Call for online climate campaigners to “get involved”

People concerned about climate change need to turn social media ‘likes’ into practical action, the leader of a Europe-wide environmental project has said.

Professor Mel Woods from the University of Dundee says that whilst online expressions of support to address environmental issues are welcome, they ultimately fail to produce real change.

She will promote the role of ‘citizen science’ when she hosts the next Dundee Arts Café on Tuesday 12 November.

The Academic Lead for the University’s Grow Observatory, a soil monitoring initiative supported by volunteer input, Professor Woods says that while campaign groups like Extinction Rebellion generate publicity, advocates should contribute to local initiatives if climate change is to be addressed.

“It’s great if you can sign a petition, join a protest or like a social media post by Greta Thunberg, but to take real action to address climate change means getting involved,” she said.

“Climate change is a complex matter and can be hard to grasp. That’s why so many people feel that anything they do to tackle it is insignificant, particularly when you see the impact of large polluters such as China and the United States.

“Many activists are motivated by the prospect of backing a campaign, but what is actually needed is people providing practical support to projects that make a difference.”

Led by the University’s Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design, the Grow Observatory brings together 18 partner organisations to gather data on soil across Europe. Free sensors have been distributed to volunteers throughout the continent, collecting data on soil conditions that is being used to help food producers adapt their methods to climate change. The information is also being utilised by the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-1 satellites, allowing scientists to predict extreme weather events.

Having brought together hundreds of volunteers from across Europe, Professor Woods says that she hopes her talk will encourage more people to participate in similar schemes.

“Influencing policy through peaceful means is critical, and the best way to do that is by having data to support our message,” she added.

“That’s why citizen science is crucial if climate change is to be tackled.”

Professor Wood’s talk ‘Solving Environmental Issues Together’, takes place in the McManus Café, McManus Gallery, at 6pm on Tuesday 12 November. Attendance is free, though following a recent increase in demand is now by ticket only. These can be booked in advance online.