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Climate Topics in EVERY Discipline That We Teach

Following the hottest year in human history, educators owe it to our students to show how their education prepares them for life in a world of radical climate change. Now, not waiting for next year, we need to spread climate education and engagement beyond the students who are taking, and the faculty who are teaching. climate-related classes. 

We call upon every educator, in every subject, at every level of education, in every educational institution, in every community, in every country to begin Earth Month by participating in Worldwide Climate and Justice Education Week April (1-8, 2024).

It is easy to do. Just devote 30 minutes – less than one class period-- to teach about how your field, economics, philosophy, music, history, chemistry, dance, computer science, is engaging with climate solutions and climate justice. Help your students understand that whatever their major or skill set, they can help to advance climate justice and solutions.  

You don’t need to be an expert on climate issues. See below for a list of climate topics in every discipline, provided by Dr. Laura Hartman at Roanoke College. Or send me an email (solveclimate2030@gmail.com), and I'll be glad to discuss. Your students will be eager to engage in informed discussion on these and similar topics. 

If twenty faculty members at your university do this in all their classes, we'll be talking with 1000 to 2500 students. If forty, 2,000 to 5,000 (with students gaining multiple perspectives from teachers). And so on up. This level of campus-wide engagement can inspire our students to move beyond climate despair to a sense of intellectual excitement and of agency around climate change solutions. We call this approach MakeClimateAClass.

We are all busy with classes, and research, and course material to cover-- but that does not stop emissions rising. Is it too much to ask for 30 minutes of class time to show your students how to engage with the existential issues of our time.?

Please join us and forward this opportunity to climate-concerned faculty, students and staff and Pledge to Make Climate a Class Here.

Please share this request with your colleagues, especially in departments that are not focused on environmental issues.

Thank you for the work you are doing--

Eban Goodstein, Ph.D and David Blockstein, Ph.D.

Co-Directors of Worldwide Climate and Justice Education Week

And to help you in your planning, here is a list of climate topics in EVERY discipline that Roanoke College teaches, as put together by Dr. Laura M. Hartman (Associate Professor, Environmental Studies, Roanoke College). We hope this can inspire you in your planning!

Accounting: Discuss the Climate Accounting Project as a response to climate change. Is it effective? Why or why not?

Anthropology: Study a culture that is threatened by rising sea levels or melting ice. How can the study of culture contribute to our response to climate change?

Archaeology: Rising seas threaten certain archaeological sites; how can archaeologists fight climate change? When has climate been different in the past and how have people responded to it?

Art: Investigate artists who have responded to climate change in their art. Is art an effective social commentary for this issue? Can you design climate-conscious art?

Art History: What do you think of the climate protesters who sloshed soup on a Van Gogh painting recently? Some protest the funding of museums by oil companies; should arts organizations divest from benefactors who are warming the globe?

Biochemistry: How does eating red algae keep cows from belching methane? Could we engineer enzymes that could capture atmospheric carbon for use in building materials?

Biology: how do biological systems (ecosystems, human bodies) respond to climate effects like heat or drought? How can biological systems sequester carbon and what practices optimize this?

Business: what are businesses doing to address the climate crisis? Which actions seem most effective and why? How can we tell what is "greenwashing" or what is a genuine commitment to the common good?

Chemistry: how does a greater concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere affect the chemistry of the ocean (and, in turn, affect the creatures living there)? How does heat in the atmosphere affect its ability to hold water?

Computer science: How do computer scientists model climate outcomes and what are they doing to improve their predictions? What is the climate impact of all those data centers (or bitcoin??) and how is the field working to make it better?

Creative writing: Climate literature, stories, poetry - how effective are these at raising awareness? Can you write your own climate literature? (Psst my favorite climate poet is Craig Santos Perez)

Criminal justice: What do you make of the young people suing the US government for its inaction on climate change (google Our Children's Trust for more info)? We know hotter days result in more violent crimes; how should law enforcement address climate effects in vulnerable communities?

Economics: How is the fossil fuel industry reinventing itself in response to the climate crisis? What pricing mechanisms would work to wean our society off of fossil fuels?

Education: What do students need to know about the climate crisis? What is an age-appropriate way to talk about impending cataclysm? How can environmental education foster a new generation of climate leaders? How can insights from education inform the climate movement's efforts to raise awareness throughout society?

Engineering: What alternatives to fossil fuel have the most promise and why? Which buildings on campus are the most energy efficient and how can the others be improved?

English (literature): Read some cli-fi (climate fiction) or solarpunk (imagining greener futures) and discuss the effects of this genre of literature. (My favorite is Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver.)

Gender and Women's Studies: why are women more vulnerable to climate effects than men? Why are polluting practices and industries associated with masculinity? (think Rolling Coal trucks, eating meat... these are typically masculine pursuits.) Would smashing the patriarchy save the planet??

Health and Exercise Science: What are the effects of extreme heat and other weather events on the human body? How can more active transportation (walking, biking) help solve the climate crisis and what can be done to promote this?

History: When has climate been different in the past and how have people responded to it? Do you agree that we are now in a new era, the Anthropocene, and that doing history as usual is no longer fitting? (See Chakrabarty, The Climate of History: Four Theses 2009)

Human Resources: What policies and practices can respond to the climate crisis (e.g. telework)? What is the future of work on a warming planet?

International Relations: What do you make of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change? How effective is the Paris Agreement (2015)? Should richer countries have to pay for climate adaptation in poorer countries?

Math: How do scientists use math to analyze the climate or predict climate effects? How do you respond to McKibben's article "Global Warming's Terrifying New Math" (2012)?

Marketing: How have fossil fuel companies sown doubt about climate change through clever public relations strategies? How can marketers use their powers for good, to support action on climate?

Modern Languages: What is going on with the climate in a country where they speak this language? Is there poetry or music responding to climate, in this language, which we can analyze?

Music: Listen to and analyze recent works dealing with climate change (recommended: Ludovico Einaudi's 'Elegy for the Arctic'; pieces linked from the Forbes article "What does Climate Change Sound Like As Music?")

Peace and Justice Studies: Examine the modern-day nonviolent climate movement and compare with other social movements. (Recommended: Extinction Rebellion, Fridays for Future.)

Philosophy: Is it the place of human beings to engineer the climate in response to climate change? What is our human role in this earth system?

Physics: Which greenhouse gases trap the most heat and why? What is the principle behind solar radiation management and do you think it would work? Compare and contrast different types of renewable energy.

Political Science: What do you make of the recent Inflation Reduction Act as a response to climate change? What are other countries doing in response and how could we do better?

Public Health Studies: What are the health effects of climate change and how are those effects distributed throughout populations? What steps are being taken to address the urban heat island effect (for example)?

Psychology: What are the mental health effects of climate change (see recent APA report)? What is the role of psychologists in addressing this crisis?

Religious Studies: Practically every religion has an official statement about climate change. Read some and compare/contrast. If all religions basically agree that we should care for the earth, why are we failing at this task? To what degree are other "religions" (such as devotion to market capitalism) undermining religious efforts to respond well to the climate crisis?

Sociology: Scientists have known for decades what should be done in response to the climate crisis, and haven't been quiet about it. And yet, the crisis gets worse by the year. What factors in society are keeping us from doing the right thing?

Sport Management: How are the Olympics (winter and summer) affected by climate change? How can sports be managed in ways that lower the carbon footprint of vast stadiums and jet-setting athletes?

Statistics: Analyze climate data (the international monetary fund's climate change dashboard is a good place to start).

Theatre: Read/perform a play about climate change (see “Talking About Climate” Short Plays Competition - Winners Ready to Perform at Your School (bard.edu)); what is the role of theatrical performance in opening conversations about difficult topics? How can a medium like theatre bring a "personal" element to something so vast and global?


Contributed by
Dr. Laura M. Hartman
Associate Professor

Environmental Studies
office 540-375-2445

West Hall Annex Rm. 104
pronouns: she, her, hers