Community-based climate action planning as an act of advocacy: a case study of liberal arts education in a rural community
The current lack of comprehensive federal climate policy highlights the critical need for effective subnational climate policy and programs. We describe our efforts to create and cultivate a community-based multi-stakeholder group centered around local climate change planning and advocacy in a small, rural New York municipality. The literature on sustainability planning emphasizes the importance of collaborative work to build new capacities, develop knowledge, and create community commitment over the long term to advocate for municipal policies that prioritize climate change mitigation and resilience. However, case studies of rural community contexts are lacking in the literature, and rural communities may not have the planning and other resources found in the municipal offices of larger, urban communities. We argue that higher education institutions, especially those situated in small rural communities, have a vital role in supporting the climate strategies of local actors and can develop productive partnerships through research and co-curricular education. We discuss several challenges to effective campus-community partnerships, including the need to balance student engagement in community-based research with the traditional liberal arts model of education, engaging and sustaining the participation of community partners, and differential access to resources in rural spaces.