On Thursday, January 25th, 2018 the Ross Valley School District Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent, and Board of Trustees spoke up for climate action to protect current and future students when they passed Resolution #07-17-18 "In the Matter of Climate Change." Thank you for our courageous and compassionate leadership.
I want to highlight three things about this inspiring act:
1. Resonance: This is essentially the same resolution at the Sebastopol Union School District's climate change resolution. The resonance between the two resolutions amplifies the signal they send and maximizes the public will they help build. Both school districts are coherent and aligned on this matter.
2. Self-Organizing: From the perspective of an outsider/advocate, the passage of this resolution was essentially spontaneous. There was no organizing effort to get this resolution passed. The proximal cause was an email from a former student to the Superintendent. This suggests that there is a latent, built-up desire on the part of educators, educational leaders, and educational institutions to speak publicly about climate change. For many of us, as adults who have chosen careers nurturing the younger generations, a cry of grief gets stuck in our chests when we observe the trendlines in our socio-ecosystem. Some of us are are distraught by the lack of public will to deal collectively or truthfully with the climate burden our generation has put on the backs of younger and future generations. As educators and educational leaders, we are eager for the opportunity this resolution provides to state publicly and in an organized way the truth we often bear privately. Silence on the need for climate action undermines the institutional coherence of schools and school districts. Speaking up for climate action strengthens schools as institutions.
3. Positive Feedback Loop: The threshold for action lowers each time a school district steps forward and speaks up for climate action. News of this resolution activated individuals or teams in at least 6 other school communities to take action and begin working towards school board climate action resolutions in their own districts. The Ross Valley example suggests there are probably additional efforts in districts we are not yet aware of.
Thanks again, Ross Valley School District.
Please keep spreading the word. We think there are at least 50,000 school board members who would gladly pass a similar resolution. They just may not have heard of the important precedent set by the Sebastopol Union and Ross Valley school districts.
Kai, Lola, and I gave a presentation at the CCL NorCal Conference in Menlo Park. Here is a link to our slide deck. We didn't make it through all of the slides in the presentation. Empowering Your Local School Board to Speak Up for Climate Action.
We just had our 6th monthly meeting and momentum is building on our local effort to empower school boards (and teacher's unions, student, councils, and PTA's) to speak up for climate action to protect current and future students.
5 new school stakeholders joined us for the first time including:
-a local non-profit leader who supports networks of teachers interested in sustainability (Solar Schoolhouse)
-a senior and One Planet leader from CREDO high school
-a CCL member and retired educator in the Santa Rosa city school district
-a parent of 2 youth in the West Sonoma Union High School District
-an elementary teacher in the Oak Grove School District
Together, we are creating opportunities for youth to empower adult elected leaders to speak up for climate action in a way that can generate public will for science-based climate policies.
Donnella Meadows, one of the founders of complex-systems theory, says that the 2nd most powerful lever for changing complex systems (like our socio-ecosystem) is to change paradigms. The act of youth empowering adults creates a paradigm shift. Youth can empower adults to speak publicly their common (but in most public contexts, private and unspoken) belief that climate change is a children's justice issue and that the adults in our society should take action to address it. This simple dynamic of youth empowering adults to speak publicly the climate truths they hold privately creates a paradigm shift.
If we can replicate this dynamic---youth empowering adult leaders---in just a percent of the 14,000 school districts across the country, it could generate significant public will for science-based climate policies.
If you are a school stakeholder (community member, student, parent, teacher, school staff, school board member) please help this effort snowball. Like this page, post, and reach out to your school contacts and the school board members your community has elected. Every individual school board member and every school board that speaks up publicly makes it that much easier for subsequent school board members and school leaders to speak up publicly. Speaking up for climate action to protect children could become a norm and would resonate very well with schools as institutions. This effort can snowball.
All school boards need to do is state that "Climate change is a children's issue" and encourage "all elected leaders to speak up for and take climate action in order to protect our current and future students". These are not political or partisan statements. This are simply conclusions that follows logically from scientific observation of our socio-ecosystem combined with the most deeply held, foundational values of our schools (that adults should protect children and create the conditions for future their success). Institutional silence on the need for climate action can undermine school institutional coherence.
Thanks to everyone who participated in the webinar tonight.
Here's a link to the slides:
Empowering Local School Boards to Speak Up for ...
Here's a link to the recording:
Schools for Climate Action Webinar 1.11.18
We are planning to do monthly follow-up ZoomMeetings to support teams and gather information on how this effort is working in other districts. We will do a blog post when we schedule February's meeting.
Kai Guthrie is a ninth grade student at Credo High in Rohnert Park, a Citizens' Climate Lobby volunteer, and one of the founders of Schools for Climate Action campaign.