Climate Strong—Building Tribal Youth Leadership for Climate Resiliency
Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College in partnership with the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, 1854 Treaty Authority, University of Wisconsin Extension’s G-WOW program, and Lake Superior Estuarine Research Reserve are proud to provide the Climate Strong-Building Tribal Youth Leadership for Climate Resiliency program. Our three-year project aims to increase the knowledge and readiness of middle to high school students to deal with the impacts of extreme weather and environmental hazards that face the Ojibwe Ceded Territories (Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan) and build capacity for increased climate change community resiliency curriculum in the classroom. Climate change impacts everyone, but for indigenous peoples it threatens culturally significant traditions, such as wild rice harvesting, that relies on sustainable fish, plant, and wildlife resources. These resources are critical for subsistence, spiritual and cultural needs, and treaty rights. Culturally relevant, place-based education is an important tool to involve students, in particular, underrepresented students, in developing critical thinking skills to assess the issue of community resiliency to extreme weather events and engaging in action to help resolve it. In order to achieve our objectives, we will aim our educational efforts toward youth first, as well as reaching the communities we serve. Each year, six residential youth camps (18 total) will be hosted within the Ojibwe Ceded Territories. Each three-day camp will be focused on investigating issues of community resiliency, adaption, and mitigation associated with increasing extreme weather events as well as natural environmental hazards. Camps will use place-based, experiential lessons to teach resiliency issues demonstrated by climate change effects on Ojibwe culturally important natural resources. Our project will train formal and informal educators throughout the Ojibwe Ceded Territories on how to use indigenous climate curriculum using tribal traditional ecological knowledge and NOAA assets to investigate community climate resiliency issues. Using both teacher “train the trainer” workshops and our camps, this project will create a network of formal K-12 and informal educators trained to become leaders in providing culturally relevant climate resiliency outreach to students. We will increase community resiliency literacy through six community outreach events each year (18 total) that will highlight resiliency issues facing our region and the research being done on landscape and ecological vulnerabilities through NOAA and tribal assets. Our goals are increased community resiliency literacy and adaptation of stewardship behaviors that reduce climate change impacts and increases adaption and mitigation behaviors by our participants. These behaviors will help increase stewardship practices reducing extreme weather impacts affecting the sustainability of culturally relevant resources, thereby preserving important cultural, spiritual, subsistence, and treaty rights practices.
Resilience from the Youth Up
As climate impacts ratchet up across the United States, the Great Lakes region tends to fly under the national radar. While the Great Lakes do not experience hurricanes, rising sea levels, or large-scale wildfires, the local climate has become increasingly erratic in recent years. The region, however, is one of the most unprepared in the country to cope with these impacts. A recent Grosvenor report (2014) on climate resilience among 50 global cities ranked Detroit last among 11 U.S. cities for adaptability and only better than three cities for overall resilience, which incorporates both climate vulnerability and adaptability factors. Of U.S. cities with more than 100,000 residents, Detroit has the highest percentage of African-American residents (80.7%, U.S. Census 2016). Still recovering from bankruptcy, the city also has a 39% poverty rate, which impacts over 56% of children (ibid). These socio-economic factors, coupled with other environmental justice concerns, such as a centrally located incinerator and an asthma rate of 15.5% among adults resulting in over 3,000 hospitalizations annually, make Detroit residents particularly vulnerable to climate impacts. This project will address the urgent need to increase resilience by working with high school students and teachers in Detroit and southeast Michigan to increase their awareness of climate change and develop projects that help their schools and neighborhoods become resilient to increased occurrence and intensity of heat waves, storm events, and flooding. Using NOAA assets, including GLISA localized climate data and Sea Grant outreach and education expertise, high school students and teachers will partner with climate scientists to explore local climate impacts firsthand and to develop resilience strategies and projects that protect vulnerable households and neighborhoods and contribute to broader sustainability initiatives. The City of Detroit seeks this involvement as it ramps up a new Office of Sustainability and seeks proposals to develop the city's first Sustainability Framework. The effort is a partnership with EcoWorks, Great Lakes Integrated Sciences + Assessments (GLISA), Michigan Sea Grant (MISG), Southeast Michigan Stewardship Coalition (SEMIS), Eastern Michigan University, Civic Research Services, Inc., and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In each of the next three years, 200 students from various high schools in the Detroit and Ypsilanti areas will participate in weekly activities related to the grant. The four primary objectives of the program include: 1) Engage students in assessing and quantifying climate vulnerabilities of their schools, neighborhoods, and surrounding community. 2) Using a place-based education (PBE) model, prepare educators to engage students in creating plans and completing projects that increase community resilience. 3) Empower high school students to teach residents about local climate impacts and increase understanding of resilience strategies to mitigate extreme weather events or other environmental hazards. 4) Contribute to the completion and implementation of local sustainability and climate action plans in Southeast Michigan.