Picture: Irmelin Gram-Hanssen
The Climate Change and Society cCHALLENGE was run as a collaborative project for the Environment and Society course in Human Geography at the University of Oslo and the Climate Change and Society course in Geography at Rutgers University. The cCHALLENGE was intended to add both experience and depth to course readings and discussions. Over the thirty days, students received emails and reflection questions that encouraged them to question their assumptions and relationship with change. The transformative program combined theory with practice, enabling each student to experience and reflect on the relationship between individual change, collective change, and systems change.
In total, participants wrote more than 450 blog entries about their journeys, sharing some wonderful stories of change and their struggles, vulnerability and influence during the 30-day experiments. Many experienced that their ideas and actions actually do matter, and they noticed that their conversations with friends, families, and even strangers had an impact.
What they chose to do?
Nearly one third of the participants experimented with reducing their plastic waste, which reflects a growing awareness of the negative environmental impacts of plastic and waste. About half of the students chose challenges related to consumption, followed by food and creativity (as shown in the chart below).
Some of the challenges were quite unusual, like building an electric longboard, taking pictures of nature to trigger awareness, having conversations, reading climate-sceptic news, or simply being grateful every day.
From ripples to waves
By blogging and reading stories posted by fellow change-makers, many of the participants started to make other changes in their daily lives. During their 30-day challenge, many of them also started to realize how influential they were, and how their actions were influenced by others. This experience revealed to the students and teachers that change is not only about them, but also about the people they interact with, whether through conversations, stories, or actions. Most of them noticed the important role played by social norms and larger systems, and experienced unexpected ripple effects. One of the take-home messages from the cCHALLENGE was that small ripples can indeed create big waves!
Quotes from the students:
“I’ve gotten my roommates to join a part of my challenge by getting them to not use plastic water bottles anymore. We all went and got refillable water bottles at Walmart, it definitely makes it easier to have the people around me participating as well!” (Rutgers student)
“Today I took some time to read around 10 people’s blogs, writing some comments, questions and ideas in response. It was great to do this, as reading many different peoples cCHALLENGE made me see even more clearly that there are really so many different aspects to climate change, and the challenge it presents to us …. The cCHALLENGE has made me re-consider practices that are so common that they become normal.” (University of Oslo student)
“So far so good! I have been able to promote higher recycling at work and home. Since the start of the challenge, I’ve helped the staff at work organize and separate the high amounts of recycling. I have also been promoting draft beer instead of bottled beer to help reduce the amount of bottled waste.” (Rutgers student)
“Vegetarians do have it difficult in buying food. So yesterday my sister and I went to the mall in Ski, and we chose to eat lunch there. And how many vegetarian alternatives did they have on the menu? Two… Soup and pasta, hurray. I have noticed the same for when I had to buy food at a gas station as well. Everything contains meat!” (University of Oslo student)
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