Pedagogies of Empowerment: Teaching Climate Change without Hopeless Despair         

Amanda Baugh

When we teach students about climate change and other environmental problems, how can we convey the enormity and urgency of the situation without leaving students in a state of hopeless despair? In this presentation I discuss some strategies I have employed to achieve that goal.

We need to change our diets to save our climate, our health, and our communities

David Cleveland

Our food system, including on our college and university campuses, is dominated by private corporate profit with huge externalized costs – it contributes 25% or more of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions driving climate change, and fuelsan epidemic of noncommunicable diseases like diabetes, heart disease and cancers,with low income communities and POC bearing a disproportionate level of the costs. Diet change is required to successfully tackle the climate-health-justice problem, but is challenged by the political power of the food industry, the institutions it has co-opted, and behavioral inertia. Policies to promote diet change include top down regulation and price adjustments, and activation of values like autonomy and fairness.

Call to Action: Building a Movement for Climate Justice and Sustainable Economies

Rosa RiVera Furumoto

1.    Preservation and revitalization of the language, culture, values, and traditions of Chicana/o/Latina/o and Native American community members;

2.    Involvement and engagement of multiple generations in the teaching and learning processes including children, parents, grandparents, and other kin and community members;

3.    Critical pedagogical practices to promote critical thinking, reflection and action regarding climate change, sustainability, and other social justice issues and;

4.    Promoting connection, love, and respect for nature and the environment via outdoors exploration and the establishment of urban gardens and forests.

Digital Environmental Humanities in Chicana/o Communities

Stevie Ruiz

In this talk, I talk about my experience with teaching and research pertaining to the involvement of Chicana/o communities in the great outdoors.  I provide some techniques and student driven teaching to engage students using the digital humanities in environmental justice research.  I argue that there are significant implications for democratizing the dialogue about climate resilience that takes into consideration Chicana/o engagement with the great outdoors and the types of knowledge that immigrant communities provide that will save our planet from ecological catastrophe.

Epistemological Differences

Valerie Wong and Allison Mattheis

This talk brings together a scholar from the humanities, a social scientist, and a natural scientist to explore our understandings of research approaches and ontological assumptions about data and objectivity. We first present the beliefs that underlie particular modes of inquiry and communication in our distinct fields, and then engage in a collective presentation of how these points of view can expand, rather than create conflict, in discussions of climate change. By uncovering points of difference we also explore areas of convergence in order to advocate for sustainable future practices in our communities. 

Q & A

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25 replies
  1. Lucy HG Solomon says:

    Stevie Ruiz, as you described the project examining Mexican-Americans’ role in the CCC, I couldn’t help but feel optimistic. With a rich combination of research, visualization, and community outreach, you remind us that there are historical figures and movements to turn to (and connect with!). I appreciate your focus on Chicana/os’ historical relationship to nature, and the relevancy of that to our community today. I’d love to see some of the visuals resulting from the students’ research.

  2. Rosa RiVera Furumoto CSU Northridge says:

    Hi Stevie,
    I’m thinking about the rich possibilities of using coded mind maps to connect things associated with the environment, history, current conditions, etc. This is one of the areas I find most challenging is to support students to see and make sense of these connections. I’m also thinking about some of the issues you raised as part of your work such as Latina/os’ lack of access to national parks and public lands. Your work and the students’ work becomes a way for us to visualize what the issues are and to do some problem solving around this.

  3. Rosa RiVera Furumoto CSU Northridge says:

    Hi Amanda,
    I greatly appreciate what you shared in the panel including the resources and the Ecological Footprint Journal samples. This is an idea I’d like to steal for my classes. As we are on the same campus, please let’s meet and discuss this further. Several things are coming forward for me. I notice that as professors we do need to be thoughtful about how we approach the issues of climate change so that students are not simply left with despair and helplessness. Your talk gave me some good ideas about how to approach the topic in this positive way. Secondly, the information about Latina/o Catholics’ concern for the environment is very interesting. This is something that I’d like to discuss with my students and with families in the community. Thanks for the inspiration!

  4. cslown says:

    @ Amanda B.-As an instructor from another majority/minority institution, I am curious about how to cultivate inclusive conversations for younger age groups, particularly K-12 students and their families. Are there any resources/research you could point me to as aides in shaping the conversation? For example, do you think the EFJ could be scaled to engage middle school students? Thank you.
    @ David C.-I could not agree more with “changing our diets is key.” I am curious about food pantries. A significant number of our students are food insecure and seek food from food pantries; however, often the products are processed goods. Any suggestions for better alternatives to make available to low income students?

    • DAC says:

      At UCSB the food bank has installed coolers so that they can accept donations of fresh produce. Also, classes on food purchasing and cooking help students make use of food they may not already know how to prepare. And need to remove the unhealthy food from campuses that make students sick and destroys the environment, because this food is targeted at many food insecure students.

  5. cslown says:

    @ Rosa R.F.-Thank you! I was so intrigued by Padres Pioneros’ creative dialogue. How did you first reach out and bring families together to talk? We have a significant need to include families and neighborhoods to engage around STEM and conservation, but we are unsure how to begin. Also how do you train/develop your critical pedagogical practices?
    @ Stevie R.-The potential of a digital humanities lab to expose students to research is fascinating. How did you cultivate the necessary research methods for students to engage in this research/investigation? Also, could you share more about the mind mapping software-this sounds like a phenomenal tool to incorporate into course work. Any resources you could share would be wonderful. Thank you.

  6. baugha says:

    @ Rosa – Thanks so much for your comments! Yes, I’m happy to share my EFJ assignments with you, and anyone else! And likewise I’d be happy to discuss my ongoing research with your classes as relevant. I’m now starting to write up some results, as well, so I can share that with you too.

    @cslown – Great question! I’m afraid I’m not involved with K-12 students and I’m not familiar with research for them. Many apologies! But not speaking as an expert, yes, I definitely think the EFJ assignments could be used with middle school students. It’s basically just asking them to learn something about their own daily practices, through keeping a journal or doing an online assessment, and then asking them to reflect on what they learned.

    • cslown says:

      @ Rosa -No apologies necessary. This seems like an ideal opportunity to help students engage thoughtfully and reflectively. Will tinker with a format and send you what I was thinking of trying out in a high school classroom. Thank you for the inspiration!

  7. Amanda Baugh, CSU Northridge says:

    Rosa – Thank you for your inspiring talk and the work you do! Can you offer advice for getting started on similar types of community projects, in terms of identifying a community partner and developing projects that will meet their needs and those of our students? You have established amazing camaraderie and respect among the mothers and grandmothers you work with over many years. I have to admit it’s rather intimidating from a perspective of trying to do similar community-based work!

  8. Amanda Baugh, CSU Northridge says:

    Stevie – I enjoyed hearing more about your research and how you’re engaging students at such a fundamental level. As I listened to your talk it struck me that one important theme underlying your work – expanding/altering understandings of environmentalism to be more inclusive of diverse communities – is common across many of the talks. As we continue developing ideas and projects together as a KAN group, I wonder if this is an issue we can scale address collectively?

  9. Lucy HG Solomon says:

    Hi Amanda and Stevie, along these lines, community engagement with sustainability within the context of a specific community has roots in diversity. Stevie’s approach, through historical research, is longitudinal, reminding me that sustainability is already embedded in our communities. Perhaps we could invite a wide group of students, community activists and researchers into whatever KAN portal is established – to share their individual stories.

  10. daveshaw says:

    @Rosa RiVera Furumoto CSU Northridge

    I’m inspired to see the intergenerational work you are doing with Padres Pioneros, especially around storytelling, dialogue and culture. Are you aware of any groups like this in Santa Cruz County, CA?

    I want to share another group that might be a potential collaborator or inspiration. Have you heard of the neighborhood level work of the City Repair Project in Portland, Oregon? As you said, we no longer can wait for governments (certainly not the US federal gov’t) to implement programs for sustainability and social justice. City Repair is a powerful example of citizens banding together to take matters into their own hands for urban gardening, intergenerational connections, and grassroots democracy. If you are interested, there are two short films about their work at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qVq0exoGySc and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GYES81Ibj4A. I know there are now over 70 communities in the USA that have created their own local City Repair projects.

    Also, I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on my talk in the Monterey Bay section on a similar theme, titled “We Are Wiser Together: Intergenerational Collaboration for the Common Good.” I’m working with a group of people on http://www.wiser-together.com to articulate a series of principles and practices for increasing the power of intergenerational dialogue and action, including climate activism, and would love to hear your thoughts about what we have come up with thus far.

    Thanks, David

  11. Jade Sasser, UC Riverside says:

    Hi Amanda, I enjoyed your presentation and am also interested in how to design Ecological Footprint Journals for my introductory students as well. Thanks also for posting the useful reports.


  12. amattheis says:

    Hi Amanda- I’m finding it extra interesting to listen to your video while traveling in Colombia, a Latin American country strongly influenced by Catholic religious, social and cultural norms! The centrality of environmental concerns to many people here is evident, regardless of background. Religion is often taken for granted as a shared value, but other times people have described Catholicism as one tool used by descendants of Spanish colonizers to maintain political control of governmental power and connected to a history of discrimination against indigenous peoples and Afro-Colombian communities. As always, these things are very complex, and I appreciate how you are engaging your students in exploration of how different aspects of cultural identity are interconnected!

  13. nseymour says:

    @ Amanda — Thanks for your great talk. I’m sure you saw the NY Times cover story a couple weeks ago about the “religious left” and their recent mobilization. Your research is so timely and important! https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/10/us/politics/politics-religion-liberal-william-barber.html?_r=0. I have a question about the Ecological Footprint Journal idea. I have always shied away from this type of assignment because of the focus on individual as opposed to community/policy actions, and because I always assumed it would make students feel guilty! Have you had any issues with the above? Are there any ways that you manage those risks?

  14. Amanda Baugh, CSU Northridge says:

    @nseymour – Thanks for that link! You bring up an interesting point about the EFJ’s, and a broader set of questions about how to tackle the enormous challenges we face as a global society. I feel like most of my students do not really think about the environmental implications of their daily lives and this can be a powerful way to help them become more reflective. I don’t think guilt has been an issue so far – I try to be open and honest about my own practices, acknowledging that I fly on airplanes several times a year so my carbon footprint is enormous compared to most of theirs, that I’m vegetarian but I wear leather shoes sometimes, etc., etc. I haven’t found that they find their own practices to be so bad as to be overwhelming.

    But your point about community/policy actions is well taken. I think this could be a conversation to have during class discussions of the assignment. And now that you have me thinking about this, perhaps it could even be a final EFJ entry, to think about ways to scale individual changes that they started to undergo, into more effective community-based/policy change. Thanks for that great point!

  15. Amanda Baugh, CSU Northridge says:

    @Rosa, cslowan, and Jade (and anyone else interested) – I’ve tried uploaded some sample EFJ’s with my bio on our Nuclino page, but as of now it doesn’t seem like I’ve managed to put it up correctly. I’ll keep trying, but feel free to email me as well and I’m happy to send directly. Amanda.Baugh@csun.edu

  16. John Foran, UC Santa Barbara says:

    Wow, Rosa, the Call to Action is powerful! It resonated on so many levels with what I feel and would like to do more of with my own students in their communities, and especially on a project that students are developing in Isla Vista, the neighborhood adjacent to UC Santa Barbara.

    Thus, I am wondering a few things: 1) how does service learning work at the CSU? We don’t have it in the UC, although we can make community service a part of a class or a class on its own under certain conditions. Do you have any tips for how to make it attractive to students? 2) How does one become involved in a respectful, authentic way in a community that is not one’s own? Have you thought about writing about your practices in a way that helps others see how to translate them into their own context? Even better, might you have a list of resources for teachers who want to do just that, whether written by you or others?

  17. LilyHP says:

    Amanda, your presentation really resonated with my experience teaching sustainability and environmental geography at CSULB to a very diverse student audience. I spend a lot of time trying to overcome the stigma attached to communities of color, from hegemonic white environmentalism, that tells these students that they do not care about the environment because of their race/ethnicity. Thank you for sharing some of the materials that you use to begin this conversation to create inclusive spaces in the classroom where we can confront these biases. My students, especially those born outside of the US and first generation students, often bring up that what we think of as “sustainability” is just the way of life in other countries and cultures. For example: recycling is something that constantly happens because everything is reused and repurposed when there is little money to buy new things; vegetarian and even vegan diets are often the norm because rice and beans are the staple diet and is what is available, etc. The students realize that environmental ethics and behaviors are often actually very in-line with how they have been brought up, and it is the consumerism of American culture that is the real problem. This realization helps to open the conversation to the way that white environmentalism and sustainability movements have racist and exclusive tendencies, that have to be dismantled for “sustainability” to be a useful concept.

  18. amattheis says:

    Hi David, I’m curious how you have framed “good food” and “bad food” on the UCSB campus? For example, what is the decision-making process in weighing factors like circumstances of production v. food item itself (for example, products based on soy from land deforested in Brazil, v. local sourced seafood)?

    • DAC says:

      It is of course much easier to define good and bad food in general than for specific cases, and there are always indirect effects that complicate things. For example, when UCSF banned sugar sweetened beverages (SSB), food sales quickly recovered because sales of non-SSB increased. While the ban probably is improving health (there are data being collected that support this), what effect on climate and equity of substituting water stolen from local communities sold in plastic bottles? And the non SSB are from the same international corporations selling SSB (Coke and Pepsi), that are aggressively marketing SSB to vulnerable communities globally.

      So I think defining good and bad food is a process demanding constant questioning and adjustment in order to move in the direction of clearly defined goals.

  19. vwong says:

    Hi David,

    Food security and the impact of (literal!) human consumption are so important. Could you point the way to resources that tease out how food choices specifically impact climate change? That is, how researchers are able to separate the effects of interconnected factors like improving health care since the 1900s, food production methods, and economies of scale from dietary choices?

    • DAC says:

      That’s a good question. Most often, life cycle assessments are used to track the greenhouse gas emissions of different foods through their life cycles, and the impact of diets is a summation of the emissions of the foods comprising it. Obviously lots of assumptions have to be made in such a process, and so estimates vary, but the big picture is consistent — animal foods contribute much more greenhouse gas emissions per gram protein, per kilocalorie and per serving. I can send you a recent article discussion the methodology if you would like.

  20. amattheis says:

    Rosa, thanks for sharing your Freirean-inspired storytelling and consciousness building practices in the community! Have you found that there are particular schools that have been most open to hosting these conversations, or stories that resonate most strongly with the children in after-school programs?

  21. amattheis says:

    Stevie, I like how the work you describe in your video not only discusses sustainability and ethnic, racial, and cultural background as inherently connected, but also presents a new way for students to engage with the idea of academic research. Are you planning to incorporate assignments like the one you describe in other courses?

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