Climate Optimism – Finding Creative Solutions and Making Positive Impacts

Friday, June 28, 2024

9 AM – 4 PM CDT

Register here

Join us for a virtual workshop, Climate Optimism – Finding Creative Solutions and Making Positive Impacts. This workshop will provide new ideas for teaching related to climate change to enable more optimistic approaches in the classroom and mitigate the phenomena of doomscrolling and “climate despair.” Featured speakers will bring international, regional, and local expertise to our exchange to provide attendees with practical classroom activities, tangible examples of success, and suggestions for incorporating climate optimism outside of the science classroom.

Registered attendees will receive a mailing with books and other materials. A registration fee of $10 is requested to cover shipping costs.

For details on the Wisconsin Standards of Instruction addressed in this workshop, please see the tab below, which will be updated as talks are finalized.

Dr. Sumudu Atapattu

Sumudu Atapattu is Teaching Professor and Director of the Global Legal Studies Center at UW Law School. She is also the Executive Director of the Human Rights Program at UW-Madison. She teaches in the areas of International Environmental law and climate change and human rights.






Carlos Arenas

Carlos Arenas is currently working as a consultant with the Inter-American Development Bank on a project to assist the Guna indigenous community of Gardi Sugdub (Panama) to relocate to the mainland as a result of the lack of space and sea level rise. He has also worked with several non-profits in the US and Latin America, including the Rights and Resources Initiative, the Wisconsin Trust Account Foundation and Working Capital for Community Needs (WCCN). He is a UW-Madison Law School Alumnus. 



Dr. Jifunza Wright Carter and Executive Director, Fred Carter

Fred Carter is Co-Founder, Executive Director of Black Oaks Center, a non-profit organization with a mission to equip youth and families with sustainable skills, turning them into beacons of resilience for the future. Affectionately known as Baba Fred or the Ancient One, Fred Carter adds depth and brevity to the possibility of equity & justice. As a former Black Panther Party member, he brings over 60 years of strategy & process to the leadership circles he shares with those who are young enough to be children/grandchildren status. This includes National Black Food Justice Alliance & Black Land & Power. This retired transportation executive left the corporate world to found Black Oaks Center with his wife, Dr. Jifunza Wright Carter and his son, Akin Carter in 2006 when it was clear that the adverse consequences of climate instability, resource constraints & a growing, global population would shape an arduous course of life on our planet for years to come. Fred is a permaculture teacher & regenerative farmer who has been critical in the development of peri-urban local food system development in and around Chicago.


Nicole Fischer

Nicole Fischer is a University of Wisconsin-Madison – Ph.D. student currently at the Rachel Carson Center in Munich. Her interest in Environmental Humanities led her to pursue a Ph.D. at UW- Madison with a project that views German literature through an ecocritical lens, in addtion to her minor in the field of SLA and a Certificate in Environmental Humanities. She also contributes to the Environment and Engagement in German Studies at Carleton College.




Dr. Li-Ching Ho

Li-Ching Ho is Professor of Social Studies Education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. Her research, conducted primarily in East and Southeast Asia, focuses on global civic education, issues of diversity in civic education, and environmental citizenship education. She was previously a recipient of the Vilas Faculty Early Career Investigator Award and the College and University Faculty Assembly Early Career Research Award. Her latest book, co-authored with Keith Barton, is Curriculum for Justice and Harmony.



Heidi Kühn

Heidi Kühn is the Nobel Peace Prize-nominated founder and CEO of Roots of Peace, a humanitarian nonprofit organization that has worked to remove unexploded bombs and landmines and restore war-torn lands to agricultural use with the planting of millions of vines and fruit trees. Since 1997, her organization has impacted over 1 million farmers and farming families in Afghanistan, Angola, Azerbaijan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cambodia, Croatia, Guatemala, Iraq, Israel, Palestine and Vietnam.





Timothy R. Ripp

Timothy R. Ripp is a Horticulture Educator for Extension Sauk County, UW-Madison; Landscape Designer for the Bruce Company, and a beekeeper of nearly a decade.

In his role as Horticulture Educator, Tim facilitates and develops research-based educational programs and informational materials around horticultural topics for local businesses, individuals and families in Sauk County. Including, community outreach, coordinating horticulture diagnostic services, and assisting with educational programming and coordination of the Master Gardener Program.

Tim began his role at UW-Madison Extension Sauk County in 2021. Prior to joining Extension, Tim began his career in the landscape industry in 1998 as Landscape Designer and Project Manager. Beginning in 2008 he became a small business owner operating a landscape design/build company servicing individuals and businesses in South/Central Wisconsin. In 2023 he joined the Bruce Company as an in house designer.

All listed times are local (Central Time US). Final schedule is subject to change.

Time Speaker Session Title
9:00-9:10 Welcome Remarks
9:10-10:00 Sumudu Atapattu Keynote Address: “Using Human Rights to Protect Vulnerable Communities From Climate Change”
10:00-10:10 transition/water break
10:10-11:00 Li-Ching Ho “Pedagogies for Climate Hope”
11:00-11:10 transition/water break
11:10-12:00 Nicole Fischer “Teaching Sustainability in the Foreign Language Classroom: In Various Contexts, on Several Proficiency Levels, via Different Activity Types”
12:00-12:15 transition/lunch
12:15-1:05 Heidi Kühn “Roots of Peace—Turning MINES TO VINES Worldwide”
1:05-1:15 transition/water break
1:15-2:05 Carlos Arenas “From Gardi Sugdub to Isber Yala: An Indigenous Community-led Planned Relocation in Panama”
2:05-2:15 transition/water break
2:15-3:05 Tim Ripp “The Low Maintenance Natural Landscape Alternative — Reduce Your Carbon Footprint and Promote Pollinators”
3:05-3:15 transition/water break
3:15-4:05 Fred Carter “Reaching Resilience: How to Create the Inner Landscape”



9:10 AM: Keynote Address: “Using Human Rights to Protect Vulnerable Communities From Climate Change,” Presented by Dr. Sumudu Atapattu.

About the presentation: Although climate change poses an unprecedented threat to the enjoyment of rights, a human rights framework also offers potential solutions to victims of climate change to seek relief and hold states accountable.  Many of these victims are poor and marginalized segments of society and the human rights framework gives them a voice. Moreover, climate action can have a positive impact on the enjoyment of rights, especially, the right to health.  In this presentation, I look at how a human rights approach to climate action can improve the lives of millions of people who are forced to bear a disproportionate impact of climate change.

10:10 AM: “Pedagogies for Climate Hope,” presented by Li-Ching Ho.

About the presentation: As educators, we want our students to learn how to improve the world, and an important feature of preparing students to bring about a better world is helping them to understand what problems the world faces—from poverty to racism to warfare to climate change and any number of others. Yet in teaching about these topics and by deliberately centering daunting social challenges and problems in the curriculum, we may unconsciously be encouraging students to give up hope. Furthermore, declining levels of trust and political efficacy, combined with rising inequality, have unsurprisingly led to a “politics of despair.” To counter this, we must provide students a sense of hope—a belief that a better world is possible, and that human action can bring that about.

11:10 AM: “Teaching Sustainability in the Foreign Language Classroom: In Various Contexts, on Several Proficiency Levels, via Different Activity Types”, presented by Nicole Fischer.

About the presentation: This presentation will focus on possibilities of how to incorporate the topic of sustainability into the foreign language classroom from the very beginning. There will be multiple examples that illustrate how ‘sustainability’ can be taught in various contexts, on several proficiency levels, and via different activity types.

12:15 PM:Roots of Peace—Turning MINES TO VINES Worldwide,” presented by Heidi Kühn.

About the presentation: In September 1997, Roots of Peace began with a vision to turn MINES TO VINES—replacing landmines with vineyards and orchards worldwide. Turning vision into reality, founder Heidi Kühn has facilitated the removal of millions of landmines and planted over seven million fruit trees on former war-torn lands in Afghanistan, Angola, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Cambodia, Iraq, Israel, Palestine and Vietnam. Now, Roots of Peace is expanding its focus to Mikolaiv, Ukraine, where over 30% of the country is contaminated by landmines. There are an estimated 110 million landmines in over 60 countries, and these seeds of destruction must be removed—creating fertile grounds for food security and the cultivation of peace through agriculture. 

1:15 PM: “From Gardi Sugdub to Isber Yala: An Indigenous Community-led Planned Relocation in Panama,” presented by Carlos Arenas.

About the presentation:  This presentation will focus on the experience of the island indigenous community of Gardi Sugdub in Panama who, at the end of last month, was able to relocate to a new site built by the Panamanian government on the mainland that they now call Isber Yala. It took the Guna indigenous people of Gardi Sugdub fourteen years to relocate. This is the first indigenous community in Latin America that has relocated as a result of the threats of sea level rise from climate change, and one that has been community-led. I will share first-hand lessons learned from this experience that I have accompanied for the past ten years.

2:15 PM: “The Low Maintenance Landscape Alternative — Reduce Your Carbon Footprint and Promote Pollinators,” presented by Timothy R. Ripp.

About the presentation: Garden spaces can be a haven for pollinators and other wildlife, as well as low maintenance, while being tidy and beautiful all at the same time! Join us to learn about gardening and landscaping practices that bring biodiversity to your yard while cutting back on lawn mower noise, pollution and yard waste. We will also touch on the “No Mow May” movement and what the best practices are for supporting pollinators in one’s lawn and garden.

3:15 PM: “Reaching resiliency is the foundational principle of human beings being sustainable not technology,” presented by Fred Carter.

About the presentation: Reaching resiliency is the foundational principle of human beings being sustainable, not technology.

Presentation videos will be posted here following the workshop.

Recommended Readings and Additional Resources

Wisconsin Environmental Organizations

Presentation Slides

Sumudu Atapattu

Li-Ching Ho

Carlos Arenas

Tim Ripp

This workshop features a number of speakers from different fields, including a law professor, a human rights lawyer, two non-profit leaders including a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, a horticulture educator, a professor of Social Studies education, and a PhD candidate specializing in teaching the environment in world language classrooms. 
The world regions of focus include Afghanistan, the American Midwest, East Asia, Germany, Latin America, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Ukraine. 
We chose these speakers for the workshop with the intent to address the following Wisconsin Standards of Instruction for Social Studies and English Language Arts. 
Social Studies Standards addressed in workshop:
Inq5.a: Civic engagement
BH4.a: Progression of technology
Econ2.a: Consumers, producers, and markets
Econ4.a: Economic systems and allocation of resources
Econ4.b: Institutions
Econ4.c: Role of government
Econ4.d: Impact of government interventions
Econ4.e: Specialization, trade, and interdependence
Geog2.b: Reasons people move
Geog2.c: Impact of movement
Geog2d. Urbanization
Geog3.a: Distribution of resources
Geog3.b: Networks
Geog4.a: Characteristics of place
Geog5.a: Human environment interaction
Geog5.b: Interdependence
PS2.c: Asserting and reaffirming of human rights
PS3.d: Public policy
Hist3.a: Connections
Hist2.b: Patterns change over a period of time
Hist2.c: Contextualization
English Language Arts Standards addressed in workshop:
Anchor Standard R7: Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats.
Anchor Standard R8: Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.
Anchor Standard W3: Select and utilize tools and strategies to develop effective writing appropriate for purpose, mode, and audience.
Anchor Standard W6: Use print and digital technology to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.
Anchor Standard W8: Gather relevant information from multiple print, digital, and community sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and follow a standard citation format.
Anchor Standard W9: Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and inquiry.
World language teachers will specifically benefit from Nicole Fischer’s talk, whose presentation will not only serve as a guide for how to insert environmental topics in the world language classroom, but will also help world language teachers incorporate insights from the other speakers in their language curriculum.