OISE’s Sustainability and Climate Action Network reviews progress made towards sustainability

(Photo courtesy of OISE)

(Photo courtesy of OISE)

The University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education held a webinar on Monday to discuss progress on OISE’s Sustainability and Climate Action Plan, the latest example of the institute working towards a more sustainable future by acting on climate change.

The Sustainability and Climate Action Network (previously the Environmental and Sustainability Education Initiative) convened a webinar to review the progress made under OISE’s climate action plan, established after the global climate strikes of 2019. 

SCAN will continue to provide the OISE community, Toronto District School Board teachers and other professionals with educational tools to address the climate crisis. The network will facilitate programming, research and advocacy to support environmental and sustainability education efforts in the Greater Toronto Area and beyond.  

The webinar, hosted by OISE’s Climate Action Advisory Committee, featured a variety of voices from community members engaged in environmental and sustainability education. At the virtual gathering, staff, faculty, and students had the opportunity to identify actionable steps and share ideas on how to embed sustainability within OISE.

Hilary Inwood, a lecturer in the department of curriculum, teaching and learning (CTL) who leads SCAN, says sustainability affects all facets of human activity. 

"The climate crisis threatens every aspect of how we live and work, and reinforces environmental racism and inequities for marginalized peoples," Inwood said. "We all need to contribute to addressing this crisis if we want to ensure the health and wellbeing of all moving forward." 

Inspired by OISE’s first Climate Action Summit , in the fall of 2020, the action plan was created in consultation with more than 100 community members.

Although the pandemic continues to make it hard to meet in person, many OISE students are eager to support climate action. Alysse Kennedy, a CTL doctoral candidate and Climate Action Advisory Committee member, says educators have a big role to play in promoting sustainability. 

"The best part about the plan is that it connects to so many different facets of our lives - both the triumphs and the struggles that post-secondary students face," Kennedy says. "The greatest strength of the plan is that it gives students an accessible way into sustainability and climate action."

Normand Labrie, OISE’s interim dean and a professor in the CTL department, says: "OISE’s initiative to address climate change builds on the key priorities of OISE’s academic plan, and our goal as a community is to minimize OISE’s carbon footprint and maximize impact across Canada and around the world through education."

OISE can serve as a model for other faculties of education in Canada and beyond, Inwood said. As climate change continues to be an existential threat to the planet, she says everyone must come together and advance climate justice and sustainability projects.

"The climate crisis is the most pressing problem facing humanity today. OISE’s plan acknowledges this by embedding sustainability and climate action into all aspects of its work and operations," says Inwood. "This plan recognizes that education is central to the cultural shifts needed for more sustainable forms of living, and models how OISE can support and mobilize the education sector in addressing the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals." 

David Montemurro , associate director of the master of teaching program and a Climate Action Advisory committee member, has been involved in eco-justice educational issues since the early 1990s and recognizes the significance of an institution-wide effort.

"I have a strong attachment to wild spaces, and I’m routinely compelled by global injustice that calls on all of us to prioritize intersectional approaches to sustainability and climate action," Montemurro says.

While OISE aims for an organization-wide shift towards sustainability, it also recognizes the importance of individual efforts to make a positive change. With 24 actions and 60-plus strategies, OISE’s plan encourages all members of the community to integrate sustainability and climate action in their work and ways of living.

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