Climate education and literacy for sustainable futures
Earth Day 2023
21 April 2023
View of the Earth as seen by the Apollo 17 crew
“Providing environmental and climate education with a strong civic engagement component will provide students with the skills to enter a growing green workforce, and the know-how to advocate for policies and practices that will keep them healthy, safe, and prosperous.
Ensuring equitable access to education, public health and safety are critical elements of climate change solutions.”
A key focus area for Earth Day this year is climate education and literacy – making environmental and climate education accessible to all for a more sustainable future.
Here at the Hub, we are committed to ensuring all actors have a voice and are represented, not just within the reach of our own research, but outside of and beyond the Hub. Education is key to this – “Environmental and climate education are innately tied to environmental and climate justice.”
In each of our Collaboratories we are working with partners to provide opportunities for local communities and residents to co-create and inform our work, deepen their understanding of water security and the environment, develop scientific skills, and engage in debates and have their voices heard on global issues.
Water and food security in Colombia
Over four months, our Colombian Collaboratory delivered a diploma course for rural communities living in the municipalities of Popayán, Totoró, Silvia, and Cajibió, focusing on water security and food security in the Upper Cauca River Basin (UCRB).
Through four modules - Governance, Planning, Food Security and Water Security - participants explored tools that aid water management and food production in their territories, and together with the Hub team co-created strategies to improve water and food security in the region.
The closing ceremony of the course brought together all 150 participants for a day of knowledge exchange, cultural dances, and a trade fair of agricultural and artisanal products.
Doris Canencio, a course participant from the Ampiul indigenous community, said: “It felt like I was among family, meeting interesting people in sharing. It was much clearer to me what is the defence of water, and our food as an important part, as medicine and wisdom. We shared a lot among the different indigenous peoples. It allowed a union between our three communities in Silvia: Misak, Kishú and Ampiul, those of us who have and steward water, who have to defend it and be there, and create water policies”.
Darío Hurtado, a campesino community member from Cajibío, said: “It was a very special experience, especially because we were able to meet with community participation. The professors who accompanied us gave us the space and autonomy to be able to engage from our experiences and our knowledge of the field, they guided us little by little towards more technical definitions. Few workshops are given in this way, from the knowledge and experiences of the farmer.”
School environmental clubs in Ethiopia
Our Ethiopian team are engaging school pupils in climate change and water security research. Hub partners, IWMI, have already established extracurricular water clubs at four schools in the Akaki catchment, and are planning to form more with additional schools across the region. The aims of the programme are to raise awareness and increase understanding of water security and support local communities in finding solutions to water-related issues they experience. The water club participants are taking the lead and forming the programme with support from Hub colleagues at IWMI. So far, they have visited the Legedadi water treatment plant and heard directly from staff at Addis Ababa Water and Sewerage Authority (AAWSA), held public speaking events, and explored topics like the importance of saving water through creative sessions. To celebrate World Water Day this year the school clubs came together to share interesting water-related facts from around the world, and why observing the day both internationally and within their schools and communities is important.
Our WLRC team is using the miniSASS tool to assess the health of rivers in the Akaki catchment, and Hub researchers are collaborating with four local schools to establish extracurricular citizen science clubs to engage young people and school pupils in understanding the importance of healthy river ecosystems. As well as providing opportunities for students with a passion for science, water, and the environment to gain both theoretical training and practical experience and skills, the citizen science programme also helps to increase awareness amongst communities of water-health linkages and fill crucial data gaps across the region. The clubs also provide forums for discussion, meaning young people can directly exchange with researchers and provide their input into the Hub’s work.
The Water Security Hub’s 'Kids Action Thru Science' (KATS) project has been expanded to New Delhi, India. With a population of over 20 million people, the city suffers from inadequate access to safe water, above average air pollution levels, and drastic changes in weather patterns. Such environmental issues are found to disproportionately affect the capital’s most vulnerable populations and have severe socioeconomic and public health implications. The ‘KATS: India’ programme is empowering the next generation to raise awareness of environmental issues within their communities, and collectively take climate action.
Working with Hub partners the Janya Collective, the KATS project was delivered to children from two urban communities, Nizamuddin and Jagdamba Camp, located along the Barapullah Basin, and the Shiv Nadar School in Noida. This version of the KATS project focussed on exploring relevant environmental issues that impact the children’s communities, such as rising pollution levels and increasing temperatures. Through participation in innovative hands-on activities, the project not only encouraged children to critically think of ways in which they can protect themselves from climate change issues, but empowered them to become citizen scientists, local climate superheroes, and climate change experts within their communities.
The children also explored how climate change is affecting people and animals around the world using Virtual Reality (VR) goggles, forming connections between local and global, and speaking at length about how human activities, such as throwing away plastics, travelling in cars, and burning firecrackers, can have negative consequences on the world around us.
Water Buddy Programme - Malaysia
Hub researchers in Malaysia have developed the Water Buddy Programme, an education initiative that brings together different disciplines and topics to form an accessible, flexible programme that engages school pupils in water security, environmental issues, and climate change. Building on previous activity with local schools, the team is using innovative technology and methods to ensure participants can access programme content and materials anywhere, any time.
Working together with 30 secondary schools located within the Johor River Basin, Hub colleagues are launching the programme this spring. The designed modules cover water cycles, water pollution, water values, climate change, and water consumption, with participants able to access a wealth of prepared information, materials, and online exercises to help them broaden their knowledge and deepen their understanding of water security and their environment. Over 200 students have already signed up to take part, with more expected to join.
The Water Buddy Programme will also include a citizen science project. Participants will be able to develop an understanding of the importance of water quality monitoring and rainfall observation, gaining hands-on experience using water testing kits and rainfall monitoring apps with Hub researchers in their local areas.
The Malaysia team is also designing a future climate change awareness programme, to help primary school children in the Johor River Basin understand the effects and impacts of climate change, and what we can do collectively to help protect our planet.