NE2019 P2: Creative Pedagogies of Climate Change



Panel 2: Creative Pedagogies of Climate Change

“Implementing Environmental Ethnomusicology Curriculum in Music Department Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife Nigeria”

Olusegun Stephen Titus (Lecturer, Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria)

“The Ecopoesis Project: Advocating Logics of Future Coexistence”

Adam Marcus (Associate Professor of Architecture, California College of the Arts), Leslie Carol Roberts (Professor and Chair of MFA Writing, California College of the Arts), and Chris Falliers (Associate Professor of Architecture, California College of the Arts)

“The Role of Philosophers in Climate Change””

Eugene Chislenko (Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Temple University)

“Applying Systems Thinking to Address the Climate Crisis” (Part 1)

Daniel Fernandez, (California State University, Monterey Bay)

“Applying Systems Thinking to Address the Climate Crisis” (Part 2)

Daniel Fernandez, (California State University, Monterey Bay)

19 replies
  1. cslown says:

    @Adam, @Leslie, and @ Chris Ecopoesis is a brilliant conceptualization of ecological storytelling. In reflecting on your three keys words, “resist, remain, and retreat,” I am wondering about the intersection of sound with respect to exploring systems of language making and representation to engage emerging ecological change. The resistance to outputs and the emphasis on dialogue was compelling. I was particularly drawn to the atlas or collective vocabulary.

    • adammarcus says:

      Thanks for your comment. Your point about the sound and auditory aspects of language is great, and well-taken. One of the workshop groups (the “Remain” team) put forth a kind of performance piece that involved a spoken word component, in which sound and rhythm and cadence played an important part. But it is true our focus in framing this first workshop was really on written word and images, and I think sound could play a larger part as we move the project forward.

  2. cslown says:

    @Eugene Thank you for your talk. I agree that science is primarily a way of knowing, a particular way of looking at and investigating the world. The central questions of philosophy and science concern what qualifies as science, the reliability of scientific theories, and the ultimate purpose of science. I wrestle with the need for experiential learning. Facilitating a discussion and eliciting student thinking around climate change are critical pedagogies! Yes, theory can inform practice. I appreciated the way you framed the voice of activists “how can you use what you have? where you are? what can you do with your present skill set?”

    • chislenko says:

      Thank you for this comment. I have to say I disagree that the central questions of philosophy all concern science. Many of the central questions of philosophy are ethical questions, about what to do and how to live life. As I try to bring out in my talk, I think one of the key roles philosophers can play is in getting students, and also other people, to ask those questions in productive ways in relation to climate change.

      • cslown says:

        Please forgive the confusion-I was not suggesting that the central questions of philosophy concern only science, rather I was agreeing with you about the philosophy of science. I agree that philosophy encompasses ethics and epistemology. I think your talk addressed surfacing the role of asking questions and eliciting thinking for all. Thank you.

  3. chislenko says:

    Thank you everyone for joining! I’m looking forward to your comments and questions, and to hearing how you think we can best contribute to teaching students and others about climate change.

    • afsmith says:

      Thanks for a really nice talk, Eugene. (Incidentally, sorry that I’ve dropped out of the Philosophers for Sustainability discussion. My term just ended … crazily.) I’m sympathetic to your third-way approach to being an advocate for all issues environmental. This seems to me a helpful way to conceptualize what it is that we philosophers can contribute. I am curious about how your advocacy has been received by your chair, dean, etc. As an asst prof, I was lucky to have a chair who gave me very wide latitude in terms of teaching and research, so long as I got the job done. That’s changed now–after tenure, ironically–with a change in regime. So I’ve had to not only push back against taking a more heterodox approach to teaching and research but also simply ignore rules and mandates. So, long and short: how is this approach working for you professionally? Any setbacks? If so, how have you dealt with them?

      • chislenko says:

        Thanks so much Andrew. Looking forward to being in touch more and meeting you hopefully in the fall! My department and outgoing chair have been very supportive, though some of them are generally pessimistic about climate change– this talk comes out of a sense that most of us have a way to go to take in how much we can have a good impact. I haven’t proposed any big departmental changes yet, though, and a few of us in the department are working on advocacy at the university level but haven’t tried the departmental level much. We have to think more about what proposals to focus on– course offerings, e-colloquia, carbon offsets, vegetarian catering, etc. I appreciate the reminder to think about that more. The really big obstacle to my mind is just finding the time to fit advocacy into an already busy schedule. What I find myself telling people about this is to find ways to get professional credit for some of our advocacy efforts, so we don’t work on it 20 hours a week for three months and then burn out and quit. Luckily, integrating climate change into courses and service/committee work works well on that front. I can’t say that I’ve had any really big setbacks, though– mostly just new, interesting projects that are good for me. The hardest part right now is probably finding time for a real vacation. But I’m… working… on it.

    • Jeff Black, Humboldt State University says:

      Hi Eugene – I agree there are plenty of theories to help us understand our lack of progress in addressing climate change. Often these theories leave us groping for a better idea/theory – one that identifies how to turn things around. I appreciated the practical – use your privilege, power, skills and training – approach to address the question about the role philosophers can play in teaching climate change. This approach enables all to jump in right away – to become engaged with students and community groups. Might I also suggest adding the philosopher’s take of relevant theory (aka ethical and emotional connections to each other and the natural world) to help students and community groups better understand how to go about affecting an urgent shift away from status quo behavior leading to the worst global heating scenarios? Students ask me (and I rarely have the answers), what is the key thing we need to know about human behavior and political will – the crux of the matter – to urgently leverage a shift to address root causes of the climate change and related systemic crises? Can the background and skills of philosophy teachers address this sense of urgency in particular? Sorry for answering your question with more questions.

      • chislenko says:

        Thank you Jeff. Sometimes I worry that my talk is swinging the pendulum too far the other way, and underemphasizing the role of theory. You’re reminding me to think about that more. We definitely should use and share everything we’ve learned from theory, and we can do that without just preaching and forgetting to encourage people to think for themselves. As for the crux you’re asking about– to my mind, the crux is that the biggest obstacles to stopping climate change are emotional. We have the key technological advances, the political structures, etc. in place, but we’re terrified, in denial, greedy, numb, and disconnected. I think if we can look at that directly, everything will shift much faster and deeper.

    • Howard.Nye says:

      Thanks for the great talk, Eugene! As you know I’m totally on board with the general thesis :). Thanks in particular for the suggestion here about organizing events with environmental groups for students – I’ve been doing this with some vegan groups, including around environmental issues, but now that we’ve got two new youth-focused climate activism groups active here in Canada (Our Time for a Green New Deal for Canada and Extinction Rebellion) I definitely intend to follow your advice and try to set up some student-oriented events with them too! Just to throw a case at you for teaching climate change in classes that don’t seem to have to do with the environment: in addition to ethics classes I teach philosophy of mind. Given my interests I usually do a unit on the distribution of consciousness including among non-human animals. One way I could bring in climate change would be to tie this to how morally bad is ecologically destructive climate change – if more kinds of non-human animals can suffer and be deprived of future good experiences, this further compounds the morally relevant harm done by climate change. That’s my best idea for bringing climate change into phil mind and I think it would work reasonably well. As I recall you had a suggestion that might have been somewhat similar in that it would tie climate change to issues about the distribution of consciousness, but as I recall your suggestion would be going more into something closer to panpsychism and non-western philosophical approaches(like Jainism?). I’m curious to hear more about your suggestion for bringing climate change into phil mind, and what you might think of my idea. Thanks!

  4. says:

    Greetings! I am looking forward to seeing all my colleagues’ talks in this session. I also wanted to encourage some folks to watch my talks in this session regarding systems thinking and sustainability. Ideas related to systems thinking permeate many of the other talks in this conference as well and you may find some interesting parallels to ponder. I look forward to seeing any thoughts or comments and thank you all!


    Dan Fernandez

  5. says:

    I just watched the Ecopoesis project by Adam, Christopher and Leslie. It was inspiring for me to see what you can do by integrating art, architecture, and environmental thinking to allow people to reflect so deeply on the challenges we face. I do have a question for you – you mentioned the origin of the word “ecology” but you did not mention the “poesis” part. I am interested to know whether there is any association with the term “autopoiesis” coined by Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela back, if I am not mistaken, in the 70’s, which addresses the characteristics of life. Regards. Dan

  6. says:

    Thank you, Eugene! I enjoyed hearing your reflections as a philosopher.

    I have 2 questions/points of discussion related to your talk.

    1) You stated that, upon reading and reflection of Naomi Klein’s book that you realized that you were also a climate change denier (in a way, perhaps). What led you to that conclusion and what are the characteristics of climate change deniers that you felt you characterized? I am thinking about whether I am one ay some level and, if I am, what I would do differently to not be and, at the same time, if I were completely free of climate change denial, how would I live my life (in fear, in 100% activism, in self denial of anything ‘extra’, never drive or fly, etc…)? I have heard it stated that we should live each day as if it were out last – is non-denial of climate change somewhat analogous to that?

    2) I like the 5 points you raise at the end, but, as a non-philosopher myself, by training, I don’t see them limited at all to philosophers. I see them generally applicable, the same way as I see the 3 “spheres of influence” that you raised (theory, citizenship, and action) applied to anyone with any level of expertise. I would venture to guess that we each can contribute in our own special ways based on our expertise and personal histories, whether it be through philosophy or something else) and that that expertise somewhat permeates each of these 3 spheres in which we can become advocates for adaptation and mitigation of global warming.

    • chislenko says:

      Thank you Dan!

      In answer to your questions:

      1) I think the key characteristics of climate change denial are an inability to look at and think about the scale of climate change in a sustained way, and an inability to integrate its practical implications into our lives. It’s like “climate change is real, but I still want to fly to Cancun for the weekend.” I suspect most of us are deniers to a large extent, myself included. I don’t think the solution is to live each day like it’s our last– that’s a lot of what led to climate change! We should live each day like it’s a day in the history of our great-grandchildren. To me, that would be the opposite of climate denial.

      2) I didn’t want to make big claims about everyone (though I do that a little more in the paper this talk is condensed from), but I think it’s a really interesting question how much the things I said apply to everyone. I do think everyone can use their skills and access. Graphic designers, janitors, and pilots all have important occupational skills to contribute. But we can also think about what’s most urgently needed to combat climate change, and which occupations train people in the requisite skills. I’m especially interested in getting people out of denial. And I think philosophers, among a bunch of other occupations, have specific skills that are needed for that. This is not to say that philosophers are the most important people. But I think it’s important for us to understand that we have something that’s really needed. I’d rather we overestimate our potential impact for a while, as long we stop underestimating it and doing nothing.

      Thank you very much for your questions!


  7. deryaagis says:

    @ Adam Marcus (Associate Professor of Architecture, California College of the Arts), Leslie Carol Roberts (Professor and Chair of MFA Writing, California College of the Arts), and Chris Falliers (Associate Professor of Architecture, California College of the Arts); thank you for your presentation. The teamwork activities you show can be used in different environmental education classes.

  8. deryaagis says:

    @Daniel Fernandez; thank you for your presentation. Experiments or newspaper article analyzes should be conducted on the effects of increased temperatures on humans. But how about the plants that humans eat and change structurally due to climate change? These can also be observed through a satellite as in the Mars case: in addition to some biological tests. Moreover, one should also observe the animal behavior.

  9. Rebecca Young, University of Birmingham says:

    Many thanks for your interesting talk, Eugene. I especially appreciate your point about climate change denial being akin to grief because it certainly feels that way–we acknowledge it perhaps, but this often is only a means of avoiding any serious conversation about it even with close friends and family. This distance allows us to feel one way about the crisis while acting quite another–it’s difficult to know where to begin the conversation, the work, the advocacy even in our closest of circles because perspectives on climate change vary so significantly. This is why spreading awareness through education, at all levels, is so crucial. We should all be asking, as you do, how can my skills translate into activism toward this end?


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