Youth Climate Communications: a pilot

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Author Sophie Laggan.

On 24th February, 12 young people, aged 15-24, headed to UWE’s Prototype and Play Lab, in the School of Engineering, for a training day in Climate Communications. Passionate about addressing the climate and ecological emergency, and eager to learn and connect with likeminded people, the delegates came from across the Bristol area, with representation from five different schools/colleges and from the University.

With over half of young people reported to experience some form of climate-related anxiety (Hickman et al. 2021) – this training emerged out of the collective interest of researchers at UWE (from the Science Communication Unit, FET, ABE and DGEM) keen to share their knowledge with, and empower, the younger generation.

How to address climate anxiety

To steer young people away from overwhelm, timely action, forethought and trust in science are needed (Manzanedo & Manning, 2020). And according to a research project by Climate Outreach, to resonate with young people we, as adults, need to validate their negative thoughts while avoiding overly optimistic communications, and provide resources that can alleviate their anxiety.

Drawing on this research, and the interests of young people, the Science Communication Unit shaped the programme of activities for a pilot session with young people.

On the day

Start with the why”

Associate Professor Laura Fogg-Rogers and Research Fellow Sophie Laggan started the training by explaining that different ways of viewing the world shape how we make decisions and the only way to forge meaningful dialogue and promote pro-environmental change is through meeting people where they’re at. They used the example of solar panels – where one household might buy solar panels for environmental reasons, others do so out of economic/energy security, and others simply because they follow the ‘norm’ – their neighbours did it.

The participants ran with this idea in a role-playing exercise where they tried to convince someone ‘not like them’ – and in a position of power and influence – to install solar panels on the roof of their school. With a bit of context about what makes their partner tick, the participants were able to tap into the other person’s values and use it to their advantage.

Sustainable Housing activity

Following lunch and a tour of the Campus’s community garden, the group returned for an engagement activity on passive houses with Dr Deborah Adkins. Each table were given a wooden replica of a typical UK house and asked to stick post-its on the areas they thought could be improved for sustainability, everything from solar panels to insulation and green roofs. The task was accompanied by a short presentation, allowing the participants to learn more about sustainable housing.

Deborah Adkins - greener homes | Administration and support services |  Imperial College London

Designing their own engagement activity

Deborah’s session was followed by an in-depth explanation of the value of physical engagement activities, by Sophie, with the chance for each participant to prototype their design for an engagement activity based on the issue that mattered to them, be that local food or slow fashion. Their issues of concern were formulated in the opening session of the day – “Start with the why”.

Filming sustainability

The day was concluded with top tips by Josh Warren on filmmaking on a budget, before the young people were set to task on recording their own short film on a sustainability topic. The group enjoyed watching each other’s films and spent the last few minutes of the day reflecting on how valuable the day was for their activism and general understanding of people ‘not like them’.


Climate Anxiety post-training?

Before and after surveys, showed that the young people’s negative thoughts (scared, angry, concerned, powerless, guilty, confused) all reduced following the training (except for mournful) and positive thoughts increased (empowered, hopeful, optimistic and determined).

Confidence in communication skills also increased. For instance, 100% felt confident/very confident in engaging their audience after the training, compared to just 11% (N=1) before.

Next steps

Participants suggested that training on social media, graphics and poster design would be useful, and so the team will shortly launch a social media campaign training event for the cohort.

Shortly after the training day the team found out they were successful in their bid to the HEIF FET-FBL Award! This means the training can be replicated for different youth groups, with a focus on those from more diverse backgrounds. And enables them to create e-learnings and printable toolkits.

This work on climate anxiety in young people sits under the umbrella of the Climate Action Hub at UWE, which acts as a space for researchers to connect with communities interested in tackling the climate and ecological emergency. To facilitate this exchange, the Hub is looking at setting up a Staff Network to allow staff the time to build these connections. If you are interested in connecting to the Hub in any way, or have ideas on how it should operate, then please contact Sophie.laggan@uwe.ac.uk.

This training was led by Research Fellow Sophie Laggan, Associate Professor Dr Laura Fogg-Rogers, Senior Lecturer Dr Deborah Adkins and Josh Warren.

References:

Hickman, C., Marks, E., Pihkala, P., Clayton, S., Lewandowski, R.E., Mayall, E.E., Wray, B., Mellor, C. and van Susteren, L., 2021. Climate anxiety in children and young people and their beliefs about government responses to climate change: a global survey. The Lancet Planetary Health5(12), pp.e863-e873.

Manzanedo, R.D. and Manning, P., 2020. COVID-19: Lessons for the climate change emergency. Science of the Total Environment742, p.140563.

Taylor, S., 2020. Anxiety disorders, climate change, and the challenges ahead: Introduction to the special issue. Journal of Anxiety Disorders76, p.102313.

Climate Outreach, 2020, Britain Talks Climate, 18th November 2020. URL: https://climateoutreach.org/reports/britain-talks-climate/

Sustainability solutions show from UWE Bristol chosen to take part in COP26

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A new planetarium show designed with the Engineering department at UWE Bristol has been chosen to showcase sustainability solutions as part of the Green Zone at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow on 31 October – 12 November 2021.

The team will be exhibiting “We Make Our Future”, an interactive, educational & entertaining science show for the next generation of engineers. The show has been designed with planetarium experts Explorer Dome, and is part of the Inspire educational work from the Digital Engineering Technology and Innovation (DETI) team at UWE Bristol. 

Full-dome projections allow attendees to visit engineering marvels from history and explore the pros and cons of modern life. The team aims to celebrate the ingenuity of human engineering, address current issues around Climate Change, and introduce engineering as a relevant and attainable aspiration for all young people.

Guests will learn how the Engineering Design Process can spark our imagination for sustainability solutions to the greatest challenges of our time.

Cllr Toby Savage enjoyed a sneak peak of the show at UWE’s recent Zero Carbon Tour event

Inspiring climate action

To achieve net zero and a low carbon global economy, everything we make and use will need to be completely re-imagined and re-engineered. The digital revolution is boosting the potential for engineers’ design thinking to optimise not only the development process but also the potential for collaborative citizen engagement. That’s where DETI comes in, bringing together industry, academia, and education from across the West of England region. The research collaboration aims to identify and develop the tools, technologies, processes, and skills needed to rapidly accelerate and embed digital engineering to deliver energy transition and clean transport.

We are so pleased to be selected to attend COP26 – at such a critical time in history, all industries need to come together to make a difference for our future. Our new show celebrates the ingenuity of human engineering and shows how we can harness our creativity to implement sustainability solutions. Thinking like an engineer offers hope to solve global problems and bring about real change. We see this as a call to action for the diverse and socially conscious engineers of today – and tomorrow.

Project Lead Dr Laura Fogg Rogers, Senior Lecturer in STEM Education and Communication, UWE Bristol

The COP26 summit will bring parties together to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The theme is #TogetherForOurPlanet, and UWE Bristol will also be highlighting our climate action through the new linked Climate Action Hub on the Frenchay Campus.

The ‘We Make Our Future’ show is available to tour schools after COP26 in Explorer Dome’s mobile planetarium. To book the show please look at the resources here: https://digitaltrailblazers.co.uk/resources

Blog written by Anna Jones, Research Business and Innovation Unit, UWE Bristol

UWE Launches Climate Action Hub

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The #ZeroCarbonTour made a stop at UWE Bristol earlier this month, on its way through the UK to COP26 in Glasgow this November. Its aim is to share the net zero message and raise awareness of the UN Race to Zero and the UK’s #TogetherForOurPlanet campaign.

The event brought together local companies and UWE researchers to showcase their low or zero carbon technologies, campaigns and initiatives, through a series of talks and exhibitions – the perfect launch event for UWE’s new Climate Action Hub!

The School of Engineering atrium was transformed, with several stalls exhibiting staff and student projects, including teams from ClairCity, WeCount, Bristol BioEnergy and many more! We also had a visit from Explorer Dome – a large inflatable planetarium with 360 video projection.

Explorer Dome have been developing a new sustainability solutions science show with the DETI Inspire team, which will begin touring local schools this Autumn term.

South Glos Councillor Toby Savage and Metro Mayor Dan Norris enjoyed a sneak peak of the new show We Make Our Future which celebrates the ingenuity of human engineering, addresses current issues around Climate Change and introduces Digital Engineering as a relevant and attainable aspiration for all young people.

The Z block foyer will continue to host the Climate Action Hub throughout the 2021/22 academic year, providing a dedicated space to showcase the work of UWE staff and students and inspire others to take action on the climate and ecological emergency.

We want to hear from you!

Are you doing something cool for the planet? If you would like to host a take-over of the Climate Action Hub or get involved with UWE’s Green Week this October please email engineeringourfuture@uwe.ac.uk

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