According to the 2018 IPCC report Global Warming of 1.5° Degrees, “Warming from anthropogenic emissions from the pre-industrial period to the present will persist for centuries to millennia and will continue to cause further long-term changes in the climate system, such as sea level rise, with associated impacts (high confidence).” (Executive Summary, p. 7).
But if all emissions stopped immediately, today, this locked-in warming might not breach the 1.5° C Paris target, which for some represents an acceptable level of risk and change.
To preserve even a chance of staying under or even close to that target, the world now faces a massive challenge – how to remake everything and realize a livable, sustainable, and just world.
Thus we ask: How can we interrogate, redesign, and remake every social practice and every relationship in every economic, public, and political sector for a just transition to a low carbon future?
NXTerra sets out to nurture this transition by changing what we do in the field of education, with the end of contributing to the emergence of hundreds of thousands of climate justice-oriented graduates able to observe the physical and social world, create critical cultures of knowledge production, and teach others.
As we see it, education must be transformed in such a way as to engage, activate, and prepare ourselves and our students for this struggle.
Colleges and universities are training our future primary school teachers, and our students at every level are already confronting this changing world with open eyes, eager to make a positive impact.
Teaching the climate crisis begins with the science of climate change, watching and learning as it documents these economic, social, and political drivers of the unfolding crisis – and it is our intention to support educators and students who seek to bring their teaching and studying in line with the changing planet that this science is revealing.
Against critics who might dismiss our language of intersecting crises as too alarmist or apocalyptic – or, from the opposite point of view, that our characterization of the climate crisis as “slow motion” (i.e. unfolding over a generation or more) and therefore not sufficiently alarmist – we offer these measured words of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ 1992 World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity, endorsed by 1,575 top-ranking members:
Human beings and the natural world are on a collision course…. If not checked, many of our current practices put at risk the future we wish for human society and the plant and animal kingdoms, and may so alter the living world that it will be unable to sustain life in the manner that we know. Fundamental changes are urgent if we are to avoid the collision our present course will bring.
Nearly three decades after this anxious appeal, far from having achieved these fundamental changes, we live in a world where carbon emissions continue to grow, a direct effect of the expanding world economic system. We now find ourselves in a situation that demands that we create new pathways for positive, restorative, and protective change equivalent to an ecological revolution similar in size and scope to the previous agricultural and industrial revolutions.
SOURCE: NOAA – Trends in Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide (2019)
We confront, in other words, an environmental crisis of our own making, confirming the Union of Concerned Scientists’ worst fears.
In the final analysis, modern oil-driven industrial society is structured for limitless growth by global market competition which puts it increasingly at odds with both planetary ecological sustainability and social justice, as does expansion of the chemical, nuclear, mining, forestry, and corporate agricultural industries, in spite of their now nearly universal self-identification as practitioners of green “sustainability.”
In the 21st century, one great challenge for education will be to respond to this by seeking better explanations and understandings of the underlying causes and consequences of the climate crisis.
NXTerra is a response to this challenge.
This means helping teachers investigate, document, and disseminate critical knowledges of the broad responses and engagements of civil society, where people everywhere are coming together in new, more collaborative forms of economic organization, global climate justice movements, and new political initiatives to create both local and systemic alternatives. They are demanding that corporations, mass media, nations, and international governing agencies like the United Nations, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the G-7 countries, and the World Bank and International Monetary Fund take fair, ambitious, and legally binding climate action now.
This is the emergent situation within which NXTerra sets to work supporting teachers and students who want to inform themselves and transform their pedagogies and educations and their schools, colleges and universities into engines of solutions in the face of rising seas of climate anxiety, reactionary extremism, and despair.
To that end, NXTerra presents this digital platform of educational resources, designed to bring the best understanding of climate science, critical sustainability, and climate justice studies into our classrooms, and then, in a process of co-creation with many others, from there into classrooms around the world.
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