Climate and Society Alumna Suzie Hicks Teaches Climate Science to Kids of All Ages
When Suzie Hicks was growing up, she believed her interests in media and theater were entirely unrelated to her love of the outside and the environment.
It was only as she got older that she began to see the thread that will bind these topics together.
Hicks’ parents were each ministers who were deeply involved in progressive social movements when she was younger. But like many teenagers, Hicks didn’t draw any parallels between their motivations and her own. “I all the time thought that art and expression was a approach to escape from the hard and scary things on the earth. I assumed it was just a possibility to be loud and fun and avoid all of it. But as I grew older and as I got to varsity, I actually learned that art and expression may be a tremendous conduit to know, navigate, and find solutions to those big and scary problems,” Hicks said.
Now, as a recent graduate of the inaugural class of Columbia Climate School’s M.A. in Climate and Society program, Hicks is finding unique and interesting ways to succeed in audiences through film, music, television, and children’s books—all while combining her not-so-disparate passions.
Within the Q&A below, Hicks discusses her experience within the Climate and Society program, how she’s communicating climate science to “kids of all ages,” and what keeps her motivated.
Why did you choose to enroll within the Climate and Society program?
I made the choice to go to Climate and Society because I come from a non-climate world. My background is in TV, theater, and entertainment.
Growing up, I assumed these fields were completely separate, however the divide between climate and expression got loads smaller for me after I worked on the Recent England Aquarium. Standing in front of a tank for 8 hours a day, telling kids about how climate change is affecting their favorite fish is definitely really powerful because they find this really emotional connection to it after which wish to exit and make a change.
I knew I desired to get super solid on the science of climate change, because if I’m going to be synthesizing it right down to something that youngsters—and adults—can understand, and that they will form healthy emotional relationships with, I have to be communicating it effectively and accurately. I had been doing a lot research by myself, tuning into webinars, going to protests. But I knew I desired to move my profession forward as a climate communicator, especially in media, and there weren’t plenty of programs on the market that didn’t already require an undergrad in science or a background in research.
I used to be working at PBS SoCal on the time, so I used to be doing science, but it surely was explaining the engineering design process for 8-year-olds or finding local bugs in your neighborhood. It wasn’t high-level atmospheric physics. So finding Climate and Society was a very cool opportunity since it gave the look of the one program that truly valued the interdisciplinary approaches to climate education and located value in diverse industries moderately than focusing only on scientists.
Do you’re feeling such as you got here away with the knowledge you were in search of? What was the final result of this system for you?
I feel so rather more confident in my role in addressing climate change—and that got here each from the classes on atmospheric physics and quantitative modeling but in addition from the cohort and folks in and around this system. I learned that there are so many alternative ways to be involved in climate work that I didn’t even know. Sitting next to fashion designers, business people, politicians, and GIS mappers who all have skills that I couldn’t even dream of but who’re all working within the climate space. It was very cool to see that we’re constructing the paradigm shift that folks have been yelling about for the last 20 years.
Can you talk somewhat bit in regards to the projects you’re working on straight away and what your goals are?
Fundamentally, I’m a kids’ media creator that talks about climate. Straight away I even have a kids’ show called The Climate Chick that I shot and produced, and I’m now touring around to festivals. We just won the Visionary Film Award on the Portland EcoFilm Festival. The pinnacle of the festival said he watches ecological movies on a regular basis and ours was the primary to make him cry, but not because ours is gloomy or depressing. It’s since the principal themes of the show are togetherness and belonging. Obviously we discuss climate science, but really we talk in regards to the social emotional implications of climate change on a child because they did nothing to cause it. It’s really scary to be living in a world that’s changing due to actions of others, but there are already so many things happening which are good. All it takes is plugging everyone into those solutions. I’m sending that pilot across the festival circuit straight away and pitching it to different networks to see if anyone is interested by making it a TV show.
I’m also doing plenty of speaking at different organizations. I currently work at EarthEcho International, where I do plenty of youth movement constructing. I’m speaking at a panel on climate storytelling this month, then I’m coming back to Columbia to show as a part of the Strategic Communications for Climate Change class in March. In April, I’m going to Portland to do a creativity and social change workshop. I’m also a kids’ writer, so I even have a book all about friendship and plastic pollution within the ocean.
Straight away, I’m hoping to get funding for future projects. I’m ideating on a kids’ podcast or a kids’ play or musical. I’m really excited and I hope that it becomes more widely acknowledged that youngsters’ media is a great conduit for conversations about climate change, and I hope to be someone that pushes it further into the limelight.
Are there media or shows which have inspired you or that you have got used as models?
I’m a student of Mister Rogers, Steve Irwin, Bill Nye the Science Guy, and Hayao Miyazaki within the ways in which they tell stories which are fun and exciting and make kids feel like they’re a part of something. I’m taking those pedagogical approaches that those iconic kids’ media figures have shown us and applying them to this great existential crisis.
Fred Rogers talked about assassination, divorce, and the things that adults don’t wish to discuss. And climate change is a thing that adults don’t wish to discuss with their kids about. So if I may be the individual that creates a very healthy intervention point that provides kids the tools they need to know this information and the avenues to create solutions and advocate for a greater future, that will be awesome.
Climate education for teenagers will not be being massively produced for the general public, but there are people like me who don’t have an enormous platform who’re doing the work. So it’s only a waiting game until all of it involves the world.
Have you received much pushback or do you end up up against parents or individuals who don’t wish to discuss with kids about these topics?
It depends upon the audience that I’m talking to. Nearly all of the people I engage with agree that we want to give you the option to discuss this. But there are a few barriers to it. First, because fossil fuels are embedded in plenty of funding, finding places that can allow you to discuss how climate change is being accelerated by fossil fuels is tough.
The following barrier is the argument that youngsters aren’t able to see or understand this massive problem. However the thing is, kids are already seeing it. By not talking about it, we’re not protecting them because climate impacts are happening all over the place. The news shows catastrophic climate destruction on a regular basis. Social media exists and folks there are talking about climate change, but is it in a way that’s healthy? No. If kids are already being exposed to it in these unhealthy ways, it’s necessary for us to point out them the healthy ways to interact.
Sometimes my content migrates to the fallacious side of the web, and I’m faced with climate deniers who say that I’m brainwashing kids. But I’m not likely too concerned with convincing the small minority that isn’t convinced. I’m more concerned with mobilizing the large majority who’re who’re concerned and able to take motion.
Do you have got any memorable words of recommendation or lessons you’d prefer to share?
You may’t do it alone. Community is massively necessary. I even have been helped by so many individuals and mentors who’ve told me to maintain going. So in the event you are struggling and you’re feeling prefer it’s all in your shoulders, it’s not. There are people all over the place which are willing to aid you, and I’m blissful to be considered one of them too.
I feel communicating climate change is de facto hard, but it surely’s something that’s totally worthwhile because, at its bare essence, it’s a giant problem that we’ve got to unravel. And children are very aware of big problems that we’ve got to unravel, and so are adults. Because we’re all inherently problem solvers, I trust that we are able to construct future generations which are going to unravel this problem.
A very important thing about talking about climate change with kids is a way of belonging. There are as many solutions as there are people and places on this planet. So I hope that through any communication that I do or any communication that a child receives about climate change, it shows that they is usually a a part of the answer as much as we’re told that we’re a part of the issue.