Second Nature is excited to announce a new initiative aimed at engaging academics from higher education institutions from across the nation:
the Academics for Climate Advocacy Working Group.

This Working Group is for academics interested in utilizing their institutional position and expertise to help advance climate policy at the municipal, state, and federal levels in a low-lift way. Academics will 1) convene on a quarterly basis for Working Group meetings, 2) be contacted when there are meaningful opportunities to engage in climate advocacy, and 3) receive regular updates on relevant policy developments in their jurisdiction. 

We recognize that academics often have limited capacity for this type of work, so our priority is to make meaningful climate advocacy as straightforward and low-commitment as possible. We hope to recruit a diverse range of academics from a variety of disciplines and institutions to advance climate legislation across the nation.

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The Story Behind the Academics for Climate Advocacy Working Group
This past Fall, Second Nature conducted an analysis on prospective college and university engagement on climate policy, and interviewed key stakeholders from a variety of institutions. Our team learned a tremendous amount from the government affairs staff, faculty, academics, and nonprofit leaders we interviewed, and are very grateful for the candid wisdom and perspectives shared in these conversations*.

Institutions expressed a reluctance to become politically involved in supporting or opposing specific climate legislation, instead expressing a preference for prioritizing their own sustainability work and avoiding navigating the political complexities of legislative work. Faculty representing university president and chancellor offices shared they had a limited ability to get involved in legislative conversations that did not directly pertain to higher education. While we will continue to push institutions to reconsider their relationship with climate advocacy, in the meantime, we recognize that the higher education sector has other critical opportunities to advance climate legislation.   

One of our most exciting takeaways from this research is that academic staff from a range of institutions and disciplines recognize academia’s potential to advance climate policy. Our Team interviewed more than 50 academics from across the country who expressed significant interest in getting more politically engaged on climate issues, and as a result of these conversations, Second Nature has decided to launch an Academics for Climate Advocacy Working Group.

The Working Group will serve as a convening hub for academics who are interested in getting more involved in climate advocacy, regardless of their previous experience in this type of work. The group will work to identify opportunities to support climate legislation at the municipal, state and national levels, helping to move the needle on the higher education sector’s influence on climate advocacy.

What does it mean to be a Working Group member?
Being a member of the Working Group is a very low-commitment — it essentially means being  willing to provide your email address and be contacted when there are sign-on letters in favor of strong climate action, or other opportunities to advance legislation that require very little capacity. All Working Group members will be invited to quarterly meetings, and also receive Second Nature’s Monthly Policy Updates – a newsletter curated every month with climate policy updates and participation opportunities that are particularly relevant to higher education. 

Members will also be contacted individually if particularly pertinent legislation has been introduced in their state, with the option of submitting testimony, writing an op-ed, meeting with lawmakers, or other opportunities (all completely optional!). Some members may choose to play a more active role in the Working Group, such as by serving on the Policy Subcommittee, which will play a leadership role in crafting the Working Group’s objectives.

Who will be in the Working Group?
Members will hail from a broad range of institutions, including public and private colleges and universities, Historically-Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs), and community colleges. Members do not need to be particularly well-versed in climate advocacy — nor are they expected to be experts in environmental science or climate policy — they simply need to be interested in helping to advance climate policies and initiatives. Members will have anonymity – so academics’ names will not be featured anywhere on our website, and participation will only be shared at their discretion. It’s important to note that academics will join the Working Group in an individual capacity rather than on behalf of their institution.

Why an Academics Working Group?
To date, colleges’ and universities’ actions around climate change have largely been internally focused; schools’ climate work has been focused mainly on their campus and local community, and institutions across the country are electrifying, implementing efficiency measures, and focusing on resilience and adaptation. These sustainability efforts are commendable and critical, and academics play a critical role in their implementation. However, climate action in higher education — and all sectors of society — is limited due to the lack of climate-friendly policies. The passage of climate mitigation and adaptation policies will make campus decarbonization and resilience more effective. 

Through this Working Group, the higher education sector has the potential to play an even larger role in the fight against climate change than it has already — by becoming more engaged in climate policy efforts. Higher education’s potential influence on the climate movement is enormous; colleges are major employers, responsible for educating the next generation of leaders, and can frame the public discourse in truly transformative ways. 

Every day, climate legislation is proposed at the local, state, and federal levels, and that legislation is debated and discussed. A diverse range of stakeholders regularly weigh in on this legislation — businesses, climate scientists, nonprofit organizations, industry leaders, and others. Higher education has the ability to sway the political landscape in an unprecedented way, particularly at the subnational level. And academics across the nation have a critical role to play in representing higher education and pushing their institutions to get more engaged. 

What are the goals of the Working Group? 
Broadly speaking, the Working Group will work to achieve the following goals:

  1. Help to advance climate legislation at the municipal, state, and federal levels.
  2. Produce a memo that overviews how higher education can better support climate advocacy efforts.
  3. Equip academics with the tools they need to engage in climate advocacy in a low-lift way.

While the Working Group will loosely work toward these goals, the group itself will play a foundational role in establishing its own priorities and objectives.

How do I join?
Joining the Working Group simply requires that you fill out this form. Once you have joined, you’ll be added to the Working Group list. If you have any questions, please reach out to [email protected].

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*If you were not interviewed, but would like to share your thoughts on how colleges/universities can be better engaged on climate policy, please reach out to [email protected].