by Will Moody
I studied natural sciences at Cambridge, and despite the biological focus of my degree, I was shocked at how little the climate emergency was mentioned. When I looked into it more, I found that climate issues are actually really poorly integrated into formal teaching across the university, unless you take a climate-specific course.
This gap was something I wanted to address as part of my ‘Engage for Change’ project organised by the Cambridge Hub (https://www.cambridgehub.org/). Having seen the success of the Cambridge University languages programme; a free-to-all course for university members to learn a new language, I thought that a similar style of course, except covering climate issues, could be incredibly impactful.
This led to my path crossing with the Carbon Literacy Project (https://carbonliteracy.com/) up in Manchester! One speculative email sent in February came back with a near instant reply, saying they would love to help out, and that as luck would have it, they had just received government funding to publish a higher education toolkit for universities to adapt and run in-house. I was so excited by this and, six months later, having adapted the course for online delivery, I was participating in the webinars and self-study to become a Carbon Literacy student-trainer for Cambridge!
How does the Cambridge Carbon Literacy Course work?
So far, ten of us have been trained in the delivery of the general Carbon Literacy course, and we work as a sub-team of the Cambridge Hub (https://www.cambridgehub.org/). Using the material provided, we were able to adapt it to suit the needs of the University of Cambridge specifically. It is divided into around 4 hrs of self-study, working through online exercises and videos. We also ran two evening webinars (2.5 hrs), in which participants had the opportunity to delve deeper into some of the topics included in the self-study, as well as discuss with each other their own thoughts and ideas. The course finished with each participant pledging an individual and group action that will lead to a significant decrease in their carbon footprint. The certification process has been kindly covered by Cambridge Zero (https://www.zero.cam.ac.uk/).
The course is structured into 5 main modules:
1. Basic science behind the climate crisis – greenhouse gases
2. Individual and national carbon footprints and what this means for climate justice
3. A zero carbon future – at both the national and university level
4. Communicating the climate crisis effectively
5. How to take action
There are natural difficulties with online webinars, for example, getting the same levels of discussion as would be if you were face to face. However, we have been blown away by how successful the use of breakout rooms has been, with all trainers agreeing the quality of discussion exceeded any of our initial expectations!
Our overall aim has always been to give people the platform to feel confident discussing climate issues as in everyday conversations. Reflecting on feedback received, we are so pleased to hear people feel more confident talking about all the topics we covered in both a casual setting with friends and family, and also with college and university institutions. This is reflected in the incredible array of pledges that have been made by participants. These aim not only to strengthen existing environmental student networks, but creating new ones too which is great progress.
We can’t wait for next term when we will be expanding the programme to reach even more people, so please follow our Facebook page to hear when the sign ups go live! https://www.facebook.com/cambridgeenvironmentaleducation
If you are interested in access to the higher education toolkit, for delivery of a similar course at your university, please get in contact with the Carbon Literacy Project (https://carbonliteracy.com/ ) and join the growing network!
Contact and useful links:
Cambridge Carbon Literacy Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Carbon Literacy Project: https://carbonliteracy.com/
Cambridge Carbon Literacy: https://www.facebook.com/cambridgeenvironmentaleducation and https://www.cambridgehub.org/activities/carbon-literacy
Cambridge Hub: https://www.cambridgehub.org/
Cambridge Zero (our sponsor): https://www.zero.cam.ac.uk/
Will Moody, a third year PhD student studying tumour immunology at the University of Cambridge, is passionate about climate education. This led him to set up the Cambridge Carbon Literacy Project; an environmental education course open to all students, free of charge in the University!