A Teach-In to Reach-Out to Save the Planet

This is not sustainable. Hundred-year floods happening over and over again. Wildfires burning hotter, longer and more out of control each year. Droughts and deluge, extreme heat and cold, unbreathable air and undrinkable water – our planet is at the brink.

These are some of the reasons institutions of learning across the globe — including Bradley — united March 30 for the Worldwide Teach-in on Climate/Justice, organized by the Graduate Programs in Sustainability at Bard College (N.Y.). Although organized for collective global action, each student-driven, individualized teach-in stressed local solutions and action for each specific participating institution.

In the run-up to the teach-in, two Bradley students worked as social media interns for the global efforts: junior Max Dieterich focused on Germany and Europe, while senior Elizabeth Nelson targeted the Midwest. Utilizing their training from Bard, the interns engaged with various institutions to grow and help organize the teach-ins. 

“This internship helped me further develop my leadership, organization and communication skills that were essential for helping to plan and execute Bradley's teach-in,” said Nelson.

The event on campus began with an introductory video featuring Eban Goodstein, director of the global event at Bard College. A series of breakout sessions followed, allowing students to focus on their specific interests, such as crafting effective policy, combating disinformation, dealing with climate-related anxiety and discussing climate injustice.

Local groups such as the HOI Sierra Club and Peoria’s chapter of the NAACP also contributed to the program, ultimately helping to link the concepts of climate and justice.

A two-part panel focused on interdisciplinary solutions to the climate crisis converged panelists from engineering, consumer science, non-profit leadership and others. They discussed infrastructure challenges, proactive restoration of habitat, policy common grounds and responsible consumerism.

The final session — “Solving Climate With Justice – What Can We Do?” — focused on the need to educate, act sustainably, engage politically and to seek climate solutions in everyone’s own career fields; it also stressed the need for interdisciplinary cooperation and engagement with local partners.

Dieterich and Nelson, along with seniors Camille Sanders and Mitch Thiel, worked with their global colleagues to build the teach-in. They noted how students could help.

“If you want to create change it is important that you speak up,” urged Dieterich. “Engage with the system and make your voices be heard.”

Molly Gribb, dean of the Foster College of Business and Caterpillar College of Engineering and Technology, touched on Bradley’s role.

“It is becoming increasingly clear that the grand challenges facing the world cannot be addressed by a single discipline,” she said. “And not only must we employ highly functioning interdisciplinary teams to address these problems, we must also seek solutions in authentic partnership with stakeholders in the communities we seek to support if these solutions are to have a positive social impact.”

Bradley’s Office of Global Studies and Initiatives in collaboration with the Center for STEM Education, sustainability minor, Institute for Principled Leadership in Public Service and the Peoria Area World Affairs Council organized the event. At its conclusion, participants reaffirmed their commitment to fighting climate change by using what they learned during this global teach-in.

“Working in isolation is futile,” said Christopher Jones, vice president of strategy and innovation, adding, “Being an informed citizen is being a leader.”

Some media in Bradley University's current print, video and online materials was acquired before the COVID-19 pandemic. Media acquired after the pandemic began was done so in compliance with Bradley's COVID-19 safety protocols at the time. The ongoing safety of our faculty, staff and students is of the utmost concern during these unprecedented times.

Photo of the closing panel (L to R): Christopher Jones, Molly Gribb, Max Dieterich, Mitch Thiel, Elizabeth Nelson, Camille Sanders.