Youth climate activists say community helps with mental health strain

Read the full story from Teen Vogue.

It makes sense that the stakes feel so high for young climate activists. Climate activism centers on an existential crisis — the end of the world as we know it. But these same activists are also human. All that pressure can test the limits of their mental health. And when that happens, they turn to the people who can understand what they’re going through — their peers who are going through the very same thing.

‘Too many people, not enough food’ isn’t the cause of hunger and food insecurity

A wheat warehouse in western Ukraine. Food insecurity is expected to worsen with rising food prices and the war trapping wheat, barley and corn in Ukraine and Russia. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

by Gisèle Yasmeen, University of British Columbia

Nearly one in three people in the world did not have access to enough food in 2020. That’s an increase of almost 320 million people in one year and it’s expected to get worse with rising food prices and the war trapping wheat, barley and corn in Ukraine and Russia.

Climate change related floods, fires and extreme weather, combined with armed conflict and a worldwide pandemic have magnified this crisis by affecting the right to food.

Many assume world hunger is due to “too many people, not enough food.” This trope has persisted since the 18th century when economist Thomas Malthus postulated that the human population would eventually exceed the planet’s carrying capacity. This belief moves us away from addressing the root causes of hunger and malnutrition.

In fact, inequity and armed conflict play a larger role. The world’s hungry are disproportionately located in Africa and Asia, in conflict-ridden zones.

As a researcher who has been working on food systems since 1991, I believe that addressing root causes is the only way to tackle hunger and malnutrition. For this, we need more equitable distribution of land, water and income, as well as investments in sustainable diets and peace-building.

But how will we feed the world?

The world produces enough food to provide every man, woman and child with more than 2,300 kilocalories per day, which is more than sufficient. However, poverty and inequality — structured by class, gender, race and the impact of colonialism — have resulted in an unequal access to the Earth’s bounty.

A map of the world with the level of access to food emphasized with different shades of blue
Despite adequate food production globally, poverty and inequality restrict many people’s access to healthy food. (FAO, The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2020), CC BY

Half of global crop production consists of sugar cane, maize, wheat and rice — a great deal of which is used for sweeteners and other high-calorie, low-nutrient products, as feed for industrially produced meat, biofuels and vegetable oil.

The global food system is controlled by a handful of transnational corporations that produce highly processed foods, containing sugar, salt, fat and artificial colours or preservatives. Overconsumption of these foods is killing people around the world and taxing healthcare costs.

Nutrition experts say that we should limit sugars, saturated and trans fats, oils and simple carbohydrates and eat an abundance of fruits and vegetables with only a quarter of our plates consisting of protein and dairy. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change also recommends a move toward sustainable healthy diets.

A recent study showed that overconsumption of highly processed foods — soft drinks, snacks, breakfast cereals, packaged soups and confectionery items — can lead to negative environmental and health impacts, such as Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disorders.

Steering the world away from highly processed foods will also lessen their negative impacts on land, water and reduce energy consumption.

A stretch of land on a green mountainous terrain with a handful of wooden homes.
Land reform initiatives in Madagascar have helped further plans to redistribute land and reduce food insecurity. (Shutterstock)

We live in a world of plenty

Since the 1960s, global agricultural production has outpaced population growth. Yet the Malthusian theory continues to focus on the risk of population increases outstripping the Earth’s carrying capacity, even though global population is peaking.

Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen’s study of the Great Bengal Famine of 1943 challenged Malthus by demonstrating that millions died of hunger because they didn’t have the money to buy food, not due to food shortages.

In 1970, Danish economist Ester Boserup also questioned Malthus’s assumptions. She argued that rising incomes, women’s equality and urbanization would ultimately stem the tide of population growth, with the birthrate, even in poor countries, dropping to at or below replacement levels.

Food — like water — is an entitlement, and public policy should stem from this. Unfortunately, land and income remain highly unevenly distributed, resulting in food insecurity, even in wealthy countries. While land redistribution is notoriously difficult, some land reform initiatives — like the one in Madagascar — have been successful.

The role of war in hunger

Hunger is aggravated by armed conflict. The countries with the highest rates of food insecurity have been ravaged by war, such as Somalia. More than half of the people who are undernourished and almost 80 percent of children with stunted growth live in countries struggling with some form of conflict, violence or fragility.

Women stand in a queue with empty food containers.
Women queue up to receive food distributed by local volunteers at a camp in Somalia on May 18, 2019. Conflicts hinder the effective delivery of humanitarian aid during food security crisis. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh)

UN Secretary General António Guterres has warned that the war in Ukraine puts 45 African and least developed countries at risk of a “hurricane of hunger,” as they import at least a third of their wheat from Ukraine or Russia. According to the New York Times, the World Food Program has been forced to cut rations to nearly four million people due to higher food prices.

What works, ultimately, are adequate social protection floors (basic social security guarantees) and rights based “food sovereignty” approaches that put communities in control of their own local food systems. For example, the Deccan Development Society in India assists rural women by providing access to nutritious food and other community supports.

To address food insecurity, we must invest in diplomacy by co-ordinating humanitarian, development and peacekeeping activities to avoid and curtail armed conflicts. Poverty reduction is part of peace building as rampant inequalities serve as tinderboxes for aggression.

Protecting our ability to produce food

Climate change and poor environmental management have put collective food production assets including soil, water and pollinators in peril.

Several studies over the past 30 years have warned that soil and water contamination from high concentrations of toxins such as pesticides, dwindling biodiversity and disappearing pollinators could further affect the quality and quantity of food production.

Livestock, crop production, agricultural expansion and food processing account for a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, one-third of all food produced is lost or goes to waste, so tackling this travesty is also paramount.

Reducing food loss and waste will help reduce environmental impacts of the food system, as will transitioning to healthier, sustainably produced diets.

Food, health and environmental sustainability

Food is an entitlement and should be viewed as such, not framed as an issue of population growth or inadequate food production. Poverty and systemic inequalities are the root causes of food insecurity as is armed conflict. Keeping this idea central in discussions about feeding the world is essential.

We need policies that support healthy and sustainably produced, balanced diets to address chronic diet-related disease, environmental issues and climate change.

We need more initiatives that enable equitable distribution of land, water and income globally.

We need policies that address food insecurity through initiatives like rights-based food sovereignty systems.

In areas affected by conflict and war, we need policies that invest in diplomacy by co-ordinating humanitarian, development and peacekeeping activities.

These are the key pathways to recognize that “food is the single strongest lever to optimize human health and environmental sustainability on Earth.”

Gisèle Yasmeen, Senior Fellow, School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, University of British Columbia

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Steps to Designing Justice-Focused Assessments in Science

Download the document.

This resource outlines a nine-step process to help teams develop Framework-aligned assessment tasks in science focused on justice-centered phenomena and scenarios. It builds on the thinking about 3D assessment design from STEM Teaching Tool #29 (from March 2020), but has been significantly revised.

Justice-focused assessments are assessments where students use science knowledge and engineering design practices to solve problems involving matters related to the unequal distribution of consequences (e.g., benefits, harms) to communities that result from human-nature interactions and/or unequal voice of communities in matters affecting their thriving and sustainability. Justice-centered assessments are pertinent when assessing performance expectations that require students to engage in engineering practices, because such practices involve developing and testing solutions that address human needs. In addition, justice-centered assessments engage students with the idea of science as a human endeavor, as called for in the Nature of Science connections of the NGSS.

6 takeaways from the CEQ Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool

Read the full story from the World Resources Institute. ENB covered the release of the tools last month.

To help federal agencies implement the Justice40 Initiative by identifying disadvantaged communities, the White House Council on Environmental Quality released a beta version of its Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool (CEJST) in February 2022. The tool identifies these communities through eight categories of disadvantaged status indices — related to underinvestment in energy, transit, workforce development, housing, water infrastructure and more. And each category has underlying topical indicators depicting different types of environmental, social and economic burdens.

The primary users of CEJST are likely to be federal agencies who will use the tool to direct federal investments in various climate change and clean energy programs to disadvantaged communities. However, the tool can also be used by policymakers in states and cities, industry and community organizations to identify and address areas with environmental justice concerns.  

New WRI analysis reveals insights about the disadvantaged communities the tool hopes to serve.

When it comes to solving for climate change, race and gender matter

diversity

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

We know that the impacts of the climate crisis are not being distributed equally. Whether you’re looking at New Orleans or Nigeria, women — and especially women of color — are disproportionately bearing the consequences of climate-related natural disasters, including migration, food insecurity, job insecurity and violence.

So, it makes sense that when investing in climate solutions we should be paying attention to gender, race and ethnicity, both when it comes to who is deploying capital (on investment and fund management teams, at investment committee level, as individuals), and when it comes to who it is being deployed to (ownership of firms and funds, employees, customer base, who is in the supply chain).

The confining nature of climate change on incarcerated people

Read the full story at Ms. Magazine.

Late last month, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released their sixth assessment report, which examines the impacts and solutions to climate change. It showed that society is not doing enough to mitigate the effects of climate change. From extreme flooding in Florida from Tropical Storm Elsa in July, to the wildfires that ravaged California last year, climate change is being realized in our everyday lives—with no end in sight. In fact, in the next 30 years, the cost of flood damage is expected to rise by 26 percent, according to a recent study. The IPCC report identifies half of the global population as living in highly vulnerable locations.

While these events are terrifying for all, climate-induced catastrophes disproportionately affect people who are incarcerated, as they are physically unable to flee. There are “54 jails, prisons, and detention centers nationwide that hold more than 1,000 people that are above the 95th percentile for wildfire risk,” according to The Intercept. There are also approximately 621 correctional facilities in the U.S. that are posed to major flood risks—even in landlocked states such as Tennessee, Ohio and West Virginia. 

The power to save the planet is inside us all – how to get past despair to powerful action on climate change

Personal action is important. Collective action that encourages systemic change can go even farther. Joe Klamar/AFP via Getty Images

by Thomas S. Bateman, University of Virginia and Michael E Mann, Penn State

Our species is in a race with climate change, and a lot of people want to know, “Can I really make a difference?”

The question concerns what’s known as agency. Its meaning is complex, but in a nutshell it means being able to do what you set out to do and believing you can succeed.

How well people exercise their agency will determine the severity of global warming – and its consequences.

The evidence is clear that people are changing the climate dramatically. But human actions can also affect the climate for the better by reducing fossil fuel burning and carbon emissions. It’s not too late to avert the worst effects of climate change, but time is running out.

Despite abundant technical agency, humanity is alarmingly short of psychological agency: belief in one’s personal ability to help. A 10-country survey study in the Lancet, a British medical journal, found that more than half of young people ages 16-25 feel afraid, sad, anxious, angry, powerless and helpless about climate change.

As professors, we bring complementary perspectives to the challenges of taking action on climate change. Tom Bateman studies psychology and leadership, and Michael Mann is a climate scientist and author of the recent book “The New Climate War.”

Believing ‘I can do this’

Human activities – particularly relying on coal, oil and natural gas for energy – have dramatically affected the climate, with dire consequences.

As greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuel use accumulate in the atmosphere, they warm the planet. Rising global temperatures have fueled worsening heat waves, rising sea levels and more intense storms that become increasingly harder to adapt to. A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change describes some of the dangerous disruptions already underway, and how they are putting people and the environment at risk.

Just like humans can choose to drive gas-guzzlers, they can also choose to act in ways that influence the climate, air quality and public health for the better. Scientific knowledge and countless opportunities for action make that agency possible.

A key part of agency is one’s belief, when faced with a task to perform, a situation to manage, or a long-term goal like protecting the climate, that “I can do this.” It’s known as self-efficacy.

A woman carries a tree to be planted.
A coordinator for a tree-planting non-profit organization participates in an event at a New York high school. John Lamparski/Getty Images

This may be the most important psychological factor in predicting how well people will cope with both climate change and COVID-19, recent online survey data from Europe indicate. People feeling adequate agency are more likely to persevere, rebound from setbacks and perform at high levels.

With climate change, a high sense of self-efficacy strengthens a person’s willingness to reduce carbon emissions (mitigation) and prepare for climate-related disasters (adaptation). Studies confirm this for actions including volunteering, donating, contacting elected officials, saving energy, conserving water during extreme weather, and more.

How to boost your sense of agency

To build agency for something that can feel as daunting as climate change, focus first on the facts. In the case of climate change: Greenhouse gas emissions cause the most harm, and people can help far more than they realize.

Successful agency has four psychological drivers, all of which can be strengthened with practice:

1) Intentionality: “I choose my climate goals and actions for high impact.”

Deciding to act with purpose—knowing what you intend to do–is far more effective than thinking “My heart’s in the right place, I just have to find the time.”

In the big picture, one’s highest climate efficacy is in participating in larger efforts to stop fossil fuel use. People can set specific ambitious goals for reducing personal and household energy use and join others in collective actions.

2) Forethought: “I am looking ahead and thinking strategically about how to proceed.”

Knowing your goals, you can think strategically and develop an action plan. Some plans support relatively simple goals involving individual lifestyle changes, such as adjusting consumption and travel patterns. Wider reaching actions can help change systems – such as long-term activities that advocate for climate-friendly policies and politicians, or against policies that are harmful. These include demonstrations and voter campaigns.

3) Self-regulation: “I can manage myself over time to optimize my efforts and effectiveness.”

Worrying about the future is becoming a lifelong task—off and on for some, constant for others. Climate change will cause disasters and scarcities, disrupt lives and careers, heighten stress and harm public health. Seeing progress and working with others can help relieve stress.

4) Self-reflection: “ I will periodically assess my effectiveness, rethink strategies and tactics, and make necessary adjustments.”

It’s difficult to imagine a greater need for lifelong learning than as we navigate decades of climate change, its many harms and efforts by fossil fuel companies to obscure the facts. Reflection – or, more precisely, keeping up with the latest science, learning and adapting – is vital as the future keeps presenting new challenges.

Personal agency is only the first step

Even seemingly minor first steps can help reduce carbon emissions and lead to paths of greater action, but individual actions are only part of the solution. Big polluters often urge consumers to take small personal actions, which can deflect attention from the need for large-scale policy interventions.

Individual agency should be seen as a gateway for group efforts that can more quickly and effectively change the trajectory of climate change.

“Collective agency” is another form of agency. A critical mass of people can create societal [tipping points] that pressure industry and policymakers to move more quickly, safely and equitably to implement policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

A woman speaks with a U.S. House member with a TV screening showing a hearing name behind them.
Jamie Margolin, founder of the climate activism group This Is Zero Hour, speaks with members of Congress in 2019. Alex Wong/Getty Images

Helping to elect local, state and national officials who support protecting the climate, and influencing investors and leaders of corporations and associations, can also create a sense of agency, known as “proxy agency.”

Together, these efforts can rapidly improve humanity’s capacity to solve problems and head off disasters. Fixing the world’s climate mess requires both urgency and a sense of agency to create the best possible future.

Thomas S. Bateman, Professor Emeritus of Organizational Behavior, University of Virginia and Michael E Mann, Director, Earth System Science Center, Penn State

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Curated list of resources for advancing climate literacy

Read the full story at EEPro.

With the recently published assessment on climate change impacts, adaptation, and vulnerabilities by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), it’s clear climate education will play a critical role in addressing challenges and mobilizing collective support for action. In this curated list, find the resources you need to support and teach solutions-focused climate literacy.

Climate change can worsen health in underserved communities

Read the full story at Environmental Factor.

Climate change and related weather disasters are ongoing threats to health equity in underprivileged communities, according to Robert Bullard, Ph.D., from Texas Southern University.

He was the featured speaker in the fourth installment of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Climate Change and Health Seminar Series, held Feb. 9. The National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) hosted the event. Bullard is an NIEHS and NIMHD grant recipient.

Gender equality, climate and environmental issues take center stage at the United Nations

Read the full story at The 19th.

During the annual Commission on the Status of Women, advocates urged the United States and others responsible for high carbon emissions to pay for its role in the climate crisis.