Communicating Climate Change – a unique internship
Finding practical ways to tackle and talk about climate change is keeping three students busy this winter and spring. Caitlin McVicker, Maureen Hanlon and Avery Letkemann are interning with The City of Winnipeg’s Climate Action Stakeholder Group which is helping to develop a city-wide climate action plan.
For Caitlin, who is studying business and rhetoric, the internship “is changing my perspective about how I read about climate change on-line and in the news. I am discovering that fear and guilt don’t motivate people. People need to see their neighbours making changes and that is what influences us most to change our behaviours.”
The students have attended public forums and a stakeholder meeting with municipal and community leaders. In the coming weeks they will participate in realistic pilot projects and communicate their overall findings and experience back to the Mayor, City Council, civic officials, and their classmates.
Avery, a 3rd year environmental studies student, says “it is really cool to be involved in this process. My goal is to pursue environment law and public policy so this is learning that applies to me.” Avery is also serving on the University of Winnipeg Students’ Association board of directors as Enviro Ethics Director.
Maureen is 4th year biology major who is interested in seeing how science can influence public policy. “It was interesting to see how many people attended the public forum, they were very engaged. I also think this is a valuable experience because it offers both and academic portion with directed readings and a practical project.”
This unique learning opportunity is an interdisciplinary collaboration between two academic departments: Chemistry (faculty member, Dr. Devin Latimer) and Rhetoric, Writing and Communications (associate professor, Dr. Jennifer Clary-Lemon).
“This internship gives the students a view of how the city operates and what is realistic. It also offers them an integrated perspective and shows that the humanities and science can sit at the same table and find common ground,” says Clary-Lemon. “Students are the most creative amongst us. They can think of possibilities that perhaps academics and bureaucrats might not see, and be a link between power points and genuine public engagement.”
“I’m happy to be able to mentor these students in some of the science of the greenhouse effect and climate change,” says Latimer. “Climate science is quite complicated and the variety of perspectives on climate change and its impacts that are being communicated is considerable. This group study is turning out to be an enlightening process that has a direct line to those framing our own city climate action plan. The impact on city policy, other city stakeholders, these students, as well as myself could be extensive and long-lasting.”
The City of Winnipeg’s Climate Action Plan: Planning for Climate Change. Acting for People will be released in 2018.