What's in this lesson.
The climate is changing
The debate is settled; climate change is caused by human activity. Since the Industrial Revolution, humans have been burning fossil fuels to power every aspect of our lives. This has resulted in greenhouse gasses being pumped into the atmosphere at a rate that has threatened to increase our average global temperature by 2 degrees Celsius. Because of this warming, we're seeing abnormal and extreme weather like droughts, floods, and fires, loss of ecosystems, significant increases in pollution, soil nutrient loss, and food and water shortages. From how we make things, to how we get around, and even how we take care of our backyards, the world we've built is entirely dependent on the very fuel system destroying it.
Landscaping as climate solution.
Because we are so deeply reliant on this fuel system, it’s going to take redesigning and reimagining almost every aspect of our lives if we're to keep the planet from warming over 2 degrees Celsius. But with such a daunting task- where can you even start?
The federal government has begun to take action with the passing of the Inflation Reduction Act that includes heavy incentives for clean energy technologies and is predicted to reduce emissions levels by 42% below 2005 levels. While this is a huge step towards achieving the United State’s climate goals, experts are predicting that state and local governments will still need to take action.
This is why Roots Down is on a mission to shift the paradigm of landscaping - an industry wildly dependent on fossil fuels that local governments and every day people have the opportunity to make big impact. Not only do our landscapes encourage fossil fuel usage but they also decrease soil life and biodiversity, sequester less carbon, and increase flooding and water pollution. Through legislation, education, and dynamic programs, there is an opportunity to shift the landscaping industry into a powerful force for social and environmental change.
Climate anxiety enters stage right.
The rise of climate awareness, coupled with increasingly dysfunctional governmental responses, has given rise to the phenomenon of climate anxiety, a pervasive sense of gloom about the future.
Given that emotions are frequently what motivate people to act, it is possible that feelings of climate anxiety are the precise tools needed to enact the changes that the world needs right now. In other words, the best way to alleviate climate anxiety is to do something about it, and local action is one of the best ways to reduce anxiety, meet your neighbors and like-minded people, and focus your attention on the part of the world most important to you. Alec Tyson, Associate Director of the PEW Research Center, found that individuals in the United States who experience the most climate anxiety are also the most optimistic about their ability to change the situation. Young people are particularly sensitive to the issues surrounding climate change.
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It’s their future: youth at the table
In 2021, University of Bath researchers conducted the largest study ever on climate anxiety in youth, interviewing over 10,000 young people (aged 16-25) from 10 countries about their thoughts and feelings about climate change. They found that over 80% of 16-25 year olds are worried about climate change, with over 40% saying they think about it on a daily basis. It’s no secret that today’s youth are the cohort most likely to spend the rest of their lives in a climate changing world. They know it, and they’re growing increasingly anxious about it.
Roots Down believes that youth should be given tangible options for channeling their climate anxiety towards making actual positive change for the environment, particularly locally-focused efforts. We strongly believe that if youth are to inherit the future (especially one that is a result of climate change) they should have access to these opportunities and be at the table making decisions for and protecting their future. That is why we created the GreenHive Leadership Program.
The GreenHive Leadership Program
The GreenHive Leadership Program (GLP) is a 10-week paid fellowship for 18-24 year olds. Hosted at local universities and colleges, or Fruitful Libraries and schools, the GLP teaches youth leaders how to become better organizers, advocate for public policies, and gives them the resources and tools they need to develop a Legacy Project that will grow a sustainable asset in their communities.
Over the course of the program, GreenHive Leaders learn about the five key areas of advocating for local climate action:
Pitching and communicating your ideas
Using art for advocacy
The importance of land stewardship
Shifting public policy
Through guest speakers, interactive activities, on-site experiences, weekly meetings, and team building exercises, GreenHive Leaders are equipped with the tools they need to shift climate policy in government, in their careers, or in their own businesses. And when they graduate, they become part of a growing network of GreenHive alumni, united by their shared experience and passion for changing the future.
We believe the GreenHive is key to achieving local climate action and earth stewardship legislation. By training youth to be leaders in legislation, advocacy, and organizing communities, they are able to ease their climate anxiety and create sustainable, visible positive change in their communities.
Cohort no. 1: laying the foundation.
Thanks to the generous support of the Arthur M. Blank Foundation and Commissioner Ted Terry's office, Roots Down was able to kickoff the inaugural cohort of the GreenHive Leadership program in January, 2022.
Cohort no. 1 consisted of 10 DeKalb County college-aged students attending Dunwoody High School, Agnes Scott College, Emory University, and Georgia State University. These leaders represented a wide variety of backgrounds, interests, majors, and talents.
The Legacy Projects.
The GreenHive Leaders were split into three groups and tasked with completing a group Legacy Project in order to practice what they were learning in class and use their own unique skills and talents to advocate for the Fruitful Communities Initiative. The Legacy Project is designed to allow students to dream big and create meaningful, long lasting change. In order to achieve this, we asked students to create a pitch proposal for their final project. This allowed students to focus on developing an impactful plan, and gather research, community input, and support for their idea. This also allowed students to propose projects that could take longer than 10 weeks to complete, and create institutional change.
Legacy Project 1: A sensory garden at Agnes Scott.
The Agnes Scott GreenHive Leaders proposed a sensory garden walk to be incorporated throughout their campus. Agnes Scott leaders took special interest on how including these sensory plants throughout the campus landscape could affect student psychology. This legacy project also focused on student education and advocacy to ensure long-term sustainability.
Legacy Project 2: A mural for Emory University.
The Emory GreenHive Leaders proposed a Fruitful Communities mural on an existing campus building. This mural would not only beautify the campus but discuss the importance of land stewardship, local food systems, and community building. Emory Leaders were particularly interested in how this mural project could bring multiple environmental and food justice organizations together to advocate for shifting the paradigm of landscaping.
Legacy Project 3: An urban oasis at Georgia State.
The Georgia State University GreenHive Leaders proposed policy modifications to the institution's existing Landscape Development Plan. These changes would help provide Productive Urban Landscapes and green space throughout the primarily concrete Georgia State campus. This policy adjustment was completed with student surveys and analysis of data interpretations, and a documentation video.
A career pathway for youth leaders.
In addition to getting paid for completing the GLP, GreenHive Leaders are also eligible to be summer interns with Roots Down, and get first priority for full and part-time careers at the company. Over the summer, two graduates of Cohort no. 1 were chosen as policy and research interns, helping contribute to the successful passage of the Fruitful Libraries resolution, a $250k commitment by DeKalb County to develop a plan to transition the landscapes around all 23 county libraries to Productive Urban Landscapes.
Three more Leaders from Cohort no. 1 will be working as mentors and program assistants for the upcoming Cohort no. 2, starting in September, 2022. These career options are just one more way Roots Down is supporting the development of tomorrow's environmental leaders.
How you can help.
Looking for something you can do to help support the GreenHive?
NOMINATE A LEADER.
Spread the word about the GreenHive Leadership Program by connecting us directly with the youth leaders in your life. If you think you or someone you know would be a perfect fit for the GreenHive, connect us over email (firstname.lastname@example.org), or simply send them the link to apply.
SPONSOR A GREENHIVER.
The most direct way to support the GLP is by sponsoring a GreenHiver directly. For just $2500 per student, you can ensure a spot for a youth leader to enter this incredible program. Sponsorships can be tax-deductible through the Roots Down Foundation, so whether you're a business looking to make a difference, a passionate individual, or a collective, sponsoring the GreenHive is a tremendous way to create local environmental change in your own community.
HOW TO TALK ABOUT THE GROWER PROGRAM:
"The GreenHive Leadership Program is a 10-week paid fellowship for youth leaders to learn how to become better organizers, advocate for public policies, and gives them the resources and tools they need to develop a Legacy Project that will grow a sustainable asset in their communities."