Mar 11, 2022

Saving Democracy to Save the Planet | David Orr

Why citizenship and education are crucial to winning the battle against climate change

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Rachel Donald
Planet: Critical is the podcast for a world in crisis. We face severe climate, energy, economic and political breakdown. Journalist Rachel Donald interviews those confronting the crisis, revealing what's really going on—and what needs to be done.
Episode details

In the fight against climate change, we have some of the key details down: reducing emissions, pollution, consumption. But what about the bigger picture questions: How did we get into this mess? And how do we not only combat the climate crisis, but create a society which doesn’t have to go to war against itself every 400 years?

This is what David Orr tackles on this week’s episode: What roles do democracy, education and citizenship play in building a better, safer world for both ourselves, our planet and the living things we share it with? David believes active citizenship is key, and is creating educational programmes around the United States to teach ecological literacy and active participation in democracy. These programmes reframe the concept of society to include the living planet we call home.

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During the episode, David explains the historical relationship between politics and the environmental movement, giving key insight where the environmental movement went wrong in the 70s and 80s, and the politicians who rejected changing the status quo at the moment it mattered most. His work today is built upon decades of research at the forefront of the movement and, undoubtedly, the pillar of any functioning and equitable society begins with education.

But, as we discuss in the episode, given the urgency of the crisis—do we have time?


David W. Orr is Paul Sears Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics Emeritus at Oberlin College. He is a founding editor of the journal Solutions, and founder of the Oberlin Project. He is the author of eight books, including Dangerous Years: Climate Change, the Long Emergency, and the Way Forward (Yale, 2016) and Down to the Wire: Confronting Climate Collapse (Oxford, 2009).

David has served as a board member or advisor to eight foundations, including the Rocky Mountain Institute and the Aldo Leopold Foundation. Currently he is a trustee of the Alliance for Sustainable Colorado and the Children and Nature Network. His numerous awards include a Lyndhurst Prize, a National Achievement Award from the National Wildlife Federation, and a Visionary Leadership Award from Second Nature.

You can also follow Planet: Critical on Youtube and support the project on Patreon. Read the interview transcript here.

© Rachel Donald