Hamilton, ON. DoorNumberOne.org is excited to be hosting the inaugural Unconference of Hope and Bold School Climate Action to kick-off Earth Month 2024 in Hamilton Ontario. This will be a first of its kind event where all stakeholders of school communities will come together as a community of practice to learn, share, collaborate and inspire one another. Participants will include students, teachers, administrators, parents, facilities and operations staff, Board staff/trustees, and local community and industry leaders.
“School communities are a tremendous untapped opportunity for accelerating climate action across society,” says Michèle Andrews, Co-Founder & Executive Director of DoorNumberOne.org. “Our youth are clearly calling for immediate, meaningful action to address the climate and biodiversity crises we are facing. They need to see the adults around them, at home and at school, making this a priority. And in many cases they want to be working alongside us right now to shape a safe, healthy, thriving future for all.”
Headlines continue to point to the significant mental health impacts on our youth as the climate crisis deepens. In January of 2023 a survey was released on the attitudes and beliefs of Canadian youth regarding the climate crisis. Nearly 50% of young Canadians surveyed believe humanity is doomed, 4 out of 10 reported that their feelings about climate change negatively affect their daily lives. The numbers included 71% who said they felt angry, and 69% who said they felt abandoned by their governments. A significant number, 39%, were hesitant to have children. “I can only imagine how the record-breaking climate events of the last year in Canada and around the world have worsened these numbers,” said Andrews.
The Unconference opening keynote address will be by Dr. Elin Kelsey, a scientist and researcher, along with two grade 12 students. “Our 2030 targets are right in front of us. Every action matters. At this stage we must make new connections across the generations to harness all our collective energy, passion, skills and circles of influence,” said Kelsey. “This unconference will be based on evidence for why there is reason for hope. We must change the narrative from doomism to proven solutions that are having meaningful impacts. We need to tell the stories of human- and nature-based solutions, that are powerful forces of healing for ourselves and the planet.”
The organizing team and workshop presenters include students and young activists. “When we are at the unconference, we will be creating new reasons to be hopeful with all the actions we will start together,” added Shirley Barnea, a 19 year old on the team.
“Our schools need support, leadership, and inspiration” says Andrews. She is referring to two studies published in the last year. The first highlighted the significant lack of climate change education in the provincial and territorial curriculum. The second reviewed the public schools boards across the country, and highlighted the very small numbers who are making climate change a priority in their strategic plans and operations. The second report identified that only 4 school boards of the 380 have published Climate Action Plans, 5 have environmental and sustainability plans, and 9 have strategic plans that mention climate change or greenhouse gas reductions.
“These reports demonstrate that the vast majority of students are not learning about the climate crisis, and they are not seeing their schools take steps to adapt to the changing climate nor contribute to the local, regional and national goals to reduce carbon emissions, enhance biodiversity or contribute to other local environmental priorities,” says Andrews.
In addition to hope and intergenerational action, the unconference will be focusing on regeneration: the idea that we can reach beyond “sustainability” to restore and regenerate what has been harmed, and create a thriving future for all. “The idea of regeneration is an inherently hopeful one, and has resonated strongly with students, staff and parents in our work with schools,” says Barb Macintosh, a member of the team at DoorNumberOne.org and long-time educator.
There are schools who are attempting to lead, and share their learning for all, including schools enrolled in the Climate Action Accelerator Program (CAAP), now in its third school year. Many of these school leaders – of all ages – will be sharing their experiences at this event.
DoorNumberOne.org is also preparing to launch a voluntary Climate and Nature Leadership Pledge in the first week of April, with a celebration at the Unconference, for elementary and secondary schools to sign, signalling their public commitment to lead action on the climate and biodiversity crises. “We have been building momentum since we launched CAAP in January of 2022,” says Andrews. Our goal is to build a movement too powerful to ignore.”
This event will be taking place during Worldwide Climate Justice Education Week, a project of the Graduate Programs in Sustainability at Bard College in New York, USA, in conjunction with global partners and the Open Society University Network. Learn more at https://gps.bard.edu/world-wide-teach-in/about.
About the Event
This event is striving to calculate its environmental impact and keep it as low as possible. Award-winning sustainable events planner Natalie Lowe of The Sustainable Events Forum is working with the organizing team, and their partners at the Hamilton Convention Centre, the City of Hamilton, and co-host schools, Hillfield Strathallan College and Appleby College. “Event management students from Toronto Metropolitan University and Durham College are interning on this event learning how to lower the impact of an event on the environment. A full report of GHG emissions and environmental impacts, as well as the strategies used to mitigate these, will be published for all to use to create climate-appropriate events in their communities,” said Lowe.
What is an Unconference?
An unconference is a participant-centred event with a focus on interaction, experiential learning and collaboration. This event will facilitate learning and networking opportunities for groups who don’t usually learn or “conference” together, including students, teachers, parents, administrators and more – a truly intergenerational gathering.
For more information on the Unconference and how to join this transformative event, visit https://doornumberone.org/unconference/.
DoorNumberOne.org is a registered charity established to help individuals, schools, communities and organizations take ambitious steps towards a just, beautiful and regenerative world. They are working to catalyze bold, hope-filled climate action in and through elementary and secondary schools, and invite everyone to join them in building a movement too powerful to ignore.
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Media: For more information or interviews, please contact Michèle Andrews, michele@DoorNumberOne.org