Columbia’s Earth Networks Offer Collaborative and Progressive Opportunities to Address Climate Change
What do plastic pollution, storytelling, and mental health have in common?
These are all pathways Columbia scholars and students are taking to tackle the climate crisis, from different areas of experience, through the Earth Networks program.
Climate change and related environmental challenges are a messy, “wicked” problem that touches on many points of the way in which we live today: energy, consumption, biodiversity, water, inequality, technology and way more. These intersecting challenges demand diverse and multifaceted approaches, with scholars and practitioners from across Columbia University — and external partners — working together on different pieces of the puzzle.
The Climate School’s Earth Networks program helps to construct any such cross-cutting partnership by encouraging interdisciplinary teams to use for 3 years of funding around a subject of their selecting. Networks promote novel approaches to research, education, and impact in alignment with the Climate School’s mission to “further knowledge and educate leaders to equitably and justly address the changing climate and other sustainability challenges.”
In spring of 2023, the primary cohort of Earth Networks accomplished the three-year program. These 4 networks pursued topics as wide-ranging because the soil that grows our food to distant planets, and have launched a unprecedented range of initiatives:
Spring 2023 also marked the launch of three latest networks.
The Sustainability, Energy, and Entertainment Network (“SEEN”) network, led by M.S. in Sustainability Management alum Shaun Hoyte, goals to create a coalition across entertainment industries to advertise knowledge sharing on best practices for reducing their environmental footprint. The Network will focus initial efforts on the sports industry, and includes members from Columbia Sports Management, Columbia Alumni Affairs and several other external groups.
The Climate Education for a Resilient Future Network will explore climate education within the K-12 sector, with leadership from Dannie Dinh, Radhika Iyengar, and Laurel Zaima-Sheehy. In america, students spend a mean of just two hours per 12 months learning in regards to the climate crisis; network members estimate that figures in lots of other countries should not a lot better. Given this need for stronger climate education for younger learners, this network goals to discover, map, and establish a database of ongoing and lively programs, collaborators, and best practices, in addition to develop products, resources, and tools to support climate learners and educators all over the world.
The third latest network, Foundations for the Social Climate, seeks to speed up understanding of climate mental health as a community phenomenon, create greater social resilience in impacted communities, and produce mental health and social resilience into broader resilience planning. Led by Gary Belkin, this network will connect with the BillionMinds project and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Race to Resilience, bringing Columbia researchers and students from public health, psychology, risk management, and resilience into collaborations around mental health, social resilience, and climate change.
Each of those networks — whether mature or brand latest — have one thing in common. They unite diverse, interdisciplinary teams from across the Columbia community to work together on a shared topic. The Earth Networks program as an entire provides an entry point to the Climate School for collaborators from across the University; each team is provided support from the Climate School Office of Interdisciplinary Engagement, including tailored workshops to develop key skills and to advance projects.
For instance, in 2023 the Healthy and Sustainable Food Systems Network participated in an Office of Interdisciplinary Engagement workshop series led by expert facilitator Kirya Traber. The group identified their core values and goals. They frolicked discussing power dynamics and identifying motion areas in a workshop on “Centering Justice.” That they had several “Radical Collaboration” working sessions to maneuver their project forward, and so they honed their ability to share their work with non-expert audiences in a “Storytelling” workshop.
For more information, please visit the Earth Networks page here. Networks are at all times actively recruiting and growing their contact lists! For those who’re interested, please contact the respective network director, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org