This April, as we gear up to celebrate Earth Day, we need education more than ever. Like many issues, attitudes on the environment, energy, and climate change have shifted recently — in part due to politics. And when it comes to causes, politics can lead to inaction.
Findings from a new Pew Research Center study show that people avoid science news on “divisive topics” on Facebook. Likewise, scare tactics backfire because people tend to pay less attention to or deny information that is threatening or frightening. If individuals tune out on social media, an important channel for raising awareness, then it’s time to consider a different approach.
Learning Makes a Difference
On climate change, we need education to motivate individuals to take action. People get involved with issues that directly affect their lives, but currently more than half of Americans think climate change will not affect them personally.
Education is an important tool for helping people understand how the environment affects them everyday. It can also help to raise awareness about local environmental issues and as a consequence, enact change. Building off of the popular bumper sticker phrase “Think Global, Act Local,” the call to action now is Think Locally, Impact Globally.
Individuals are moved to take action if they feel confident that they can make a difference. For this reason, companies like Patagonia are putting education at the heart of their CSR strategy. The Action Works program connects individuals to local meetups, events, and campaigns that educate them about the environmental issues that directly affect their lives and the ways to take action locally.
Youth Making an Impact Through Education
Patagonia’s program has been especially appealing to youth. At Action Works’ launch event, young environmentalists presented visions and action plans that were “holistic, inclusive and hopeful.” Youth understand the importance of education. Parkland students have overcome divisiveness and inaction by raising awareness about the local effects of gun violence and then showing people how to take action locally in support of the broader cause.
Education makes it possible for people with different priorities to unite over common outcomes. The result is a community built around a cause, even one as politically polarizing as climate change.