Individuals can take meaningful actions, even though the climate crisis is a global problem that cannot be solved by one person or entity. UO experts offer some resolutions individuals can take to counter climate change, improve their lives and make the world a better place.
Each of these faculty members is affiliated with the UO’s Environment InitiativeThe focuses the intellectual energy of faculty members, students, and community partners on working towards a just, livable future through transdisciplinary research and teaching. It is one of the UO’s five Academic InitiativesThat work across disciplines, creating the next generation of leaders as well as problem solvers.
Here are their suggestions for climate-friendly resolutions in 2022.
For environmental issues, turn to collective knowledge
Assistant professor, School of Planning, Public Policy and Management
Director, Pacific Northwest Just Futures Institute for Racial and Climate Justice
Environment Initiative faculty fellow, fall 2021
Arroyo said that collaboration is key to building an equitable future. Arroyo is the director for the new Pacific Northwest Just Futures Institute for Racial and Climate Justiceaims to become a regional, applied, transdisciplinary research platform. Arroyo stresses the need to build – and maintain – relationships beyond campus, collaboratively design research projects and outcomes, and inspire research that uses collective knowledge on campus 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. Our students should be able to learn as much 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
Assistant professor, Department of Biology and Environmental Studies Program
“A car-dependent society drives both nitrogen deposition and climate change,” Hallett said. She sees this as a direct result of climate change. 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 day care 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 statewide reforms here in Eugene.”
Associate professor, Department of Landscape Architecture, School of Architecture & Environment
Director, APRU Sustainable Cities and Landscapes Centre
“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 Lower tree canopy cover in low income communities. “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.
Students need your support and inspiration
UO sustainability director
“Climate anxiety is rising,” said Steve Mital, who leads sustainability efforts on the UO campus. He points out a 2021 study of global youth, which found that 60 percent of those age 16 to 25 were “very” or “extremely” worried about global warming. “Many educators say their students are drowning in despair,” Mital said. “Kurt Hahn, founder of Outward Bound, believed experiences that inspire people to rise above adversity are essential to developing resilience. Hahn said, ‘The foremost task of education is to insure the survival of these qualities: an enterprising curiosity, an undefeatable spirit, tenacity in pursuit, readiness for sensible self-denial, and above all, compassion.’” Mital said academic initiatives like the Prison Exchange ProgramThe Environmental Leadership ProgramCocurricular experiences such as those offered by the Student Sustainability CentreImmerse students in real-world situations that help them develop the mental and emotional fortitude to deal with social and environmental crises. “In 2022, I hope more faculty and staff commit to design similar whole-person educational programs.”
Talk to family, friends, and coworkers about emergency preparedness
Assistant professor, School of Journalism and Communication
Associate director, Center for Science Communication Research
Hollie Smith emphasizes the importance of being prepared for natural disasters in the community, particularly with the rise of wildfires and flooding. “We all know that having an emergency plan is important,” said Smith, a former reporter who now Researches the way scientific information is presented in the mediaConcerns about environmental issues. “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 trustworthy information is available. Ready.govThis is a great resource for general information prior to an emergency. Local government agencies, as well as other organizations, are great resources for information at the community level before, during and following 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
Assistant professor, College of Education
Environment Initiative faculty fellow Spring 2022
“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
Department of Earth Sciences, postdoctoral researcher
“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 professor Dave Sutherland’s Ice and Ocean LabMark Carey, professor Glacier LabInvestigating how watershed communities are responding in the face of climate change. He encourages people to go beyond the initial step and ask more questions. “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.”
—By Emily Halnon and George Evano, University Communications