Penn GSE Environmental Justice Statement

December 7, 2022

Responding to the climate emergency and the looming biodiversity crisis requires immediate action on and sustained commitment to environmental justice issues. It is imperative that climate action and stewardship of nature is integrated into all disciplines and current and future generations are empowered with the knowledge necessary to inform choices and solutions. Penn GSE develops new knowledge and transformational teachers, leaders, and scholars in pursuit of educational opportunities, especially for those underserved by society. This commitment is a solid foundation for a core set of principles for environmental justice at Penn GSE:

Connect at All Stages of Learning

Education is a deeply social, cultural, political, and moral activity, as is addressing the climate crisis. As a school that works at all levels of education, both formal and informal, in traditional and alternative settings, and across disciplines, Penn GSE is uniquely positioned to advance environmental justice and contribute to the growth and well-being of people and the planet.

Inform All Disciplines

Climate change and degradation of nature cannot simply be addressed by policy or technology. These are systemic problems that require integrated approaches. Penn GSE is committed to bringing together scholars, educators, and students to address our changing world through on-the-ground practices, professional education, and academic research.

Elevate Justice

Inequity is at the core of the climate emergency and the biodiversity crisis. Both are caused by unsustainable development, and poor communities, immigrant and refugee communities, and racially minoritized communities bear the brunt of their impacts. Penn GSE is committed to preparing scholars and educators to address the social challenges of climate change and loss of nature by helping to make solutions to these complex and seemingly amorphous problems tangible, actionable, and desirable.

Inspire Leadership

We must move beyond best practices to transformative change to truly address the climate crisis. Penn GSE demonstrates the possibilities of actively empowering communities to confront social and environmental challenges through education. Current rhetoric on the climate is largely focused on incremental improvements such as wise use of energy and materials. Education around nature, even in environmental education models, tends to allow a disconnect between humans and ecology, disregarding our deep dependence on natural resources. These tactics will not suffice. In our work with policymakers, administrators, and educators, we have the opportunity to envision and define a positive pathway.

Impact Policy

Today’s students are tomorrow’s professionals and leaders. Penn GSE is focused on providing students deep content knowledge, disciplinary grounding, and training in the use of rigorous, cutting-edge research methods. Leveraging this tactic to elevate environmental and climate education has the potential to impact public policies.

Think Globally and Locally

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals commits us to “provide inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.” Penn GSE takes seriously its role as a national and global leader in education and its commitment to schools in the City of Philadelphia. Penn GSE is committed to training educators and scholars to connect curriculum to context and to offering students the information they need to understand what is happening and what must be done.

Walk the Talk

As we find pathways for students, faculty, and staff to connect to climate and nature, GSE is also committed to ensuring that the ethics of climate action and respect for nature are reflected in its daily operations. In particular, Penn GSE supports Penn’s goal of being carbon neutral by 2042.

Climate Action refers to a range of activities, mechanisms, and tactics to reduce the severity of human-induced climate change and its impacts.

Climate Justice is (1) a term that acknowledges climate change often has disproportionate effects on socially and economically vulnerable populations, and (2) a movement that strives to address these inequities through mitigation and adaptation strategies.