What you need to know about Climate Literacy.
Climate with all its add-ons from ‘change’ to ‘action’ to ‘catastrophe’ have taken up headline daily news, night time talk shows, and global conference agendas. Commonly attached to a fearful narrative and heart wrenching, yet true, stories of fading species and disappearing necessities and an unpredictable future of storms, floods, and food shortages. While much of this is true, there is another angle to the story. One with a much longer timeline, and far fewer characters.
An ancient story that started billions of years ago, one that looks beyond the animal or plant kingdoms to the entire operating system that enables life in all forms, and their co-existence, on planet Earth. A tale of heroes and villains. A tale of epic quests, collaborations, greed, and betrayal. A model of instinctive efficiency and a masterclass in science and sociology.
Climate Literacy introduces you to the key characters in this story – those that shape and impact life on this planet – and it explores the influencing factors shaping “their lives”. Understanding the story of origin for each of these key characters and how they got to where they are today, is Climate Literacy.
Literacy – the ability to read and write – began gaining popularity in the 15th century after the printing press was invented, and books became more accessible and less expensive. It transformed “Literacy” from being solely a function for educators, authors and poets, to a powerful skill that gives you (and anyone who learns it) the ability to create and communicate what you please – within the constraint of 26 characters in English and with a structured guide of grammar. It also helps you make sense of the world around you. Climate literacy teaches you the climate alphabet and the rules by which they can be composed into meaningful contributions to the society in which we each live. It creates a common language for constructive conversations and a foundation for informed action.
This new language is complex because it is made up of so many pieces, yet also quite simple when you break it down to the letters (or characters if you will). Take it back to the beginning and follow it all the way through its evolution to know how it got to today. You notice in each case, despite a series of micro incidents, it is usually one or two major events that change the course of this character’s journey, and weakens the character itself.
Financial literacy isn’t reserved for the rich either, rather it equips you (and anyone who gains it) with knowledge of how the financial system works, where you fit in this big picture, and what levers are under your control to trigger for your own gain. Mastering this skill is what led to the creation of wealth, as well as the ability of families on shoestring budgets to provide the basics for their children, without missing a single birthday gift.
The rules of the game are changing. Climate is becoming the foundation of our new currency. Impact investment, sustainability reporting and carbon accounting are making way for the rising green economy. Shifting priorities means industry leaders need to adapt to survive, and the underdog has every chance in hell of making it. Literacy in this arena is a valuable asset to own and a rich tool to aid anyone who wants to remain competitive, and thrive.
CLIMATE LITERACY IN PRACTICE
Climate Literacy in practice doesn’t mean you grow your own herbs in a garden or your kitchen, but it means you understand why such an action would reduce your emissions, and by roughly how much. It also means that you would know if growing an herb garden is the right action for YOU to take in the first place.
Climate Literacy, applied to a profession such as web design, means designing a user experience with energy consumption in mind. It means knowing that the color palette choice makes a difference – and so does SEO efficiency. It means knowing where to find sources for green hosting. It also means making an informed decision when evaluating green hosting options that use carbon offsets versus those that claim to rely on renewable energy. And some may dig deeper to evaluate whether those claims are true.
Applied to a profession such as journalism, Climate Literacy equips reporters to have more informed conversations, ask more targeted questions, and present varying perspectives on complex matters. It arms them with a map on where to dig deeper and what to be skeptical of, as well as highlights what no one is talking about yet. It broadens the conversation, yet narrows the narrative when reporting on specific stories. It makes climate reporting more concrete, tangible, transparent, and relatable.
Climate literacy applied to accounting means understanding carbon emissions as currencies. Applied to operations means understanding emissions in your supply chain as you do inputs and outputs at each stage. Applied to consulting, to education, to engineering, to healthcare, and on and on and on, means understanding how your role, profession, and industry impact the world in which it operates, and where you can step in to make tiny ‘green’ differences within your sphere of influence that benefit you professionally, personally, as well as the community and environment in which you live.
These “tiny differences”, collectively, are what we aim to achieve if we have a shot at reaching our global goals.