toward systemic change. But one of the most powerful ways individuals can help fund climate action is by influencing those with the power to make major investments: governments and corporations.

Accessible education is critical to reversing the climate crisis.

Supporting and voting for environmentally responsible lawmakers is critical. It’s also important for people to bank, invest, and shop with environmentally conscious companies to strengthen the market for corporate climate action. As more people become climate-educated, the pressure to channel funds to the right businesses, organizations, and actions increases.

It Helps Us Tackle a Complex Problem

Climate change is a huge, complex, nuanced problem. Targeted education organizations help empower different groups to address specific aspects of the challenge. This way, collectively, we can make progress on multiple fronts. Accessible education is critical to reversing the climate crisis.

Here are some of my favorite environmental education programs:

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  1. Climate Solutions 101 by Project Drawdown is a free six-unit video series focusing on current science and insights from climate solutionists. Project Drawdown aims to teach people how to stop catastrophic climate change quickly, safely, and equitably.

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  3. EdX offers an array of free college courses focusing on climate change and sustainability. Take a Harvard class on the health effects of climate change or a Smithsonian course about climate change communication.

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  5. Alice Waters’ Edible Education has a series of free lectures online, including talks on the intersection of food systems and climate change. There are climate lectures from Al Gore, on sustainable agriculture, and more.

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  7. Alliance for Climate Education’s Our Climate Our Future program focuses on providing climate education for young students. Three million students to date have used the resource to learn about climate science and solutions.

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  9. The Education and the Environment Initiative by the California Environmental Protection Agency and CalRecycle created a climate curriculum for K-12 kids. The coursework covers environmental education topics such as climate change.

It Helps Overcome Eco-anxiety

When I first dove into my climate change education, I found myself grieving the dying Earth along with my father. A few years ago, when I learned that only two countries were on track to hit 1.5 degrees Celsius—Morocco and Gambia—I sank even deeper into despair. I developed eco-anxiety, which results for some people in feelings of loss, helplessness, and frustration. It’s a more common phenomenon than many know, explored beautifully in All We Can Save, a climate change anthology written by women activists.

Worrying about the environmental crisis propelled me into climate activism, which helped ease my sorrow and allowed me to feel hopeful about the future of our planet. Eco-anxiety can lead to burnout and inaction. Environmental education is the antidote to eco-anxiety and inaction. It inspires both action and giving.

Through my research, I learned about solutionists working on ways to reverse or mitigate climate change and its effects. Many know how to scale their solutions but lack the funding and support to do it. Learning about their efforts empowered me to create Grounded to champion unsung climate heroes. Their work gave me a sense of control and optimism, which helped curb my eco-anxiety.

We all have so much more to learn about the climate crisis and the available solutions. Climate education helps reduce eco-anxiety by empowering us with knowledge. It allows individuals to understand their role and what they can do with their time, money, and actions to make a difference. I encourage you to learn more about climate solutions and take action by visiting Grounded.org.

We all must get involved to reverse the climate crisis. I believe that with a united front, we can avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis and live together on a planet that is no longer dying, but thriving.

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