Welcome to our continuing series featuring interviews with the behind-the-scenes experts here at Earth Rangers! We’re excited to share stories and insight about the work we do directly from the source.
Meet Joanna Patouris, the Senior Climate Change Program Manager in charge of our Project 2050 program. Project 2050 is inspired by Canada’s goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. When it comes to climate-friendly Challenges here at Earth Rangers, Joanna is our go-to person!
Q. Tell us a little bit about your background as Climate Change expert?
A. My passion for climate change governance and diplomacy grew the more I explored the topic from different angles. I quickly began to understand that climate policy decisions that directly impact people’s lives, and shape the future of our planet, were made by a group of people around a table. I had such a curiosity about how these decisions are made, and what their outcome (or lack thereof) means for people on the frontlines of climate change. I found myself gravitating towards climate justice issues – specifically around human rights, gender justice and climate-induced displacement. While my experiences working on climate change have varied significantly, I remain committed to amplifying the voices, demands and efforts of people living on the frontlines of climate change, and to supporting and facilitating climate action.
Q. How did that path lead you here to Earth Rangers?
A. After working for several international humanitarian, advocacy, and development organizations, as well as having served as a country delegate to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change for a number of years, I was looking for an opportunity to work on implementing climate action in Canada. While the international climate change diplomacy space was interesting and challenged me in ways that contributed to who I am as a climate advocate, I was looking forward to working with an audience who are slightly more direct: kids. I loved the idea of helping kids feel empowered to take action on their eagerness to help protect our planet.
Joanna joins advocates calling for climate justice on the streets of Bonn, Germany
Q. Challenges are a big part of Project 2050. How do they work and what is their impact on climate change?
A. Our Challenges are all about incorporating small, climate-friendly habits in your life. We offer themed Challenges with time- sensitive and ambitious goals that can only be achieved by working together. Each Challenge offers a range of habits at various levels of difficultly so that kids can adopt the habits that work for them. I’m often asked what makes Challenges different than Missions. Missions are awesome in the way they encourage children to do things on their own or with family and friends. Challenges encourage kids to work together as a community towards a common goal. We want kids to experience what it’s like to make small changes in their own life while making change by working towards a shared goal. By providing kids with an understanding that they too can help protect the planet, we can stimulate their passion, and creativity for climate-action.
Q. Tell us about the decision to focus on habits for children.
A. We all have habits, routines, and things that we do without putting much thought into it. As we go about our routines, we might not realize that some of our habits can have negative environmental impacts. By presenting kids with climate-friendly habits early on, we hope that they will make these part of their lives as they participate in Challenges and for each day beyond. We can never underestimate the power of a small daily habit!
Joanna discussing climate justice issues in the context of international development and humanitarian response in San Salvador, El Salvador
Q. Climate change is an overwhelming problem, so how do we talk about it to children while being mindful of adding to eco-anxiety?
A. Kids should not bear the burden of responsibility of solving the climate change problem. Instead, we want to empower and motivate kids to make small changes at home, school and in their communities. It goes without saying that the impact that kids or adults for that matter, can achieve as individuals versus governments or corporations differs tremendously, and so does their responsibility to do so. But there’s so much to be done! The underlying message is that every single one of us can play a part to help tackle climate change.
Q. What do you like best about your job?!
A. I love that we are building a program that empowers kids to be proactiveand come together in community to contribute to climate action in whatever capacity they can. Challenges are evidence that everyone can do something and we can make a difference working together.
Outside of the UN Climate negotiations in Marrakech, Morocco
Q: What’s a climate fact you keep sharing at parties?
A. Our planet is warming. We’re contributing to the problem – that it is us! The situation is serious and most importantly, we can still do something about it. The detail to which I get into depends on the gathering I’m at!
Q: What would you tell a young person who might be interested in following a career path in the field of climate change?
A. Climate change is such a far reaching problem and affects people in so many different ways, that the climate movement needs a wide variety of skills to tackle the issue. Think about what you’re interested in or care about; chances are there’s a very good fit for you in the climate movement. Yes, we need scientists, but we also need communicators, writers, engineers, social scientists, economists, artists, health care experts, and others just as much! I’d encourage kids to learn more about climate change, ask questions, and just go for it!