Education and empowerment at the core of CRI’s action for climate

© Quentin Chevrier

COP26  is over. Once called ““the last, best hope” to save the planet” by its chief organizer [1], COP26 only highlighted - yet again - governments’ lack of ambition in taking real urgent action for climate. A few days later, the hazy memory of governments’ hollow commitments on climate change is rapidly fading away. What we need to remember though is the broad and loud international sound of youths raising their voices and holding their governments accountable for their rights and for climate justice.

The impacts of climate change unequally befall societies and individuals. Rich and poor, women and men, older and younger generations do not - and won’t - bear equal effects of rising waters, global warming, increased pollution, and health implications. Recognising the unequal responsibility and unequal consequences of the climate crisis is one of the first steps towards climate justice. Another step is to work on solutions going beyond environmental challenges and tackling social and political challenges as well. Climate justice [2] is about understanding that sustainable goals are intertwined.

Proactive actions are required to tackle SDGs (UN’ Sustainable Development Goals [3]). At CRI we believe that education and awareness-raising are key points to solve challenges of our time and of coming times. We are convinced that interdisciplinary and inter-generational collaboration is essential to address SDGs in general, and climate action in particular.

We want to raise as much as possible awareness and we want to convince as many as - and as various as - possible actors. At CRI, as a research- and education-focused institution, as part of an international network and as a host for different communities, we act to find solutions, and to ensure next generations are heard and will find more creative solutions in the future.

From raising awareness to empowering the next generations

From early ages to youth and young researchers, CRI develops and fosters programs aiming at sensitizing to the great social and environmental challenges. Changes in habits aren’t enough, we also need to tackle the Sustainable Development Goals through Education. These programs and activities do not only alert, but are also designed to empower people  by giving them the methods and tools needed to identify and collectively fuel solutions to these challenges.

An education to understand and identify climate related issues

It would be inaccurate to think children are unaware of climate change and its impacts, more often than not, they hear and understand way more than we suspect. Even so, they are still learning every day - as do we - and often need to broaden their views, to learn a method, to experiment. Mindful of that and of gaps in school curricula, Savanturiers - École de la Recherche developed an environmental justice toolkit to help teachers and educators to address climate problematics, environmental rights and to act on it with their classes. From elementary school to highschool, pedagogical professionals also have access to activities and turnkey projects, at crossroads of disciplines. With the “Sustainable Hackathon in class”, pupils have to use scientific knowledge and skills as well as economic expertise to tackle social problems on urbanism, consumption, civic life, territorial policies.

At CRI, bachelors, Master students and PhD students from Université de Paris are challenged to build their own projects and to take into account their impacts. Committed to raising awareness, pedagogical teams integrated the notion of sustainability, notably ecological sustainability, as much as possible in their curricula. The Bachelor curricula includes a whole project-based semester dedicated to SDGs: the “Life Sciences for SDGs”. For a semester, the students become apprentice researchers, develop and create sustainable and ecological solutions to address socio-economic problems. While in Master 's degree, students learn to use algorithms costing less energy and resources for example. Students study while making an impact, sensing the interdependence of the 17 SGDs and “the systemic, integrated and interdisciplinary solutions they require” [4].

The Doctoral School [5] as well proposes a “Responsibility in research and entrepreneurship” course. Led by Mélanie Marcel (CEO of SoScience), this course puts forward a new vision of research and entrepreneurship in which scientists might engage as citizens through research, and in which “the power of science and technology generate positive impacts for the people and the planet” [6].

A project-based method to start to build the future

As previously mentioned, we believe in project-based and research-based learning. At CRI, we are convinced that experimenting, failing, correcting and eventually succeeding is the best way to enduringly learn and to keep learning. As such, CRI supports and fosters innovative and interdisciplinary projects targeting SDGs’ issues. Within the CITIES project, students contribute to SDGs. One example would be the great “Clean energy with N. CRASSA” student project. Students identified two problems: the recycling problem of cellulosic waste (paper, cotton, brewer spent grains, etc) and the need for a new energy source. Through research, the project members aim at “implementing a literature-based efficient protocole using N.Crassa (a fungi) to produce bioethanol via degradation of some of our daily cellulosic waste”.

We are proud to see that students commit as well outside curricular activities. The Upcycling Club [7] was founded “to discover different upcycling solutions to give new life to anything considered as waste” within the CRI community, but also on a larger scale by sharing their discoveries outside CRI.

Empowering students and encouraging them to take action with pedagogical teams, dedicated researchers and tailored curriculas is one thing. And yet, that’s not enough, we need to build as well from the enthusiastic commitment of youth. The best proof of that is the fantastic initiative led by students from Université de Grenobles Alpes: the COP2 Étudiante. The association is dedicated to raise awareness in French higher education institutions on environmental challenges and is committed to make these institutions take action via their own community, curricula, and campus management. At CRI, 4 students of Université de Paris (Fanny Gouel, Nour Bocquet, Louise Jouveshomme, Nina Sibertin-Blanc) led task forces including students, staff and teachers to rethink our ways while taking into account every aspect of the environmental and social challenges it could raise. In France, 70 higher education institutions participated in similar processes, representing around 300 000 students in total.

As an institution hosting graduate programs and working along with Université de Paris, CRI also took its responsibilities and, with the active help of Living Campus, changed and is still improving  its habits towards reducing its energy consumption and its waste, towards buying locally produced goods when it's possible, etc.

Living Campus: a cross-cutting initiative within CRI

Officially launched in 2020, Living Campus rather was born from various initiatives previously existing. Its considerations and actions are transversal to all services, communities and activities at CRI. Living Campus leads, supports and promotes the development of sustainable activities and habits. At its core lay 3 principles: to work towards a sober campus, a learning campus and an “engaging” campus. By analysing energy, water and resources consumptions on campus, and by constantly looking for more sustainable solutions, Living Campus influences the whole institutional and community practices. Lately, Living Campus established a consumption report of our different activities, and then balanced certain aspects of our consumption, notably by implementing a new heating/cooling process. Their team also created an evaluation grid to help determine if our suppliers comply with our values (short cycle, sustainable practices, etc). Living Campus also facilitates exchanges, discussions and collaborations between the different communities represented at CRI (staff, researchers, students, teachers, project-leaders, etc).

And to sensitize and to take action in a playful way, Living Campus gathered 2 CRI teams (with participants from the staff and students) to participate in the competition “Ma Petite Planète” [8]. For 3 weeks, colleagues - ones can as well play with friends and family members - would team up and compete, with teams based all over the world, on eco-friendly challenges suggested on the platform. At CRI, the competition mobilized 17 participants who managed to complete 244 environmental challenges!

Taking actions with institutional partners: mutually growing in a committed network

Solutions must be cross-disciplinary and collectively built

SDGs are intertwined. Working towards one of these goals is also working towards several others. It is great, but it also shows how many disciplines and actors need to be involved in solutions for SDGs. In order to build a toolkit for climate justice, Savanturiers - École de la recherche partnered with Notre Affaire à Tous, an association deeply rooted in the fight for  climate justice.

We are also very proud to be part of the Académie du Climat project. Académie du Climat, based in Paris and run by Ville de Paris, is a place dedicated to youth, a privileged place where to inform, sensitize, raise awareness and engage with the youth on sociological and environmental issues. It is also a project on which many partners committed to climate action interact. Among others: Together 4 Earth, COP2 Étudiante, E-graine, Jeunes Ambassadeurs pour le Climat JAC, Penser l’Après, Agence Parisienne du Climat.

We also host the Summer SDG School led by CRI and University of Geneva, “a four week long challenge-based university that gives you access to a platform where you can voice an opinion, take an action and create an impact alongside 15 young leaders from across the globe.

Going beyond local, going global

We also want to globally expand our reach in education to SDGs, bringing together organisations and communities acting for a common purpose. The international alliance #LearningPlanet takes a deep interest in sustainability issues. They co-created, with the Club of Rome, the “Learning for Sustainability Circle” which “explores how learning processes and all types of education need to evolve by questioning what learners need to be, to understand, to know and to do”. Bringing leading players (institutions, practitioners, scientists, artists, activists and youth) together, this circle drastically facilitates the emergence of innovative and proactive projects for more sustainable practices. Among other committed partners in this circle: Ashoka fellows, Catalyst 2030 members, Campus AFD, Climate Action Project, Youth for Sustainability Initiative, etc.

Furthermore, CRI is one of the 6 partners of the transdisciplinary consortium Crowd4SDG, promoting “the development of citizen science projects aimed at tackling the SDG’s, with a focus on climate action”. It is a 3-year Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Action supported by the European Commission’s Science with and for Society (SwafS) program. And at the time we write these lines, teams participating in the program prepare great ideas on how to tackle both climate and gender.

On the 20th of November, every year since 1959, we celebrate the World Children’s Day [9]. This day celebrates children’s rights. But how can we reassert these rights while climate change and its effects drastically darken next generations’ future? How can we ensure that these rights evolve according to the challenges and responsibilities we force onto them? At CRI we advocate for an reevaluation of children’s rights, an update that will promote the citizenship of youths. By including more and more committed youths in the democratic processes, by involving them in sciences, and by helping them to lead an open and collective reflection, we want to help them to understand their rights and to understand how to use them. We want them to realize that they have the right to have rights.

To follow up on these values, and relying on its expertise in education, Savanturiers - École de la Recherche is currently presenting a Mooc on education in the anthropocene era (L’éducation en anthropocène [10]). The 6 sessions of this Mooc, and related round-tables, are dedicated to educational professionals, to scientists and every person interested in engaging a discussion and in educating younger generations to the new challenges we face in the anthropocene (join us at CRI on Friday Nov. 19 at 6pm for a great discussion on the anthropocene across disciplines here). On another level, #LearningPlanet has been working closely with Ashoka France, CAP-2030 and Catalyst 2030 to launch the Youth Empowerment Circle, in which “institutions, practitioners, scientists, artists, activists, and young people interested in amplifying the voice of youth in the areas of rights, health, and education and working towards the designated topic can get involved” [11]. On the 20th of November and with Ville de Paris, the Francophone Youth Empowerment Circle will gather at CRI for a new session (join us online on the 20th of November at 5pm here). And it is no accident that the biggest event organized by #LearningPlanet happens to be on the International Day of Education, on the 24th of January. We hope to see you - individuals, educators, institutions, associations, youths, etc - at the #LearningPlanet Festival to go even further in our commitment to youths!

More about:

Research Collaboratory

#LearningPlanet - and become a #LearningPlanet Youth Fellow

Et pour les plus francophones d’entre vous, nous vous proposons d’écouter et de regarder :

  • L’épisode “A quand la république des enfants ?” - un podcast de Combattants Pacifiques
  • Les 6 séances du Mooc “L’éducation en anthropocène” de Savanturiers - École de la Recherche
  • La table-ronde d’ouverture du MOOC “L’éducation en anthropocène” de Savanturiers - École de la Recherche avec notamment Ange Ansour, directrice Savanturiers - École de la Recherche,  François Taddei, co-fondateur du CRI, Antoine Maldonado et Frédérick Heissat, co-fondateurs du réseau Profs en transition et Monique Dupuis, Inspectrice générale de l’éducation nationale, du sport et de la recherche, référente pour l'Éducation au développement durable
  • Penser l’Après - La série de Webinaires qui "Pense L'après" Covid-19, présentée et produite par Stacy Algrain.


[1] 6 takeaways from the U.N. climate conference, The New York Times (Nov. 13, 2021)
[2] Climate justice, Law and Environment Assistance Platform
[3] The 17 goals, The United Nations
[4] Appréhender les objectifs de développement durable par l’enseignement, Ariane Baumard (March 8, 2021)
[5] The "Frontières de l’Innovation en Recherche et Éducation" (FIRE) Doctoral School is an international and interdisciplinary PhD program, hosted by Université de Paris (UdP) and co-hosted by Université Paris Sciences et Lettres (PSL), that promotes original and ambitious research projects involving interactions between a wide range of academic disciplines in the pursuit of understanding living systems, and/or exploring new ways to teach, learn, and do research.
[6] From FIRE PhD Course Syllabus 2021-2022
[7] This club’s activities are targeting SDGs 11, 12 and 15.
[8] Next “Ma Petite Planète” challenge on the 31st of January, 2022 -
[9] On November 20th, 1959, the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child,
[10] Mooc “L’éducation en anthropocène”, proposé par Savanturiers - École de la Recherche, avec l'aide de Fun Mooc et Université de Paris.
[11] Youth Empowerment Circle -

Crédits photo - © Quentin Chevrier