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Difficult Subjects: Community of Practice on Climate Justice

Difficult Subjects: Community of Practice on Climate Justice

Community of Practice Curriculum

According to the Sixth Assessment Report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, climate change is unequivocally caused by human activities. Impacts of climate change vary by extent and location worldwide, but one fact is clear: climate change is disproportionately affecting low-income families and communities that are predominantly Black, Indigenous and People of Color.

Human-driven causes call for human-driven solutions, and achieving a climate-resilient future requires equitable practices. Future generations will be faced with increased climate-driven hardships and are equal participants in accomplishing global climate goals. As such, students and teachers need to understand the effects of climate change at home and in their local communities, while also equipping themselves with tools build a sustainable and equitable future. This Difficult Subjects Community of Practice aims to provide the facts, solutions and resources to do just that.

Wrapping our minds around climate change and its impacts is a daunting task for researchers, politicians, educators and spiritual leaders, as well as family and community members. We are all affected by climate change, but it will impact some people more than others, each in a unique constellation of ways. This session will introduce climate change, its impacts and how we can navigate conversations about this difficult topic with each other and within ourselves.  

Extreme rainfall events affect all corners of the United States, but the frequency and severity of these events has already increased and is expected to continue. Collective actions we take as communities and individual actions we take as homeowners and organization leaders play a role in determining our resilience to heavy-rainfall events. This session will explore how stormwater and flooding are emerging concerns for Central Ohio and what resources are available to address the issue through both infrastructure and behaviors.  

According to Project Drawdown, alternative transportation, when used for around 30 percent of urban passenger trips, could offset up to 15 gigatons of carbon dioxide emitted from cars. Central Ohio has some alternative transportation infrastructure in place, but is there room for improvement? This session will explore the transportation resources available to Central Ohioans, gaps in transportation availability, co-benefits that might not be obvious, and what the future of mobility looks like for the region. 

Green lawns are being replaced with native plants, perennials, rain gardens and pollinator-friendly landscapes in a growing movement to support local ecology and food systems. Ohio is home to almost 1,900 native plants that provide benefits including food sources for wildlife and people, stormwater control, natural cooling and beauty. This session will cover the environmental, economic and cultural benefits of gardening.  

It’s no secret that climate change is making things hotter! Urban neighborhoods with extensive pavement, dark roofs and few trees feel the greatest impacts in the summer and during heat waves. These same neighborhoods are often more socially vulnerable and lower-income with older, less-energy efficient housing. This session will cover the Urban Heat Island effect and how to stay cool when the weather gets hot. 

This final session will revisit the topics of the previous sessions with an immersive experience in the Franklinton neighborhood of Columbus. Franklinton is a neighborhood of contrasts: an early settlement a short distance from the state capitol that has been ravaged by floods and historic underinvestment but is now experiencing renewed interest by outsiders while simultaneously working to meet the needs of long-term residents. Visit local organizations to learn about on-the-ground impacts as well as mitigation and adaptation strategies for climate change in Central Ohio. You will hear from a diverse array of researchers, practitioners and residents. 

Human-driven causes call for human-driven solutions, and achieving a climate-resilient future requires equitable practices.

About the facilitators

Photograph of man speaking into a microphone in a studio

Jason Cervenec is the education and outreach director for the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center at The Ohio State University. The diverse outreach portfolio of the Center reaches approximately 12,000 individuals annually and includes programs in cutting-edge science, science education, history and the arts. The most common request for information that he receives from the public is on climate change. Cervenec earned a BS in biology and an M.Ed. in secondary science education from Ohio State. He began his career as a high school science teacher, where he taught for more than a decade. During that time, he established two Science Olympiad teams and served as a lead instructor on an Ohio Board of Regents grant to train teachers in modeling instruction. In 2010, Cervenec took part in a Fulbright Teacher Exchange in Mumbai, India, and leads the Columbus Climate Change Action Plan Task Force and volunteers with Franklin County’s Restorative Justice Circles.

Photograph of woman's face, wearing sunglasses, standing outside with ocean in back

Karina Peggau is the education outreach program coordinator at the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center at The Ohio State University. Her work primarily consists of event planning, managing program and outreach requests, advancing diversity in STEM and facilitating day-to-day operations at the Byrd Center. Peggau is currently involved in one NSF-funded research project in polar literacy and has authored or co-authored several publications and presentations in polar and geosciences education. Peggau earned a BS in earth science at Ohio State, specializing in geology, water resource management, and climate science. She is currently working toward a master’s degree in city and regional planning with an emphasis on sustainable development.