Meet Our COP23 Delegation: John Olson

John Olson is a member of Climate Generation’s Window Into COP23 program, a multi-sector delegation attending the United Nation Framework on Climate Change Convention’s 23rd Conference of the Parties (COP) in Bonn, Germany. Our delegates will observe sessions and interact with climate change policy negotiations across international leaders and stakeholders.

Olson is the Science Content Specialist for the Minnesota Department of Education. He works on science learning goals and instruction with teachers, schools, districts, and other state education leaders. He serves on the Board of Directors for the National Science Teachers Assn. as director for Coordination and Supervision of Science Education. In addition, he teaches science education methods classes for Metropolitan State University in St. Paul. Olson taught physics and environmental science with St. Paul Public Schools in an urban setting and also served as the science coordinator for the district. In the early 70’s and again in 2016, John served in Liberia with the U.S. Peace Corps as a rural teacher trainer.

How does climate change affect the education sector?

First, we want students to be and become informed citizens that are making decisions based on evidence and reasoning. Learning about climate change helps students examine their current lifestyle choices and learn to evaluate and develop arguments. Second, climate related phenomena provides opportunities to learn and apply concepts from various fields, including science, social studies, mathematics, and literacy.

The education community, like most businesses, will be impacted by climate and weather changes. Most schools are not air conditioned and may need to retrofit buildings. Many schools are already making their buildings more efficient and considering alternative energy and transportation. Staff and students are examining their practices in the use of energy, water, and materials. Some schools may consider changes to their school calendar in the future.

How can the education community sector contribute to climate change solutions and help us uphold our commitment to the Paris Agreement?

Educators can help prepare its students for a future that will be different in climate, technology, and possibly politics. Students will need to develop skills at making decisions based on evidence and effective reasoning. Teachers can use the issues around climate change to have students explore science concepts, evaluate the validity of arguments, examine the impact of their personal lifestyles, and prod their communities to action.

Why are you excited to attend COP23? What are you most looking forward to?

I am excited to represent Climate Generation at COP23 because it is important to communicate global and international perspectives on climate change to educators and motivate them to teach climate science. I am interested in the factors (environment, politics, etc.) that affect various nations and the negotiations that take place between nations.

What change or progress do you hope comes from the conference, whether that’s personally or politically?

I had the opportunity to compare conditions in rural and coastal Liberia over a 40-year time period. I hope a system of international aid is developed to assist communities impacted by climate change, such as moving people from threatened coastal areas and developing alternative energy resources for rural communities that have been dependent on forest wood and charcoal for their primary energy source.

Where is your favorite place to be outdoors in Minnesota?

I enjoy the Lake Superior shoreline and waters. The many moods of the big lake can provide excitement, calming, and an awareness of the power of nature. The open clear skies at night bring a sense of the vastness of the universe, and the legends of the lake bring a connection to other times and cultures.

Do you want to bring the COP23 experience to your desktop or mobile screen? Sign up to receive updates from our Window Into COP23 delegation. You will receive a daily e-update from Nov. 6–17, providing you access to blogs, webinars, and an inside look at the climate progress and negotiations happening across international leaders.

Follow our delegates on Twitter and Instagram at @climategenorg, and participate in the global COP23 conversation with #MNCOP23, #unite4climate, and #actonclimate.

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