A scholar of climate justice, an environmental anthropologist and restoration ecologist from the University of Oregon offer suggestions for climate-friendly solutions for 2022.
For environmental issues, turn to collective knowledge
John ArroyoAssistant Professor in Engaging Diverse Societies, College of Design
Director, Pacific Northwest Just Futures Institute for Racial and Climate Justice
Environment Initiative Faculty Fellow
Arroyo stated that collaboration is key to building an equitable future. He is also the director of the new Pacific Northwest Just Futures Institute for Racial and Climate Justiceaims to be a multidisciplinary, transformational research platform that addresses climate justice and racial injustice. Arroyo stresses the need to build – and maintain – relationships beyond university campuses, collaboratively design research projects and outcomes, and inspire research that uses collective knowledge on campuses to solve environmental problems. “As we work towards mutual goals, the life and natural sciences can learn from the humanities and social sciences, and vice versa. Students should learn as much as possible from natural experiments and applied policy reports as they can from poetry, fiction, and ethnographies. The future ability to identify and operationalize truly collaborative strategies for a just future will require this unique, comprehensive perspective, which is central to the core of the Pacific Northwest Just Futures Institute for Racial and Climate Justice.”
Drive less, walk or bike more
Lauren HallettAssistant Professor, Department of Biology
“A car-dependent society drives both nitrogen deposition and climate change,” Hallett said. She sees the damage through Her work as restoration ecologistShe is a conservationist at the, where she aims for vulnerable species to be conserved, such as serpentine grasslands that support native plants. “But nitrogen deposition from car traffic has enabled invasive grasses to enter and dominate the system,” she said. Her research tests ways to deal with this issue, like how grazing and burning can remove the grasses and restore the flowers, “but it rarely addresses the underlying problem of car-dependence,” she explained. She resolved to address the root cause of the problem and not just the symptoms. She plans to reduce her family’s car-dependence by using an electric cargo bike to get her young son to daycare and advocate for more walkable and less car-dependent neighborhoods. “My first step will be showing up at public hearings and voicing support for effective implementation of new state-wide reforms here in Eugene.”
Yekang KoAssociate Professor of Landscape Architecture at College of Design
Director of APRU Sustainable Cities and Landscapes.
“Trees provide our communities with many benefits, including combating urban heat and saving energy,” said Yekang Ko, Whose workThis article focuses specifically on how cities can better coexist in harmony with the natural environment around them. “Unfortunately, we are losing them at a faster pace through development and increasing extreme weather events driven by climate change.” Plant more trees in your yards, neighborhoods, and in underserved communities, Ko said, adding that planting the right trees in the right places can maximize their benefits. For example, she points to a “Nature Explorer” data tool that shows tree canopy is inequitably distributed, with Low income communities have lower tree canopy coverage. “Those houses tend to be poorly insulated; they can get the most benefit of tree shade. Research shows that planting trees on the west side of houses can improve thermal comfort and energy saving for cooling in summer,” Ko said. She said that choosing climate-appropriate trees like Oregon white oak or Douglas fir can help them survive droughts and floods better, which in turn provides more benefits. Long term benefits.
Talk to family, friends, or coworkers about emergency preparedness
Hollie SmithAssistant Professor of Science and Environmental Communication
School of Journalism and Communication
Hollie Smith emphasizes the importance of being prepared for natural disasters in your community, especially with the rise of wildfires and flooding as a result of global warming. “We all know that having an emergency plan is important,” said Smith, a former reporter who now Investigates how scientific information is presented by the mediaHow people use it to make their decisions. “But it’s something that is easy to keep putting off and has been even more challenging to think about in the past two years. It is crucial to first learn where to find trustworthy information. Ready.govIt is a good source of general information before an emergency. For community-level information, local government agencies and other organizations can be a great resource before, during, or after an emergency. Once you have good information, you can start making a family plan, practice it, and share that information with your own network.”
Climate education should incorporate actionable solutions
Sarah StapletonAssistant Professor of Education Studies, College of Education
Environment Initiative Faculty Fellow
“I urge everyone teaching students at any level or discipline to teach about climate change and environmental justice as it relates to their content area. Research shows that it is critical to incorporate concrete, actionable solutions into climate education and communication so that students are left with hope and direction,” said Sarah Stapleton, who will be working with a teacher team to develop an environmental justice curriculum for high school teachers in Oregon through her The Environment Initiative offers faculty fellowships. “Highlighting environmental actors, especially those who are Indigenous and other people of color, as well as local groups and organizations working toward environmental and climate justice, is one way to help students see actionable change and not feel alone in the work ahead.” She also believes the pandemic has given everyone an opportunity to rethink things like work travel and commuting and move rapidly toward what we really value, “like more time for loved ones, free school meals for all children in K-12 public schools, more community with each other, more time outside, and more redressing of injustices.”
Participate in the local watershed council
Jeremy Trombley, PhD
Researcher, Department of Earth Sciences
“Councils host meetings and presentations as well as opportunities to help restore the landscape for fish and other species,” said Jeremy Trombley, an anthropologist who works with Dave Sutherland’s Ice and Ocean LabMark Carey’s Glacier LabResearching how watershed communities respond to climate change. He encourages people to go beyond the initial step by asking more questions and getting involved. “How is your watershed affected by external social, economic, and political pressures? How can these pressures prevent your community responding effectively to climate change? Finally, find out whose stolen land your watershed occupies and look to those Indigenous Nations for guidance,” he said. “They are at the forefront of addressing climate change, and it’s important that we pay attention and follow their lead when it comes to ensuring the long-term health and well-being of our watersheds and communities.”
Each of these faculty members is affiliated with the University of Oregon’s Environment InitiativeThe UO’s five-year-old focuses the intellectual energy, work, and collaboration of faculty, students, and community members on working toward a just future through transdisciplinary research. It is one of the UO’s five Academic InitiativesThat work across disciplines, creating the next generation of leaders as well as problem solvers.