ClimateX Principles: Learning is our Theory of Change

This is the first in a series of reflections on ClimateX's mission - it's a combination of personal and collective thinking so I would greatly appreciate your feedback! 

------

As an all-encompassing problem, climate change requires interventions at many scales. Some of us will protest first world hypocrisy at COP summits and others will organize teach-ins at their local school. Diversity of means and goals is natural as well as desirable in a broad based democratic movement. 

At the same time, the ambition of a new initiative has to be commensurate with the capacity of its initiators, their skills and experience and their target community. We wouldn’t applaud the president of the United States if his climate actions consisted of teach-ins at DC schools. Of course, even that degree of support would be a welcome new turn for the current presidency. 

As ClimateX matures, we want to take stock of our capacities, skills and community and ask ourselves: “what’s our theory of change?” ClimateX arose out of MIT alumni efforts to hold the institute accountable for its continuing links to fossil fuel companies. Then, as now, ClimateX’s leadership supports complete divestment from fossil fuel companies in the MIT corporation’s portfolio and the urgent refocusing of the institute’s research and teaching efforts towards a sustainable future for all of us. 

However, those demands are not ClimateX’s demands. Instead, ClimateX wants to build upon and advance networks of technology enabled learning that have emerged in the last few years. We believe that large scale action supported by knowledge is a better long term choice for us than protest or divestment. There are several reasons for thinking so, let me just mention four:

  1. Online learning has exploded in the last few years - Class Central reports that over 58 million students participated in massive online courses in 2016. Bringing the message of climate action via knowledge to this massive (potential) audience is a fantastic opportunity, especially when we can leverage the enormous goodwill of the MIT community of 130,000 alumni, students, staff and faculty to reach those 58+ million people.
  2. With our partnership with MIT’s Office of Digital Learning, we have a ringside view of these momentous developments in learning technologies and we have the opportunity to build social learning tools for climate action at a scale no one has done before.
  3. Our worldwide audience has varied interests and backgrounds. Climate action in Qatar is different from climate action in Mumbai. Even more importantly, we want to enable peer to peer learning of climate action, so that the student in Bogota can learn from the successes of actors in Bangkok.
  4. Learning is the primary route through which ClimateX will reach future generations, and for better or worse, those future generations will face more extreme challenges than we ever will. It’s worth investing in long term learn-act cycles that will prepare our children and grandchildren for the future. We trust that they will create the tools, campaigns and movements needed.

As individuals we may participate in civil disobedience and court arrest against gas pipelines or corporate influence - and some of us have done so - but as ClimateX we will focus our efforts on climate actions clearly tied to learning. Our goal is to create a portfolio of learning content and projects of a size and complexity that can be supported in classrooms, community groups and other learning spaces and to use that portfolio to build a movement of climate actors worldwide.

Therefore, the answer to the question “what’s our theory of change?” is “our theory of change is our theory of learning.” Which prompts the obvious question:

What’s our theory of learning?

 

Topics

  • Faith & Ethics

Comments

Harshan Radhakrishnan's picture

Rajesh, glad to note that

Rajesh, glad to note that ClimateX we will focus efforts on climate actions clearly tied to learning. Could you please advise if there are some examples of social learning tools for climate action that you were referring to in your post?

Great post, BTW!

Rajesh Kasturirangan's picture

Glad you liked the post,

Glad you liked the post, Harshan. What I meant was that we want to build those social learning tools right here on ClimateX. Having said that, I think people are using social technologies like Slack for democratic action in a big way. Check out Bond and Exley's Rules for Revolutionaries on how the Bernie campaign used them. 

Rick Shankman's picture

"MIT ClimateX... focused on

"MIT ClimateX... focused on social learning tools."

Some of us are focused on MIT, its partnerships and investments, those partners' conduct, lobbying efforts and attacks on our fellow alumni, Houston, Texas, and a Category 5 hurricane on it's way to the Florida peninsula.

Oh yeah, and climate action too.

Aryt Alasti's picture

I think some sort of

I think some sort of manifesto - about what is the state of global citizens' understanding of climate change; where do we need to be with enlightenment ASAP; and, how might we get there - is warranted, and would potentially inspire many people toward some kind of collective path forward.

Rick Shankman's picture

I'm sure Aryt will give you

I'm sure Aryt will give you his, but in the meantime, here are my top 3 suggestions...

  1. Restore dignity and credibility to the Institute and its research by continuing to openly support and demand DIVESTMENT of fossil fuel interests from the MITEI, the MIT endowment, and all other MIT-based research.  Fossil fuel has infiltrated and absorbed MIT completely.  As I type this, one of the MITEI founding partners is openly attacking an MIT alumnus for revealing its campaign of lies.  Other founding MITEI members have actually divested themselves from renewables.  Still other fossil fuel interests partnered with MIT lobby AGAINST the work of MIT scientists and students.  That's completely unacceptable and such unholy alliances and hypocrisy at MIT must end.
  2. Openly demand that the MIT CUP burn renewables.  MIT has absolutely no "climate leadership" credibility at all with a fuel oil burning, soon-to-be-methane-burning campus power plant.  If MIT can't advocate for renewable energy use on its own campus, it has no right or credibility in telling others to do so elsewhere.
  3. Recognize and openly oppose the lunacy of actually funding climate destruction with fossil fuel exploration and development subsidies.  These crooked fossil fuel money gifts should be immediately redirected (by legislation) to the development and deployment of mandated renewable fuel use programs that can immediately DRASTICALLY reduce carbon emissions.  Phony pay-to-pollute "carbon pricing" schemes are being offered to fool the public into inaction and the continued use of fossil fuels.  These costs will be borne by the consumers, not the (continuing to pollute) polluters.  Legally-mandated renewables use is the only guaranteed way to curb continued emissions.

There, that's a Top 3 for me.

Rick Shankman's picture

"ClimateX arose out of MIT

"ClimateX arose out of MIT alumni efforts to hold the [I]nstitute accountable for its continuing links to fossil fuel companies.  Then, as now, ClimateX’s leadership supports complete divestment from fossil fuel companies in the MIT corporation’s portfolio and the urgent refocusing of the institute’s research and teaching efforts towards a sustainable future for all of us."

Wait for it...

"However, those demands are not [now] ClimateX’s demands.

... [A]s ClimateX we will focus our efforts on climate [in]actions clearly tied to [digital] learning.  [Be sure to visit our partner and landlord the MIT Office of Digital Learning and make a donation.]

... Learning is the primary route by which ClimateX will reach future generations, and... [w]e trust that they will create the tools, campaigns and movements needed" [emphasis and additions mine].

Now that's "focus on climate action" leadership!

Let's not forget MITACAL's new focus on Indian demonetization policy, as we "join the growing movement for bold climate action at MIT by making [a] tax-deductible donation to the DivestFund TODAY!"

I think that about says it all for me.

Incidentally, why does that kid's book bag in the picture say "The Taking of PELHAM 123"?  I hope he's is not on his way to go hold the City of New York hostage for $10 Million.

"I knew how ClimateX got its start... I didn't know how it was going to end."

Rick Shankman's picture

Vigilant and "focused on

Vigilant and "focused on climate action."  I know I've read that somewhere before.

That must be the old policy.

With regard to software glitches and LinkedIn, the MITACAL Webpage Blog hasn't had an entry since April of last year!

If your essays on Indian corruption and demonetization policies (on the LinkedIn Group page) are a software glitch, where are the posts that were SUPPOSED to be there and on-topic?

Is this a software glitch too?...

MITACAL...

"We are alumni committed to MIT's leadership on climate action."

If it's not a glitch or the "old policy" for MITACAL, is this the extent of our "commitment to MIT's climate leadership"?...

"... join the growing movement for bold climate action at MIT by making [a] tax-deductible donation to the DivestFund TODAY!"

Leaving it to the next generation to solve climate change and making a donation to a privately managed investment fund doesn't sound like "focus on bold climate action" to me.

Rick Shankman's picture

Just saw your complete

Just saw your complete rewrite of the front page of the ClimateX site.  Doubt you could disabuse me of that skepticism.

"MIT ClimateX... focused on anything, as long as it has nothing to do with climate action, leadership or its founding principles."