Parks have the capacity to play important roles addressing some of society’s greatest challenges, beyond their traditional roles within conservation and recreation. Undeniably, one of the greatest challenges of our time is climate change, an issue in which parks are already playing a role but which has not been fully activated. Parks are home to invaluable natural resources threatened by climate change and they provide ideal environments for having apolitical and personal conversations on this issue. Following the startling trend of the past decade, 2016 was the hottest year on record, reinforcing what the scientific community is agreed on with near consensus—climate change is real, it’s bad, and it’s us. While the threats of climate change—some of which are unknown—are understandably daunting, the Institute at the Golden Gate is helping trusted climate messengers, like park staff, speak to the public on this issue in a way that resonates with a variety of audiences and inspires action.
In its effort to help parks develop high-quality, high-impact climate education programs, the Institute found that many other informal education institutions—zoos, museums, aquariums—were struggling with similar challenges. These issues ranged from a discomfort in talking about climate science to insufficient capacity to plan out climate programs. To address these challenges, the Institute convened and continues to provide support for the Bay Area Climate Literacy Impact Collaborative (BayCLIC), a consortium of over 30 informal environmental education institutions dedicated to making the Bay Area the leader in climate literacy and action. BayCLIC members reach over three million individuals annually, which represents a significant opportunity to reach broad audiences with climate messages.
BayCLIC provides targeted resources and a network of support for environmental educators who recognize the critical role that education must play in combating climate change and are interested in tackling the challenges unique to communicating about this issue. Through a collaborative process, BayCLIC members have identified three key initiatives that will help us begin to meet the identified needs of the community:
The products of these three initiatives will be strategically designed to move us towards achieving both our mission (climate literacy and action) and our long-term vision:
Our vision for the future is lofty yet attainable with the collective support of local environmental education organizations, many of whom are already playing a significant role in BayCLIC.