Making a fresco to explain the climate emergency with Climate Fresk

1st December 2021

Most people now believe in human induced climate change, however there is a lack of clear understanding in the general population about the link between our actions and the earth’s heating. Climate Fresk is a group activity created by French lecturer in energy and climate, Cedric Ringenbach, that aims to increase awareness of how our actions have led to a climate emergency. Lucy Patterson, our Scotland Sustainability in the Curriculum Project Officer, attended one their workshops, run alongside COP26 in Glasgow at City of Glasgow College, and shares her experience.

What is Climate Fresk?
Climate Fresk is a 3-hour long workshop that summarises the Nobel prize winning IPCC climate report in an fun, interactive group activity. As this is a 2000-page report, the vital information contained within it isn’t easily accessible to the majority of society. Climate Fresk plays a vital role in ensuring we can have the mass response to the climate emergency needed to avoid more than 1.5°C of warming, by educating individuals from all backgrounds on climate science.

Originally developed in 2017, the workshop has recently become the focal activity of the global Climate Education Kick Off (CEKO). CEKO offers universities and colleges the opportunity to educate thousands of students on climate science using Climate Fresk’s resources. Currently over 220 institutions globally have run Climate Fresk workshops as part of the CEKO project.

Why City of Glasgow College and University of Strathclyde got involved
City of Glasgow college has joined with Climate Fresk’s CEKO as part of the Glasgow Colleges Region initiative to engage and encourage staff and students at the City of Glasgow, Glasgow Kelvin and Glasgow Clyde Colleges to make long-term choices to help protect the planet. Paul Little, Principal and Chief Executive at City of Glasgow College, said “Encouraging our students and staff to take part in such events is an important part of our college’s ongoing commitment to reducing our carbon footprint.” They opened the workshop to the public to expand their influence.

University of Strathclyde has also been a key stakeholder of the CEKO project in Glasgow during COP26, running facilitation training for anyone who wants to lead future Climate Fresk workshops. Michaël Dore, Strathcyde alumni and co-ordinator of Climate Fresk at the University, expressed his pride at hosting such an event. He said he sees education as “The building block we should foster and use in order to create a cultural and social revolution that will enable life to sustain on earth.”

The workshop process
The concept is that groups of 5-7 are given a deck of 42 cards which they must arrange into a sequence from cause to consequence, like a storyboard. Particpants are meant to stick cards on a wall as they work through - hence the name ‘fresk’ coming from the word fresco, to paint on a wall, but the activity can also be done on a table. Teams begin with just 8 cards with a picture and title on the front and a blurb on the back. Each member reads the blurb on the back of their own card and together organise them into sequence. For example:

     Human Activity     -->    Carbon Emissions    -->   Greenhouse Effect

Once done the facilitator elaborates on some areas of climate science then introduces more cards to slot into the existing sequence. This happens repeatedly until the 42 cards are in sequence. The team is then challenged to draw arrows between cards to show relationships between different parts of the project.

The session ends with naming your team’s ‘fresk’ and a debrief on the feelings each person felt around climate change before and after the activity.

Even with my background in sustainability I found the workshop very beneficial. I think the main thing I took from it was appreciating how complex the climate emergency is; when it came to adding arrows between our cards we barely had room as we could argue everything interacted somehow. I also was surprised to realise how much I didn’t know, for me this was mainly around the effects on the sea. Following the workshop this initiated a conversation with a representative from the cryopshere group at COP26, who it turns out had a role in Climate Fresk, reminding me of the high level of expertise involved in creating these resources and the influential stakeholders that believe it works.

In my opinion the collaborative nature of the activity was its greatest strength. By the end of the activity we had fostered a trust within the group that allowed for open, honest discussion about our feelings towards climate change. My group comprised a diverse set of attendees, ranging from sustainability professional to complete novice. Despite this we all learnt from each other. I found it interesting in the feedback that some had come with a passion to fight climate change but were completely new to the scientific knowledge and afterwards felt empowered to do more. Others found it productively challenged their existing knowledge and left with tangible actions to reduce their carbon footprint. Overall it was a lived reminder that we’re all in this together, all still learning, and have the power to change things.  

Next steps from the institutions and Climate Fresk
Those who have completed the workshop can continue to become facilitators for a small fee through training at University of Strathclyde.

For Climate Fresk the next step is to further grow their community by running their workshops at as many institutions as possible. For more information on how your institution can join the CEKO project click here or to test the event online book here.

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