Having recently attended a lecture by Jonathan Porritt at Loughborough University’s Green Impact Project launch, Iasked him this question: ‘what are the most important skills needed by young people and graduates to make innovative contributions to sustainability?’
Despite his known attention to scientific accuracy and political detail (combined with the occasional rant on Jeremy Clarkson), he gave a much more personable response. His opinion was that it is the ‘softer skills’ that are so often overlooked. The ability to network, build relationships, communicate and engage with issues on a personal level are indispensible for young people to really influence both the practical and philosophical challenges of sustainability.
On this response, I reflected back on my own experience. On how I had managed to build relationships and what projects had facilitated such skills. First and foremost, Carbon Conversations sprang to mind.
When I first completed Carbon Conversations training in 2010 in Edinburgh, I was somewhat surprised by the attention to the ‘individual’. It was unlike any other course I had ever been on. The course is unique in its focus on the psychology of the participant. Designed by psychoanalysts from Cambridge University, the 6 session course is aimed at participants who understand there is an issue, that climate change poses huge challenges and they want to know how to take action.
Even if your carbon footprint is below the national average of 12 tonnes and you’re already riding along the road to reduction, carbon conversations could still teach you something valuable. With a booklet containing detailed figures of where our carbon comes from and practical, progressive steps to reduce, this course is ideal for beginners too. Carbon Conversations is truly a unique opportunity, bring the only course designed to address climate change in a shared, facilitated group environment.
I am thrilled to see Transition University of St Andrews have taken on the challenge of running Carbon Conversations courses in St Andrews. In taking part, you are given all the support and tools necessary for you cut your carbon footprint across all areas of life, without that ‘going against the grain’ feeling. From energy, to food, to transportation, the aim is that by the end of the course, armed with your Carbon Conversations guide book, you will have halved your carbon footprint and be on bespoke plan to continue driving down your personal emissions year on year.
There is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to encouraging positive behaviour to address the challenges of climate change. I believe Carbon Conversations gets it right by not adopting a doom and gloom approach (as is so common in climate change discussions) but by highlighting the positives of a low carbon lifestyle through games, fun exercises and interesting discussions. The course also provides an excellent setting to explore discomforts and scepticisms about climate change in an educated, confidential and supportive environment. With this approach, there’s something to suit everybody.
I wish the Transition Team the best of luck with the Carbon Conversations course and encourage you to take a look at the website www.carbonconversations.org and have a think. Maybe you might learn something, and maybe someone might learn something from you.
To sign up for the Carbon Conversations courses in St Andrews, click here.