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We asked Nina Pušić, climate action strategist at Oil Change International, 3 questions on the intersection between green and civic literacy & competences. Here are her answers:

1. What is actually green literacy? How does it relate to civic literacy & competences?

“Green/climate literacy comes down to two things:

Foundational understanding of environmental science, science in general and how that relates to ecosystem services e.g. access to water, agriculture, viable housing, things that impact the way humans live their daily lives. In many ways that is standard formal education, so what you might learn in school (e.g. what are greenhouse gases and what emits them, what different types of air pollution there are etc.). In the same way you would learn about health, what nutrition is and what are the basics of healthy food and exercise. I think it is really important to mitigate greenwashing, considering that greenwashing makes it easier for high-polluting industries to water down environmental policies or actions. Sometimes companies’ marketing campaigns that sound very good are not actually changing anything in their policies and emissions outputs.

Understanding of systems thinking – how environmental problems tie into larger systems. This is the part that is really related to civic education, which includes an understanding of how environmental problems impact our society, what a good environmental policy looks like, and how it affects our day-to-day lives. Environmental policies are not just about electric vehicles for example, but also about how we travel, what we eat, how we consume, how we vote, how our parliamentarians act, how we move, our housing, it really affects everything. Systems thinking is very similar to the way we think about health and public health as a system.”

2. How about climate education – is it meant just for young people? If not, how do you approach elderly citizens?

“Younger people are more and more very engaged in climate action, more so than previous generations. And that of course has to do with climate change impacting youth the most, but also access to digital sources of information and in some cases a better understanding of how to access them and how legitimate they are.

But one big challenge is communicating to different generations and communicating the importance and urgency of climate change. Of course, climate change is a generational issue, and older generations might not see the impact that their emissions or policy choices are creating. Yet those choices are going to affect younger generations, so I think climate education for elderly citizens is very important, especially for those who are active in political systems. The best way is to ensure and democratize access to quality information and engage in awareness campaigns. Another important aspect is to depoliticize green literacy, and not have it seen as affiliated with one political party, but rather as something related to everyone’s responsibility as a citizen.”

3. Who has the biggest responsibility for saving our planet?

“To some extent we all have individual responsibility, but the key responsibility lies in policymakers. The type of changes we need to see are really so big, that we need policymakers to put these changes at the forefront of the agenda and implement them in a coordinated and timely manner. Again, it is very similar to the way we would see public health related issues becoming high-level policy issues. It is not just one industry or one community, it is something that needs to be addressed on the policy level from every angle – education, energy, agriculture, financial systems and so on. Civil society also has a large role to play in a functional democracy, in that civil society actors have to express to policymakers how central and urgent these issues are.

But again it’s all a system, the utmost responsibility lies in policymakers on a national and international level, but how we act, vote, and organize individually and as citizens ultimately influences policymakers and policy trajectories.”

Author Peter Schmitz

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