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Communities and institutions around the country are building resiliency to address the economic impacts of climate change through such actions as creating local food systems, developing green infrastructure, improving community health networks and building career pathways.
Community colleges can and should be a key players in these efforts, says a new report from the American Association of Community Colleges’ SEED (Sustainability Education and Economic Development) Center, with assistance from COWS (Center on Wisconsin Strategy), based at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“Community colleges are ideally situated to be community leaders in building resiliency because they can disseminate reliable information on the social and economic impacts of climate change, help communities prioritize their needs in the context of resiliency, and provide critical material support in times of crisis,” according to A Guide to Climate Resiliency and the Community College.
Vision and innovation needed
Resiliency is not just about disaster preparedness and recovery; it’s about vision, leadership and employment, the SEED Center contends. Some community colleges are already involved in efforts to build resiliency in their communities, but more needs to be done.
The report lays out a guide for two-year colleges, focusing on their roles in building resiliency through job training and economic development. Resiliency will require technical experts in healthcare, construction, urban planning, civil engineering, landscape designer, farming and food systems – occupations for which training is provided at community colleges.
Using sustainability efforts on campus as learning labs
But two-year institutions can do more than train workers for jobs; colleges need to become community leaders and campus innovators, the SEED report urges.
“College presidents, administrators, and faculty need to assess the relevance of coursework and campus initiatives, and, more importantly, step into their role as community leaders on climate resilience,” it says. “It is less a matter of teaching engineers to build green vs. grey infrastructure than of adjusting the entire way that the nation’s problem-solvers are taught to think. It is about creating the educational environment that fosters expansive and imaginative new approaches to solving the infrastructure challenges of tightly interconnected systems.”
College efforts under way
The report highlights examples of community colleges that are working on building resiliency:
The SEED report recommends a number of actions community colleges can take to lead the effort in building resilient communities:
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