Rebecca Anderson is the Alliance for Climate Education‘s staff climate scientist and a climate educator in California and Nevada. She blogs regularly about climate science and solutions for The Huffington Post and other outlets. Previously, Rebecca conducted climate research on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet ice-core drilling project, studied ice caps on Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic and worked as an interpretative ranger with the National Park Service. Rebecca holds a Master of Science in geological sciences at the University of Colorado and a Bachelor of Arts in geosciences from Williams College. Read her guest blog below!
I love my job.
Every week I get to visit a nearby high school, get up on stage and present to the students the story of climate change. It’s a story without an ending yet, but that’s a good thing, because then I get to work with the same young people who are writing the end of the story.
I’m an educator and the team scientist for the Alliance for Climate Education (ACE). ACE is the national leader in the United States in climate science education for high school students and has presented our free multimedia assembly on climate science and solutions to more than 1 million students nationwide. I am proud that our assembly is working too—a recent survey with Chicago Public Schools found our assembly contributed to a 58% improvement in climate science understanding, and ACE was awarded the 2011 Climate Change Communicator of the Year Award.
But I was not always in this line of work. I started out wanting to study glaciers, so I could travel to remote and bone-chillingly cold places around the world. And I got to – both to Baffin Island in the Arctic (2 years of research on those ice caps and a Master’s degree told me: “Yep, they’re melting — and fast.”) as well as to Antarctica (not melting quite as fast there yet, thankfully).
The more I travelled and the more I studied, the more I learned that scientists know plenty about climate change. The problem is that most people don’t understand what the scientists know. And because people don’t get how severe the problem is, they don’t care.
That’s when I met ACE. Now, instead of having adventures navigating the frozen wastelands of the Arctic by snowmobile, I explore wilderness like the fearsome hallways of Placer High School when the lunch bell rings. The wildlife is just as interesting.
On stage, I explain the situation with climate change through our multimedia assembly. It is climate science that sticks, filled with fast-paced animations that show students how our lifestyles are increasing greenhouse gases, which in turn are trapping in excess heat and warming up the planet. I also talk about the impacts: more heat waves, intense storms, flooding and droughts, disease, military strife…this is the worst part. But then I invite students to imagine their own end to the story – and to actually step up to make their vision real.
I love this part the best. Because when I finally do wrestle through the crowds in the halls, I step into a classroom filled with the Placer High ACE Action Team: 20 students dedicated to making their school and community greener. In addition to competing with other ACE Action Teams nationwide to use less energy in their school in ACE’s Biggest Loser Energy contest, they’re planning for their annual Placerpalooza festival – a springtime greenfest with solar-powered music, all recyclable and compostable materials and local food and crafts.
Placer High’s club is just one of almost a thousand ACE Action Teams across the country taking on carbon-cutting projects. And people are listening. Last spring, two ACE Youth Reps spoke at the White House about their success in lowering their school’s energy use and saving the school more than $20,000.
These young people aren’t just the future of America’s shift to sustainability. They’re at the heart of that shift right now.