State of the Planet

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How Do High School Students Combat the Climate Crisis and Plan for Community Resilience After a Disaster?

A student mind map on disaster preparedness at the beginning of the program.

How do high school students combat the climate crisis and plan for community resilience after a disaster? Students tackled this question in a week-long virtual immersion program, Climate Change, Disasters, and Recovery: Introduction to Community Planning for Resilience.  It was taught by Josh DeVincenzo from the National Center for Disaster Preparedness (NCDP) at Columbia University’s Climate School and coordinated by Columbia University’s School of Professional Studies. This course brought a diverse set of perspectives from students in China, Bulgaria, the United Kingdom, Guatemala, as well as students throughout the United States. The global connectedness to the topic of climate change and disasters was evident in a truly powerful moment during the course introductions where students spanning several geographies listed off various hazards and disasters that have impacted their communities. Many of the student anecdotes, from volcanic eruptions to intense flooding, set the stage for a full dive into the material.

A student mind map on disaster preparedness at the end of the program.

This intensive week started out with students learning about climate change both from a scientific and a social perspective. Discussions took place about the whole community and the systems approach to mitigating climate change while identifying the various disciplines and professions involved in disaster recovery and preparedness. Students learned how the hazards, impacts, and preventative measures impact the community through case studies, guest speakers, and historical events. To apply the concepts, a student-led Emergency Operations Center and a Long-Term Recovery Group were stood up to respond to and recover from a simulated hurricane disaster that was taking place as a tabletop exercise. NCDP’s Dr. Thomas Chandler and Christopher Tingley join the group as consultants as students navigated the disaster response. An After-Action Report was created as the class capstone where students communicated what steps should be taken to mitigate the impact of climate change and disasters and presented that plan to team members from NCDP.

While this week highlighted challenges surrounding climate change and disaster management, students were given the optional assignment to develop op-eds highlighting solutions. Below are notable snippets:

“Solutions to climate change are not universal. It is also important to look at smaller communities and help with their needs. Connecting with smaller communities can reduce the discrimination caused by the climate since help is directly given to the communities impacted.” ~ Nathalie Lelogeais, High School Immersion Student

 “When a fire tears through California, it burns the homes of the rich and the poor alike. Disaster aid is stuck in a reactive structure that assumes a one-size-fits-all mentality” ~ Naomi Brice, High School Immersion Student

Looking Ahead

The engagement, insights, enthusiasm, and passion that students generated during this course were inspiring. Students stood up to the challenge of learning and participating in a virtual environment. They found commonality as well as worked well together appreciating different perspectives. We are so excited to see what comes next.

“Even though climate change and the many problems are intertwined and can seem extremely daunting, I think this course prepared me with ways to handle it and provided tools that I will be able to use for the rest of my life. I feel the urgency now more than ever, but I am also hopeful for a future when some of these problems will be fixed.”  ~ High School Immersion Student

 “Something I took away from this course was all the different teams and people that are involved in disaster relief and how much effort it takes to recover after a disaster. I learned so much in this course and am very grateful to have had this experience.” ~ High School Immersion Student

To learn more about the Columbia High School Immersion programs, please visit Columbia University School of Professional Studies. To learn more about disaster research, work, policy, and practice, please visit the National Center for Disaster Preparedness. To learn more about climate change education and research, please visit Columbia University’s Climate School.

Banner featuring a collage of extreme heat images.

Recent record-breaking heat waves have affected communities across the world. The Extreme Heat Workshop will bring together researchers and practitioners to advance the state of knowledge, identify community needs, and develop a framework for evaluating risks with a focus on climate justice. Register by June 15

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Bohdan Andrew Oryshkevich
Bohdan Andrew Oryshkevich
2 years ago

I respect Columbia’s commitment to addressing the climate.

I also understand that community resilience is important in the face of climate change.

On the other hand, Columbia owns New York as the saying goes.

Rather than prepare our youth for resiliency in the face of disasters should we also not be reducing our carbon emissions in a drastic manner so that we prevent future disasters in the first place?

Professor Ratti of MIT and the UN both state that our cities cover 2% of our planet’s territory, contain 50% of our population, use 75% of our energy, and emit 80% of our carbon dioxide.

Should not Columbia be pushing for drastically cutting automobile traffic in New York City, and be pushing for weatherizing/decarbonizing our NYC buildings and be promoting non methane generating food and fuel?

Adaptation to impending sequential disasters is nothing to look forward to and is likely to prove futile in the longer term.

Only reducing our emissions and ending destruction of our environment is likely to be helpful in the long run.

Rather than hold lockdowns to control shootings should we not drastically limit access to firearms?

Why does our society have so much trouble with prevention.

Bohdan A Oryshkevich