While delegates from around the world are convening in Glasgow to chart the road ahead of keeping global warming increases below 2 degrees Celsius, the Earth and its inhabitants are relying on STEM students and scientists to provide innovative breakthrough technologies towards achieving this goal.
Former President Barack Obama of the United States was already quoted by Carley Przystac of the Roosevelt Institute in 2015; “ …..in order to prevent harm to the ozone layer and eliminate acid rain, we need scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians.”
The future of green energy rests on innovations in Nano science and Nano-technology. At the time, Obama called for continued innovation in these and other STEM fields to achieve a sustainable long-term progress.
Climate change is a human rights issue because of its broad and indiscriminate effects and disproportionate negative consequences for marginalised populations. Researchers and advocates urge that extreme weather conditions should be studied, but at the same time admit that those most likely to be the worst affected would be low-income communities lacking power and influence in society. This necessitates greater participation and representation in STEM fields, especially opening doors to scientists and STEM students from diverse backgrounds and identities.
When studying figures of representation, it seems that STEM innovation is definitely affected by lack of equal representation. It had been reported that women, underrepresented minorities, first generation college students and students from low-income backgrounds leave STEM fields at higher rates than their counterparts.
Confronting this issue of inequality at the professional level must start with confronting inequalities in an educational system. Mentorship in STEM, as in any professional occupation, is still lacking and frequently starts too late in a professional’s development to have an effect in primary, secondary and post-secondary education. It is in the best interests of colleges, universities and companies to leverage their considerable expertise toward this effort. In doing so, it will ultimately provide more students and professionals with innovation opportunities.
Educators say that in order to increase opportunities in STEM for current students, the way these subjects are taught, shouldchange. If STEM students come from a diverse background, instructors teaching these students cannot approach teaching with a one-size-fits-all approach. Research had shown that traditional lecture-and-textbook approaches do not cater to women and minorities.
With the urgency brought on by climate change, increasing the talent pool of STEM professionals in the educational pipeline should be considered just as necessary as finding ways to save the planet.
Until those technology innovators are able to alleviate the impact of climate change, valuable time is lost. STEM research and development will hugely benefit when the talents and experiences of those who are doing the work are as diverse as the populations they aim to help.
With COP26 currently underway and seen as the final opportunity to mitigate climate change, a hard look at education institutions is necessary to allow those minds who could save our collective future, to be nurtured and provided with all the tools necessary to be innovative.