State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

Online Event Discusses the Role of Education in Building Resilient Cities

illustration shows urban area with greenery
A slide from Thomas Kock’s presentation. Watch the full discussion here.

On December 9, the Consulate General of Denmark in New York and the Earth Institute’s Center for Sustainable Development (CSD) co-hosted an online event as part of their Climate Storytelling Partnership series on Reimagining the City for 21st Century.

The discussion focused on the role of education in building resilient cities. It was moderated by Radhika Iyengar, CSD’s director of education, and Haein Shin, CSD’s education technical adviser. The panelists included Thomas Kock, founder of Werk Architects, Professor CB Bhattacharaya of Pittsburg University and Jaimie Cloud, founder of Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education.

Thomas Kock offered an architectural lens for people-driven design of cities that facilitates togetherness and physical coming together of people and communities.

Since and after COVID-19, Professor CB Bhattacharaya suggested taking ownership of sustainability issues and making sustainability central to education (similar to ideas he presented in his book, Small Actions, Big Difference). In the context of cities, Bhattacharaya suggested activating experiential learning for students to contribute ideas for city betterment, and crowd-sourcing and co-creating solutions, such as a sustainability dashboard for cities with key performance indicators in real-time with learners. This process necessitates understanding a city’s realities related to equity and inclusion, and a close look at the state of discrepancies can lead to further civic engagement.

Jaimie Cloud challenged us to re-examine existing mental models as a first step to “think about our thinking” for reimagining the city and education for the 21st century. Cloud referenced inclusive participatory design that engages the K-12 school communities in all processes for city betterment, and celebrating diversity in processes rather than tolerating it, to build capability for whole populations to thrive.

This event comes as a part of a series aimed at discussing key issues that city officials, urban planners, and architects must address in order to tackle the climate burden faced by cities in the 21st century. The series looks at the role of education, innovation and communities in ensuring that cities are a victorious battleground in the fight against climate change. It also examines the social justice elements that city officials must consider in order to design and build a more equitable urban future.

The full series can be found on YouTube:

Part I: virtual panel event on sustainability, cities and social inclusion

Part II: virtual discussion on the role of education in building resilient cities and communities

Part III: virtual community conversation with youth perspectives.

Science for the Planet: In these short video explainers, discover how scientists and scholars across the Columbia Climate School are working to understand the effects of climate change and help solve the crisis.
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