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Here Comes Your Chance To Help Save The World

TROP-ICSU focuses on connecting environmental issues to our daily lives.

11/03/2017 4:39 AM IST | Updated 20/03/2017 8:45 AM IST
Babu Babu / Reuters

I have been writing about shifting the focus from producing more climate PhDs to adopting innovative approaches to training climate-aware engineers, doctors, social scientists, and teachers. I've also been advocating for driving the science and technology for climate solutions, and to meet the data needs for predicting short-term weather and climate variability accurately as well as projecting long-term climate change reliably. How can these seemingly disparate imperatives be met? The first and foundational step has to be to establish novel ways to bring about climate awareness using the experiential knowledge of climate change, and to build a vast database of case studies that will serve as lab and field experiments for formal education as well as rallying cries for community engagement and climate action.

This inclusive international effort based on active citizen consultation will place observations and environmental changes in one's own backyard in the context of global warming science, education and climate action.

Just such an effort, focused on the Global South (formerly known as the "Third World"), is getting underway in an effort funded by the International Council for Science (ICSU) and led by our own fearless leader Shashidhara of IISER-Pune. The project, entitled "Trans-disciplinary Research Oriented Pedagogy for Improving Climate Studies and Understanding" or TROP-ICSU, will kick off this spring. It focuses on the lofty goal of connecting environmental issues to people's daily lives by placing these issues in local contexts and perspectives and offering action plans that are effective in combating climate change in one's own backyard.

The goal will be accomplished with three main action items. The first will deliver online learning material that promotes and builds on already established good practices in interdisciplinary thinking from schools to universities and across all relevant disciplines from all key climate change-sensitive areas of the Global South. Cross-border relations will be facilitated by training young researchers in science communication skills.

The second action item will focus on making the interdisciplinary knowledge and understanding accessible to communities by translating exotic theoretical concepts to meaningful actions on the ground. This will also empower young students and teachers from school-to-university levels in community-centred data gathering, education and communication with communities. This crowdsourcing of data networks will focus on important issues such as biodiversity, agriculture/husbandry, human health, water-food-energy nexus, etc. The third action item will translate the lessons from local community-based participatory initiatives to other regions, states, and nations. This radiation of region-specific knowledge to larger-scales will occur through education products including MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) and digital resources.

If you hear someone knocking on the door asking you if you are interested in saving the planet, don't think it is some crazy person. There is a real plan to try and save the planet—together.

This inclusive international effort based on active citizen consultation will place observations and environmental changes in one's own backyard in the context of global warming science, education and climate action. Such an effort should also drive a re-emergence of science as a societally relevant, solution-oriented unifier of people, place and planet. Considering the growing scepticism of climate science and science in general, the need for such an international effort, especially led by and aimed at the Global South, can hardly be overstated. A core working group along with subcommittees focused on each topic such as pedagogy, outreach, and citizen-science will work seamlessly to conduct regional-to-global consultative meetings and workshops and bring together experts, students, teachers and citizens. A comprehensive evaluation of the efficiency and utility of the pedagogy, outreach and citizen-science will be conducted along the way to fine-tune the strategies to accomplish the goals.

So if you hear someone knocking on the door asking you if you are interested in saving the planet, don't slam the door thinking it is some crazy person. There is a real plan to try and save the planet—together. Start documenting all the changes you are seeing in your backyard and in your neighbourhood. Wouldn't you like to learn more about what is causing those changes and what can be done about it and how you can play a direct role? Well, keep your ears open for that knock on the door. And start planning to be a part of this grand effort.

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