Mass Audubon's mission is to protect the nature of Massachusetts for humans and wildlife. In order to fulfill our mission we must engage the people of Massachusetts and beyond in climate change awareness, education, and action.
Mobilizing the Public through Outreach and Education
Goal: To deliver climate change educational information to all audiences so as to increase awareness and mobilize action on climate change.
The Case for Climate Change Outreach and Education:
In this country, the conservation community has failed to communicate just how important it is to act together to address climate change. At present, there is a significant gap in the public’s understanding of climate change and a lack of personal commitment to address this issue even among many people who consider themselves conservationists. Many adults are disengaged on the subject of climate change – either they don’t believe it is a serious issue, or they feel powerless to address it. Recently, a study by Mass INC (April 2012) showed that there is limited understanding and support for the goals of the Global Warming Solutions Act in Massachusetts.
While at face value this is depressing news, it also presents an opportunity for Mass Audubon, which holds key pieces to addressing this fundamental problem. Mass Audubon’s large membership and reputation as a respective provider of information gives us access to more citizens than other non profits. Our long-standing leadership in environmental education in traditional school and group program settings through our distributed network of wildlife sanctuaries uniquely positions us to provide climate change education statewide. Recent advances and tools for reaching people of all ages with value-based messages about climate change gives us hope that we can turn the tide of public apathy. We can work together across education, marketing, science, and land protection programs at Mass Audubon to develop and deliver climate change education to members, the general public and participants in sanctuary programs.
With new focus and investment, our sanctuaries have the potential to serve as “climate change activity centers”—destinations for learning about climate change science, land stewardship techniques, personal carbon footprint reduction, energy conservation and renewable energy installation incentive programs, and other community climate change opportunities. People of all ages, interests, and levels of engagement bound by a common community/geography rely on Mass Audubon to connect them to the natural world. We are poised to work with children, young adults and adults to effectively communicate the impacts of climate change on that natural world and inspire them to act now to mitigate the impact of climate change on the nature of Massachusetts. Through concerted effort we can also provide less formal learning opportunities to the hundreds of thousands of visitors that come to our sanctuaries annually – and can engage them in learning about climate change in their local communities.
The ultimate measure of success in climate outreach and education lies in moving citizens of all ages along the continuum of engagement – from changing personal behavior to supporting climate change advocacy and green community engagement. Young people, who form the next generation of voters, will benefit from lessons and curricula that will connect their own developing value systems with the need for environmental protection and a lifelong commitment to address climate change.
While Mass Audubon has a talented, capable education staff, many of them are not currently well-prepared to deliver educational programs containing climate change messaging. We also have limited capacity in this area. Any new Mass Audubon educational effort involving climate change will need to be well grounded in staff training, messaging and communication skills designed to foster understanding and engagement on this complex topic.
Finally, we need to support the Marketing Department’s efforts to reach members and the general public with messages about climate change through traditional and innovative ways. A marketing outreach program that parallels a sanctuary education strategy would internalize climate change understanding by delivering timely information and messaging to members and others.
Current Activities (using existing resources/capacity):
- Evaluate our own marketing capacity, communication tools, and website. Recommend ways to reach staff, members, and the public.
- Articulate our role for staff and partners, and develop basic training, educational and communication materials for staff. Reach the public with Connections, Sanctuary, and e-newsletter articles and our website.
- Continue to incorporate climate change messaging into our Shaping the Future planning work and coordinate outreach through key regional sanctuaries.
- Continue ongoing work with land trusts and public conservation practitioners, to help them better understand the relevance of climate change to their work, and the strategies they might employ to either respond with direct actions, or to inspire/motivate others to action.
- Implement a Mass Audubon-wide one-day climate change training for educators.
- Based on a staff sabbatical, develop and publish guidelines for green building conversion at Mass Audubon (and other similar organizations).
- Deliver climate change education on policy issues to staff and educators.
- Continue to develop interpretive materials including green trails and tours at our sanctuaries and utilize opportunities to showcase innovative technologies (e.g. electric vehicles, solar, wind).
- Nominate additional education staff to be part of Frameworks ‘learning circle’ mentorships.
- Select and promote a green electricity product to our members and visitors to help them reduce their carbon footprint.
Proposed Activities (may require new resources/capacity):
- Develop basic yet substantive information about climate change and messaging to share with all Mass Audubon staff statewide including talking points, simple science-based fact sheets, and web resources. In this way we can promote a basic fluency in climate change among all Mass Audubon staff so that they are comfortable in conversations with visitors and program participants on the topic, so we can then encourage them to engage in a variety of forms of direct action at home and/or in the workplace. Provide training and updated materials regularly to make this happen. Use staff focus groups to fine- tune approach. Implement a market segmentation strategy to reach diverse audiences more effectively.
- Consider launching an e-newsletter that would reach members with regular information on climate change – tips on greening, Mass Audubon’s efforts, etc. For example, a regular “Green Hero of the Month” feature, could highlight the concerted actions of a household, a single person, a company, or a municipality to inspire others of similar profiles to action.
- Build on experiences of Mass Audubon’s two National Science Foundation (NSF) trained educators and provide training to increase level of educator comfort in integrating climate change messaging into existing and new school and nonschool programs. Develop and share basic curriculum materials that can be adapted to a variety of age groups and are grounded in state frameworks. Seek opportunities for additional educators to participate in NSF mentoring circle program. Over time broaden our outreach to including climate change training for teachers as part of ongoing teacher training efforts. Seek funding from NSF and others to deliver state wide climate education training and curriculum development. Share our expertise with non-profit partners in neighboring states. Form an internal work group to prepare for integrating climate change and environmental literacy in school curriculum standards.
- Develop land trust training session on land protection/management and climate change adaptation
- Develop partnership with Union of Concerned Scientists to inform best practices for individual actions to combat climate change for our members and the general public in Massachusetts.
- Launch campaign to educate sanctuary visitors on climate change. (e.g. a series of educational posters and materials using the “Nature of Massachusetts” and “Baltimore Oriole” poster series as models). Develop materials that draw on our own experience in reducing our carbon footprint to educate the public (including members) about carbon footprint reduction, energy conservation and efficiency and green energy. Also incorporate information from BioMap2 and State of the Birds to explain the importance of buffering and connecting lands to make them more resilient to climate change. Select one sanctuary in each region to engage visitors in deeper understanding of climate change (see section below on Sanctuaries as Climate Activity Centers).
- Set goals for continued Mass Audubon carbon reduction with a specific focus on actions that will also inform and encourage the public to take personal actions. Possible future efforts could include a focus on reducing staff travel, opportunities for telecommuting and teleconferencing, and further greening of Mass Audubon’s headquarters facility. Continue to seek ways to build additional energy conservation features into sanctuaries – possible wind turbine, solar charging stations, etc. Continue to draw from our own experiences to educate the public about carbon footprint, green energy, and energy conservation and efficiency.
- Develop a new citizen science program focused on climate change monitoring -- to detect changes on the ground at our sanctuaries through volunteer engagement and school partnerships. Identify one or more species that will serve as the focus of this engagement statewide and share results with participants to increase their understanding of the impacts of climate change.
- Explore a partnership with a national climate change communication group (Yale, George Mason, Union of Concerned Scientists) to guide and inform our work with all constituencies.
- Commit to regular education of legislators and decision makers on timely climate related topics and develop some standard tools to share latest science.
A Model of Sanctuaries as Climate Activity Centers to Deliver Climate Education and Outreach:
- Provide value driven climate change education via sanctuary programs via trained education staff.
- Grow and align our planning work (e.g. ‘Shaping the Future’ or the 495 Partnership) with sanctuaries to reach more communities and connect other sanctuary-based benefits to local communities.
- Expand education outreach to land trusts and public conservation practitioners, to help them better understand the relevance of climate change to their work, and the strategies they might employ to either respond with direct actions, or to inspire/motivate others to action.
- Roll out Biomap 2 at sanctuaries to connect people with changes in nature in their community and introduce community need to buffer, connect and manage for climate change. Create demonstration sites to show the pubic how we must manage and connect lands to make them more resilient to climate change.
- Consider partnership with State to promote suite of forest land owner incentives
- Provide services for connecting farmers (at appropriate sanctuaries) with farm programs that meet our litmus test. Build on the direct link to food production, Community Supported Agriculture, farmers markets, community gardens, outdoor classrooms, nature play areas with gardens, etc. that many Mass Audubon sanctuaries have.
- Continue to emphasize sustainability messaging and green energy awareness. Provide changing stations for electric vehicles. Deliver guidelines and information on incentives for renewable energy installation.
- Develop long-term monitoring to detect changes on the ground at our sanctuaries through volunteer network, staff or university partnerships.
- Create a hub of climate change collaboration and community education. For example, host local MCAN chapters, initiate sustainability film festival, make buildings available for green energy tours, serve as demonstration sites for green energy, and provide guest speakers on various climate change topics.
- Conduct climate informed Rapid Ecological Assessment and management planning. Implement the best tools and develop science based guidelines to design future acquisitions, and to restore and adapt lands to a climate changed future.
- Deliver organizing, lobbying and messaging training to other conservation/climate change community activists.