Building a Green Texas: Activating a New Generation of Sustainability Leaders
Climate change disproportionately impacts low-income and otherwise marginalized communities that typically have the fewest resources to adapt. Furthermore, the very communities that feel the effects of climate change most acutely have been historically underrepresented in the fields of sustainability and green building. The Building a Green Texas (BGT) project helps address these concerns by giving high school students opportunities to develop the knowledge, skills, and confidence to tackle challenges posed by climate change. In the process, students gain valuable green career skills and credentials and become part of a green building school-to-job pipeline that will help contribute to a more diverse workforce. Texas-based nonprofit EcoRise, the University of Texas at Austin, and the University of Texas Marine Science Institute/National Estuarine Reserve System of NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management will lead this robust, three-year project beginning in Central Texas in Year 1 and expanding into Houston and Texas Gulf Coast communities in Year 2. Through school-year field experiences and paid summer internships, students in the program will use established scientific evidence, citizen science, and an understanding of location-specific socioeconomic and ecological factors to explore current and future extreme weather phenomena and other environmental hazards facing their communities. They will gain real-world learning experiences and career exposure by directly engaging with scientists, civic leaders, green building professionals, and NOAA data and staff. As students help design community-based green building projects, they will consider scientific uncertainty, cultural knowledge, and social equity, in the real-world context of improving community resilience.
Building Environmental Resiliency Leaders (BERL)
Among the most geographically isolated islands in the world, Maui’s fragile environment is highly vulnerable to sudden (hurricanes, flooding) and prolonged (drought, ocean acidification, sea-level rise) environmental changes. The University of Hawai?i Maui College seeks to build an environmentally literate and resilient community equipped to address, manage, and mitigate the challenges associated with environmental events and hazards. Building Environmental Resiliency Leaders (BERL) has three main goals: 1) Develop environmental hazards modules specific to Hawai’i that can be integrated into high-school curriculum; 2) Strengthen students’ understanding of environmental hazards and build self-efficacy in being contributors towards community resilience; and 3) Create community awareness of and ability to prepare for environmental hazards. By partnering with all 10 Maui County public and private high schools, BERL seeks to empower 200 environmentally resilient high school youth leaders —including Native Hawaiian, underrepresented, and low-income students in grades 9 through 12— throughout the islands of Maui, Moloka?i, and Lana?i. The BERL project will develop the Environmental Resiliency Youth Leaders certification program with curriculum to engage students in active learning through innovative Problem-based Learning (PBL) group projects where students select a research topic informed by climate resiliency educational modules and consult with community subject matter experts; including partners from the National Weather Service, Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, University of Hawai?i Sea Grant, Maui Emergency Management Agency, Maui County energy Commissioner, and Hawai?i Emergency Management Agency. Specifically, curriculum will integrate and align: 1) Overview of environmental events & hazards: tropical cyclones/hurricanes, drought/fires, ocean acidification, and seal level rise/flooding ; 2) Local scenarios & experiential outdoor learning; 3) US Climate Resiliency Toolkit; and 4) Development of resiliency plan to work towards either a) utilizing school as resiliency hub site; or b) addressing long-term resiliency to prolonged environmental changes. As a culminating event, students will present their final projects and host workshops to the broader community at local or regional events with a potential reach of 90,000 annually over three project years. In addition, BERL will hold an annual Resiliency Awareness Day, reaching 1,000 students annually, to build community awareness and resources. Amidst the threat of COVID-19 and necessary safety measures, BERL is prepared to mobilize an online curriculum for students with online presentations and virtual events to reach the broader community. BERL aligns with NOAA’s mission to educate and motivate individuals to apply environmental science to increase stewardship and resilience to environmental hazards by creating a cadre of youth environmental resiliency leaders, trained educators, and broadly reaching over half of the Maui County population. The project employs a culturally relevant, place-based, and PBL approach where 40 teams of students engage in research projects to build environmental literacy at their high schools and the wider community. In alignment with NOAA's Education Strategic Plan (2015-2035), BERL seeks to “educate and inspire people to use Earth system science toward improving ecosystem stewardship and increasing resilience to environmental hazards.”
Community Resilience Informed by Science and Experience (C-RISE)
Coastal rural communities have deep cultural connections to and rely heavily upon the marine environment and economy. Due to their remoteness, isolation from central planning agencies, and lack of financial and municipal resources, they are highly vulnerable to climate impacts such as sea level rise. The Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI) and key project partners, Upswell and the Island Institute, will develop, convene and facilitate regional trainings by which Maine’s rural coastal communities can increase their capacity to plan and prepare for coastal climate impacts by developing the knowledge, skills, and relationships necessary to create data- and community-informed climate resilience plans. Cornerstone to the regional trainings is an engagement tool that builds common knowledge, incorporates diverse community value and voice, provides a framework for community planning and decision making, and builds relationships amongst participants. These trainings will also leverage and engage resilience professionals in Maine to share and represent their resources as communities apply those to their newly acquired skills and frameworks for community planning and decision making. Community leaders from the regional trainings will continue their learning through participation in a professional learning community. We will also leverage GMRI’s prior NOAA Environmental Literacy Grant, titled “Community Resilience Informed by Science and Experience (C-RISE),” to deliver community education programming that builds the capacity of residents in coastal communities to support resiliency planning and adaptation actions by providing participants with knowledge of and access to local sea level rise data. This project will serve 20 rural coastal and island communities in Maine through four regional trainings. Each community will select a diverse and equitable representation of 10 stakeholders and community leaders to participate in the trainings. Community education events will be accessible to all residents of each community. These interventions will build community literacy and capacity for developing coastal resilience plans that benefit the social, environmental, and economic health of the community and align with Maine’s Climate Action Plan. An advisory group including representatives from NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management, Maine Sea Grant, Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve, the State of Maine’s Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and the Future, Maine Geological Survey, Maine Department of Environmental Protection, the Town of Vinalhaven, and the Town of St. George will guide the development and implementation of this project. Researchers at the University of Maine, Orono will evaluate the implementation of the project as well as assess the impact of this project on a communities’ ability to make community-informed climate plans. This project reflects NOAA’s Community Resilience Education Theory of Change, specifically supporting resilience planners and community members to develop trusting relationships focused on their collective environmental literacy through genuine conversations around resilience planning and decision making. With NOAA, we envision communities that have the capability to anticipate, prepare for, respond to, and recover from significant multi-hazard threats with minimum damage to social well-being, the economy, and the environment.