Project Title: Educating for the Unity of the Earth System in the Anthropocene: Empowering Citizens for the Climate as a Global Common Good
Project Coordinator: Paulo Magalhães
Start date: 2021-07-01
End Date: 2021-11-30
What is Our Goal?
ENEA 2020 is committed to building environmental literacy in Portugal by actively engaging citizens to drive a paradigm shift in civilization. A paradigmatic shift is essential to promote behavioural changes and to support them, in order to shape a new environmental culture. A socio-economic paradigm shift in wealth creation is especially important, because "the services provided by ecosystems, although essential to human life and economic activities, are now devalued and are not counted as "goods" which are made available to us without any costs and with multiple benefits" (ENEA 2020). The current climate emergency can only be faced by acknowledging the global interdependence caused by the indivisibility and exhaustibility of the Terrestrial System. A stable climate is the manifestation of a Terrestrial System in a well-functioning state. According to social sciences, the definition of the common good is the first necessary condition to allow for collective action. A Terrestrial System with a stable climate is humanity’s vital global common and should be recognized and managed as such, because individuals will only protect what they perceive and value. The existence of an interconnected, indivisible, and intangible Terrestrial System common to all mankind challenges the current fragmented one-dimensional approach to education and governance. Ecological instability and its consequent social challenges are clear evidence that the time has come for a change in the international legal and governance systems. So far, strategic actions have been centered in climate change adaptation and to reduce damage, mainly by attempting to reduce CO2 emissions. However, science has been demonstrating that to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it is necessary to actively remove CO2 from the atmosphere to prevent a climate catastrophe. The harm mitigation approach may not happen fast enough to prevent the Earth System from reaching planetary tipping points, beyond which climate change may become irreversible. Our ambition is to educate for a paradigm shift in the definition of which is the Global Common that unite us all, as the basis for recognizing new ways of wealth creation. Only then will it be possible to recognize the vital value of nature’s intangible work for societies, which will allow building an economy able to restore and maintain the Earth System with a stable climate.
What is a stable climate?
A stable climate is a visible manifestation of a well-functioning Earth System which, in turn, relies on a resilient and well-functioning biosphere. This stability is based on well-defined patterns of atmospheric and ocean circulation, which can be understood as the ‘software’ of the planet. This ‘software’ is being damaged by human activities, which are substantially altering the biochemical composition of the atmosphere and oceans, driving an increase in global temperature. On a planetary scale, the ways matter and energy move around the planet create relatively stable patterns of atmospheric and oceanic circulation. These patterns follow the laws of thermodynamics and result in a stable climate. A stable global climate is something that can only be legally classified as an intangible natural good.
More information can be found here:
Common Home of Humanity (CHH)'s main goal is to achieve the legal recognition of the pattern of the relatively stable and predictable dynamics of the Earth System that corresponds to a Stable Climate and a resilient, well-functioning biosphere, as a Common Heritage of Humankind. Therefore, CHH is building a strong global coalition of leading Earth System and sustainability scientists, legal experts, socio-economists, academics, NGOs, States, international organizations, local authorities, local communities, indigenous peoples, individuals, and other stakeholders. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and join our movement!
CHH is based at the Centre for Legal and Economic Research (CIJE) of University of Porto, headquartered at the Geophysical Institute of University of Porto, in Gaia, as part of the ongoing research project “Common Home of Humanity: a Legal Construction Based on Knowledge".
Portugal is particularly vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change due to its geographical location in southern Europe, thus being particularly exposed to atmospheric temperature rise, coastal erosion, thermal mortality, and systemic economic crises. Moreover, considering that Portugal has one of the largest exclusive economic zones in the world, a perk partially determined by the presence of the ocean, and that the oceans are all interconnected as part of one single indivisible system, the impacts on it affect the environment on a global scale. Locally educating Portuguese citizens, and those of other nationalities who wish to take the MOOC, to become aware of their local role as agents of change on a global scale means to prepare citizens who are conscious of their global interdependence and actively involved in recovering and maintaining the Earth System with a stable climate.
Why do we need a legal innovation to save our climate?
To hinder the climate crisis, the international community has been trying to decrease CO2 emissions, but in the last 25 years of climate negotiations, none of the attempts could be deemed successful. According to the latest United Nations report about the new Nationally Determined Contributions to meet the Paris Agreement, global emissions are predicted to decrease by 0.5% by 2030. However, to meet the Paris Agreement’s goal to stay below a 2.0°C increase in global average temperature, emissions would have to drop by at least 45% by 2030!
Moreover, even if the Paris Agreement’s 2.0°C limit is met, due to the internal dynamics of the functioning of the Earth System itself, the risk of turning the Earth System into a “Hothouse Earth” cannot be excluded. Planet Earth is already in a very dangerous zone, approaching a potential planetary tipping point with no return.
How can change happen?
Behavioral change can only be sustained in the long term as a result of an economic paradigm shift which recognizes the vital value of nature’s work (environmental services, see Figure 1). This project aims to 1) empower Portuguese citizens and those from other nationalities who wish to take the course for positive climate action, by developing a sense of belonging to a common system, interdependence among all peoples, and care to the territory, to think critically about climate change and to relate and act upon their new knowledge about the real world, as well as 2) educate political influencers and decision-makers about the stable climate as a global common.
Figure 1. Behavioral change cannot be sustained in a context where the intangible work of nature, which sustains a stable climate, is not visible in the economy, and therefore does not value the human actions which contribute to restore and maintain a stable climate (top right). In a context where a stable climate is legally recognized as a common good, nature's work can become economically visible, giving value to the human effort to restore and maintain nature (bottom right).
How can you be part of this paradigm shift?
Common Home of Humanity Project has developed an innovative educational program, in the format of a Massive Online Open Course (MOOC), promoted by a large network of Portuguese and International academic institutions. The MOOC is specifically designed for the general public and it encourages active citizenship to create the Green and Sustainable Solutions Base of Portugal, an online database resulting from the connection between citizens and their local realities. In parallel, the “Common Home Conversations”, in partnership with “The Planetary Press”, is targeting political influencers and decision-makers.
Is the MOOC aimed at a Portuguese public?
The MOOC was designed to be fully accessible to Portuguese and English speakers (for now), designed in Portugal, funded by the Portuguese “Fundo Ambiental”, within the scope of ENEA 2020, and will contribute to create the Sustainable Solutions Online Base of Portugal. However, our goal is to spread awareness and educate the general public regardless of geographical boundaries. The MOOC stems from the research of worldwide leading scientists in the fields of global governance, economics, Earth System Science and other related areas. All lessons and supporting materials were developed in English and will be subtitled and translated into Portuguese.
What is the Green and Sustainable Solutions Base of Portugal?
The MOOC participants will be encouraged to visit their communities and generate audio-visual materials or descriptions of one or more green and sustainable solutions implemented, or being implemented, in their communities. In this way, Portugal's Green and Sustainable Solutions Base will evolve as citizens learn about socio-ecological systems focused on the functioning of the Earth System through the MOOC.
What are the objectives of the MOOC?
"The Earth System as a Global Common” is a MOOC designed to allow students to easily understand how the theoretical scientific concepts at the core of the functioning of the Earth System speak to pragmatical everyday life situation. With this new acquired knowledge, students will learn how to assess the climate crisis from a truly interdisciplinary perspective. They will also be engaged in contemporary political discourse concerning the legal status of a stable climate and why this is a relevant issue to fight the climate crisis. Specifically, the second part of the course is aimed at broadening the students’ horizons on environmental sustainability, so that they will be aware of the different shapes and the variable extent of sustainable improvements. The legal framework will turn students into conscious citizens, able to distinguish between top-down and bottom-up approaches to the theme of sustainability and understand how and to what extent they can do their part. Although the theoretical framework of the MOOC may seem hard-science oriented, the contribution of the humanities will allow the course participants to conduct first-hand interdisciplinary research considering a holistic perspective about the concept of care and responsibility for the surrounding environment. Furthermore, in the last part of the course students will be able to interact with their urban surroundings and explore their city with a brand-new perspective, to contribute to the Green and Sustainable Solutions Base of Portugal.
"The Earth System as a Global Common” is an interdisciplinary online course that will tackle the importance of the climate stability from distinct perspectives, thanks to the synergy of 3 macro-areas.
The three macro-areas are:
• Humanities: (Philosophy, Sociology, Human Ecology, Social Geography);
• Law (Environmental Law, Governance, Competitiveness and Public Policies, Earth System Law);
• Hard Sciences (Chemistry, Earth System Science, Biological Oceanography).
Each module will be composed of 4 to 6 Units and will cover one week of the MOOC. Since it is a self-paced course, students will be allowed to attend as many units as they like in the timespan that best suits their schedule.
More information about the course program and registration will be available on November 30th.