The University in the Era of Climate Change and the Responsibility of the Civic University

13 Oct 2021
Professor Keri Facer, School of Education, University of Bristol

As part of UCC Community Week 2021, the ISS21 Research for Civil Society and Social Action (REACT) Cluster was delighted to host a seminar on the role of the university in the era of climate change with speaker Professor Keri Facer (University of Bristol) and discussant Professor John O’Halloran (President, UCC).

In the context of the climate change emergency, this keynote presentation explored the role of universities in helping to create ecologically sustainable and socially just futures. Professor Facer considered what the challenge of climate change means for the research agenda, for educational offerings, and for the day-to-day operations and civic responsibilities of the university. She argued that universities have a real opportunity to play a leading role in the social, economic and cultural changes needed to address the causes and consequences of a changing climate, and that the social sciences and humanities will be vital in working in partnership with communities and supporting adult learners in imagining alternative futures.

The presentation was followed by a facilitated discussion during which Professor Facer and Professor O’Halloran addressed the following key questions:

  • How can universities work with civil society to help to identify, highlight and realise ecological justice goals?
  • Young people are to the forefront of climate and environmental initiatives.  How can universities further empower students as they move through their education and beyond graduation?
  • Do initiatives like Green Campus influence local and national policymaking and how can their influence be increased?

The event was organised by Dr Catherine Forde and chaired by Professor Fred Powell, with contributions from student representative Alicia O'Sullivan and poet Molly Twomey who opened the event with a reading of her poem 'Cassandra'.

About the Contributors

Keri Facer is Professor of Educational and Social Futures, University of Bristol and Guest Professor in Education for Sustainable Development at Gothenburg University. Her work is concerned with creating the conditions for ecologically sustainable and socially just futures and the role of education and informal learning in these processes. She is Editor in Chief of the Journal Futures, for 8 years she was Leadership Fellow for the UKRI Connected Communities Programme, was Zennström Guest Professor in Climate Change Leadership at Uppsala University from 2018-2020 and has been advising UNESCO on their Futures of Education 2050 Commission since 2019.

Prof John O’Halloran was recently appointed 16th President of UCC. He has a record for leading transformative change across the university and a strong commitment to sustainability, inclusion and diversity. An ornithologist who holds the chair in zoology at UCC, he has authored a significant body of international research papers and several book chapters which focus on the ecological impacts of land-use change and climate change on our community. He is a member and former executive board member of BirdWatch Ireland; advisor to the European Environment Agency; and Chair of the Board of Fota Wildlife Park. 

Molly Twomey is an award-winning poet, writer, and essayist. She holds an MA in Creative Writing from UCC where she works. Her work has been widely published including by Poetry Ireland, The Irish Times, Crannóg and Myslexia. Molly won the Padraic Colum Poetry Prize in 2019, the Waterford Poetry Prize in 2020 and the Eavan Boland Mentorship Award 2021.

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