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3 September 2019

Keeping Current Trains Youths to Be Climate Leaders of Tomorrow

Excerpted from the story in Sierra

One group of high school students spent the summer asking those questions, and coming up with answers, in a way that made the conversation a lot more concrete. Tasked with developing climate adaptive solutions for Miami-Dade County, 19 students participating in a program called the Climate Design Lab took a deep-dive into the latest climate science, and used “design thinking” and empathy models to create intersections between that science and the human relationships that form the basis of community life.

“You don’t start off with, What is the problem I want to solve?” Joanna Lombard, professor at the University of Miami School of Architecture, a faculty scholar at the Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy, and a co-leader of the Climate Design Lab, told Sierra. “You start off with, What is the life experience I want to protect and enhance? Then you begin with people. When you do that, it turns everything upside down. You know and care about people. You may also come up with solutions, but you start off focusing on relationships.”

The Climate Design Lab is part of an initiative called Keeping Current, developed and organized by the Van Alen Institute—a 125-year-old nonprofit based in New York City that works with architects, designers, city managers, and scientists on how to improve cities. The initiative involves a series of research projects paired up with three design competitions that focus on studying sea level rise for the greater Miami region, and devising innovative solutions for how to address it.