Climate Literacy

In order to effectively move towards climate neutrality, it is important that the entire campus of WPI have a solid understanding of climate change and its various impacts on it. We cannot change any of our emissions if we don’t understand them for what they are. We can calculate the numbers of emissions and follow the guided plan outlined, but in order to make conscious individual changes, there must be a deeper climate literacy promoted. This is not to say climate literacy does not exist on campus, as we know many students and faculty take time to support it, however, we hope to expand and enrich the climate literacy of the campus overall.   

Our team spoke to a variety of stakeholders throughout the length of our project and found that many students have a lot they wish to learn about emissions and climate change, and many believe that WPI should be implementing this as a larger piece of our curriculum. We used what we are now calling “Eco Reps” to gain a student perspective on this topic. One student from each team acted as the voice for the team to express to our team any questions or concerns they had, as well as helping us log data. Through surveying these students, we got a wealth of information that students in just our project center would like to learn about. Additionally, we spoke to groups of student climate change activists on campus who also strongly pushed for a higher climate literacy focus in WPI. 

After not only speaking to students but also to a focus group of project center directors, we received a variety of opinions when it comes to climate literacy on campus. While most agree that it is important to include, the argument was on whether it was truly a core piece of ID2050. Some center directors stated that climate literacy was already being addressed, while others weren’t seeing it as a focus. For that reason, we want to create a more uniform understanding of WPI that ID2050 will include climate literacy. Another concern brought to our attention is how plausible it is to take a large chunk of time away from ID2050, while still understanding that too small of a climate literacy discussion will not promote any change. Therefore, we strongly suggest that it be included in the ethics section, as that is already a very important and strongly focused section that students tend to gain a lot from.  

While reading through survey responses from our “Eco Reps” our team noticed that many students were on clear on how they were causing emissions, and how large those emissions were. Many even asked if limiting certain emissions would even be beneficial. This shows that college students going on IQP are not entirely clear on what that means for their impact on the environment, or how they can create change, however small that may be. Even small changes need to be seen as important. Talking with Professor Sarah Strauss we spoke about the idea of every small change being equally important because if hundreds of WPI students are making small changes every year, those changes add up to be something so much bigger.