President Katrina S. Rogers, Ph.D.

On this 54th Anniversary of America’s first Earth Day celebration, it is a time to reflect on how we moved from a consensus on the urgent need for environmental protection across the country to woefully underestimating the need for action about climate change.

A recent study shows that most Europeans and Americans acknowledge that the climate is warming and that a warming planet will likely hurt humankind. At the same time, there is a distortion of the scientific consensus about the data, which leads to a tendency among the public to underestimate the urgency of the situation. This misunderstanding comes from an inaccurate belief that scientists do not agree about the human-caused nature of the crisis. Fossil fuel industry advocates and media outlets often characterize the scientific debate as mixed when the consensus amongst scientists is well above 97 percent. 

Let’s face it. There is overwhelming scientific agreement, and many publics agree.

Humans also tend to have “earth blindness,” that is, we do not appreciate the life support systems that the natural environment provides us with daily. This explains, in part, why people in democratic societies with the freedom to demonstrate are not engaging in large-scale protests. It also seems that more visible and immediate events, such as COVID-19 and conflicts and war, push the long-range danger aside. What a difference from the 1970s — when the environmental movement was on par with student protests in many countries, the anti-war protests, and fighting for women’s rights in the United States and other countries!

We can take comfort in the fact that most people across many countries think that a warming climate is not good for humanity. Since most people are aware of the climate situation, the time is now to transform the conversation. 

We do this by moving away from arguments about the scientific consensus and focusing on local problems and solutions. Some of the best climate mitigation in this country is happening in communities and municipalities. These efforts include building resilient infrastructure, such as designing energy-efficient buildings and investing in renewable energy, converting public vehicle fleets to electric, and investing in water conservation and reuse, recycling, and plastic waste reduction, and much, much more. These investments and designs may not be perfect, but they are an important start in creating more climate-friendly spaces for people to live in.

We must also focus efforts throughout higher education and other sectors. My institution, Fielding Graduate University, continues its ecological justice work throughout the world. During 2023’s Ecological and Social Justice Service Year, our community members participated in a beach cleanup in Santa Barbara, volunteered at their local nonprofit organizations, and advocated for sustainable solutions in their communities. Current students and alums continue to study ecological worldviews, conservation, sustainability, and more through their theses and dissertations. Many who wish to advocate for the environment think that only substantial action will achieve anything. While substantial change is certainly necessary, consistent small actions can lead to meaningful, lasting change. We can join in-person or virtual global witnessing groups to share our environmental crisis reflections and action plans. We can tweak our business practices, improve production processes to decrease emissions, decrease our footprint, and advocate at governmental and other levels.

On this Earth Day, I encourage you to reflect upon how your actions can take root in the interests of our environment. It is our responsibility to leave the earth better than we found it. We must find a middle ground between the temptation to deny there is a problem and despair that there are no solutions. From an acknowledgment of the reality of the climate crisis, we can continue our transformative path to positively affect the earth for the benefit of generations to come.

President Katrina S. Rogers, Ph.D.


This statement also appeared in a Common Dreams op-ed. It is reprinted with permission. 

Learn more about Fielding’s commitment to ecological and social justice

About the Author: Katrina Rogers

Katrina S. Rogers, PhD, is President of Fielding Graduate University in Santa Barbara, CA, a distinguished graduate school known for adult learners in the fields of clinical psychology, human talent and development, organizational leadership, and education. In the course of her career, she has served the international non-governmental and educational sectors in many roles, including executive, board member, and teacher. She led the European campus for Thunderbird School of Global Management in Geneva, Switzerland for a decade, working with international organizations such as the Red Cross, World Trade Organization, United Nations Development Program, and the European Union. She also developed externships for students at several companies, including Renault, Nestle, and EuroDisney (now Disneyland Paris). She has doctorates in political science and history. In addition to many articles and books focused on organizational leadership in sustainability, Rogers serves on the Boards of the Toda Institute for Global Policy & Peace Research and the Public Dialogue Consortium. She received a Presidential postdoctoral fellowship from the Humboldt Foundation and was a Fulbright scholar to Germany where she taught environmental politics and history. She is currently studying environmental values among leaders that have responsibility for improving sustainability practices in their organizations. These are leaders from the corporate, governmental, and nonprofit sectors. The purpose is to understand how people’s worldviews are brought to bear on the actualization of sustainability work.

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