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Upper Valley leadership academy focuses on local solutions to climate change

Wikimedia Commons

In Lebanon, New Hampshire, a community program focuses on finding local solutions to combat climate change.

This fall, the Climate Change Leadership Academy, or 2CLA,will train 25 Upper Valley residents to build climate-related projects within their own communities. Applications are open until August 15.

Erich Osterberg is an associate professor of Earth Sciences at Dartmouth College who helped start the program and develop its curriculum. He spoke with All Things Considered host, Julia Furukawa. Below is a transcript of their conversation.


Julia Furukawa: So why did you and others want to start this program?

Erich Osterberg: It's a great question. So people are getting more and more concerned about the impacts of climate change. We see it in the headlines basically every day. And here in New England, we have impacts as well. We're in a moderate drought right now, and we're facing a heat wave as well. And so people are getting more concerned. But at the same time, they're getting more and more frustrated, I think, about not seeing a whole lot being done about this at the national level. And so 2CLA is really about taking action at the local level, taking action at the community level, where we think we can have a big impact.

Julia Furukawa: So for the people who really want to be change-makers at the local level, what kind of curriculum did you design for them?

Eli Burakian/Dartmouth College
Dartmouth College
Erich Osterberg is a professor of Earth Sciences at Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH.

Erich Osterberg: Most of our curriculum is focused on solutions and how do you go about enacting the solutions. So we introduce people to the organizations who are already doing work in this space. We talk about climate and environmental justice. We provide leadership training so that people can go from designing their project all the way through to how best to implement their project at the local level. And I think one of the most important things we offer is really the cohort of participants themselves, right? Getting to know other people in our communities who are just as passionate about taking climate action as we are.

Julia Furukawa: That makes me think, this sort of community that's being created from alumni, current participants, for lack of a better term, I imagine that people can kind of experience climate burnout.

Erich Osterberg: Yeah, you can experience burnout. You can experience real frustration. And so having a group of people come together who all want to do something, want to take action. And I think some people might say, well, yeah, it's just a drop in the bucket, right? What can that really do to help this huge problem that we face with climate change? But it's knowing that you are part of this much larger national, and I would argue even international, movement.

Julia Furukawa: Could you give me some examples of some successful projects that participants have created in the past couple of years?

Erich Osterberg: We've got lots of people who join their existing town sustainability or energy committees or creating one if their town doesn't have one. We've had people work with students, youth and the youth climate engagement movement. People produce educational materials on things like home insulation or electric cars.

Julia Furukawa: And what's your reaction? What's it like for you when you see one of these projects come to fruition?

Erich Osterberg:  It's just fabulous. I mean, I love when we see people as young as 16 joining up with some of our oldest seniors, our folks who have been around experiencing this area the longest, to create really exciting projects and then these friendships.

Julia Furukawa is the host of All Things Considered at NHPR. She joined the NHPR team in 2021 as a fellow producing ATC after working as a reporter and editor for The Paris News in Texas and a freelancer for KNKX Public Radio in Seattle.

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