A More Educated Populace as Part of the Climate Solution

Amanda Belles

Sunday, June 5th, was World Environment Day.  Monday, June 6th, was National Higher Education Day.  You cannot honor and celebrate one of these days, without also celebrating the other, because in order for us to succeed in having a more sustainable and equitable world, we need a livable environment AND an educated global society.   

Led by the United Nations Environment Programme, World Environment Day is a global platform for inspiring positive change.  With over 150 countries participating, this UN international day engages governments, businesses, civil society, schools, celebrities, cities and communities, raising awareness and celebrating environmental action.”  

The vision of National Higher Education Day is “to fully equip every United States student both scholastically and financially for a higher education!” 

Maybe you’re asking, “where is Amanda going with this?”  Let’s pause on that question for a moment, and focus on the societal and community role of higher education institutions. 

Colleges and universities – both here in the United States and around the world – provide the vital platform needed to inspire robust solutions to some of the most pressing global issues of our lifetime.  They do this through educating the next generation of leaders, research and scientific discovery, policy engagement, cross-sectoral community partnerships, and much more.  

All of us know (and you’ve often heard us state this at Second Nature) that solving climate change takes all of us.  This issue, like many global issues (COVID-19), affects all of us in some way, thus truly does take every single one of us being a part of the solution.   

According to the The World Bank:

“Tertiary education (formal post-secondary education) benefits not just the individual, but society as a whole.  Graduates of tertiary education are more environmentally conscious, have healthier habits, and have a higher level of civic participation.  Also, increased tax revenues from higher earnings, healthier children, and reduced family size all build stronger nations.  In short, tertiary education institutions prepare individuals not only by providing them with adequate and relevant job skills, but also by preparing them to be active members of their communities and societies.” 

Thus, my argument is that the more educated a society is, the more we all benefit.

While this is one argument, and doesn’t include more in depth analysis and the acknowledgement of vital factors such as higher education not being equally accessible to every person, it does lend itself to argue how important higher education is to initiating societal climate action in support of a more sustainable and equitable world.  

In the United States, we definitely have work to do.  According to ThinkImpact, 38% of students dropout of college because they’re not able to financially support their education. Additionally, 28% dropout because they are disqualified academically/not able to meet academic requirements.

We cannot continue to accelerate climate action and create real change towards a more sustainable and equitable world without also increasing the number of students – our future leaders – successfully completing their college/university education.  One way to do so is to up the ante when it comes to the resources we are providing to higher education students.  

This includes, but is not limited to, making it more financially feasible to every person to attain a college/university degree.  Further, more supportive resources also need to be made available to higher ed students to help them throughout their higher educational career.  

Additionally, higher education institutions should be working directly with K-12 schools within their communities in a more active way to ensure that higher education is accessible to every student, regardless of any potential circumstances potentially making it currently inaccessible. 

None of this is an easy feat.  However, again, I argue that having a more educated populace is a benefit to all of us, including when it comes to the creation of climate solutions.