The idea for Climate Classes came to me in September 2019, which was an “unseasonably warm” month. I recall a majority of the days that month in the high 80s or low 90s, as Starbucks was trying to convince us that “Pumpkin Spice” season was upon us.
Truthfully, I was an environmentalist long before I knew I was an environmentalist. As a child growing up in Minnesota, I would spend hours walking through the woods observing and exploring them. As a child, and until even recently, I don’t think I realized how much I learned from those woods or how deeply I loved them and all of the other natural spaces that would come after them.
And so, when the heat wave of September 2019 hit, I began to realize the depth of my emotional connection to the Earth, to my current surroundings, and to the woods that had held and supported me as a child. I felt overwhelmed and completely powerless, and I realized that I had to do something—anything—to be a greater part of the solution than I had been. Although I am a member of several climate and environmental groups in Washington, D.C., some of which are politically focused lobbying groups, while others are built into my other communities, I began to realize that I was missing a specific kind of climate group: a connector.
The climate crisis is overwhelming. It is so much bigger than any one individual, business, government, or even nation, but it is going to affect all of us, if, somehow, it hasn’t already. There is rampant misinformation about the climate crisis and climate solutions from businesses and governments as well as an overreliance on how individuals can solve—and are responsible for solving—climate change through their own changed behaviors. On top of all of that, we are also witnessing a budding influencer economy built around selling and promoting new environmentally friendly objects to live more sustainably. In addition to mitigating and adapting to climate change, we have to reckon with the genuine terror of the climate crisis.
Climate Classes is an important part of the environmental conversation because the key tenets of our mission are education and community-building. Our mission is to welcome as many into the climate conversation as possible through classes that are accessible to all D.C. residents. More importantly, we believe that the onus of reversing climate change does not fall on the individual; the levers of power are held by governments and corporations. However, we believe that being an individual within a society that is struggling through climate change can be isolating, and it can lead to feelings of powerlessness or even apathy toward climate solutions.
Since our founding two years ago, Climate Classes has had the privilege of working with individuals and groups within D.C., Maryland, and Virginia that are committed to climate solutions. At Climate Classes, we believe our most important mission is ensuring that people know they are not alone in this. Understanding how human systems are affecting—and oftentimes decimating—our Earth is only part of the solution. (And, frankly, it is the most uncomfortable part.) The comprehensive climate solution may come through protesting, lobbying your representatives, or getting out the vote, but it will also come through connecting with others in your community who are changing agriculture, so you are able to buy nutrition-rich foods that were grown within blocks of your house or apartment, or detaching from the fast fashion industry because you attended a clothing swap instead.
Finding the key to the climate solution is not the burden of isolated individuals, but it also cannot be left to corporations or governments. At Climate Classes, our vision is of a world that finds a climate solution through the interconnectivity of neighborhoods and the strengthening of interpersonal connections. We welcome you to be a part of that solution.