HOTB2020 Panel 2.3: Climate Justice in the Classroom



Panel 2.3: Climate Justice in the Classroom

“We Are in Crisis, and the Importance of a Petro-Politicized Classroom”

Kimberly Skye Richards (University of Fraser Valley)

“Climate Storytelling and Active Learning in Rural America”

Kyhl Lyndgaard (College of Saint Benedict/Saint John’s University)

“Teaching Environmental Justice with Ana Castillo’s So Far from God”

Sarah Nolan (University of Colorado Boulder)

“Using Cli-Fi to Help Reframe Young People’s Responses to Climate Change”

Judith Wakeman (Independent Scholar)



Q & A

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17 replies
  1. Judith Wakeman says:

    For those who would like to explore the Cli-Fi genre, I am keeping a reasonably up-to-date list for Young Adult Cli-Fi at (please familiarise yourself with these books before sharing with younger teens) and for Older Teens and Adults at
    Most recently I have read Mammoth by Chris Flynn, Ghost Species by James Bradley, and for YA, Snow by Gina Inverarity, but my recent favourite is The End of the World is Bigger than Love by Davina Bell. I am currently reading The Overstory by Richard Powers.
    Congratulations to everyone involved with this conference. Judith

  2. Judith Wakeman says:

    Hello Kyhl. Thankyou for sharing your experiences in the classroom and for the great resources. Even from just a quick glance it’s clearly a wealth of material that I look forward to investigating myself and sharing with the Environmental Science teachers I work with.

  3. Laura Barbas-Rhoden says:

    Kyhl, I appreciate how you’ve centered collaborative teaching and signaled the multigenerational aspects of work that is inclusive of off-campus community members. What kinds of relationships and dialogues in community contexts helped you build toward the featured events?

    • Kyhl Lyndgaard says:


      I am situated well here to bring various communities and generations together, as I teach at my alma mater and grew up nearby (despite spending about 15 years elsewhere in Nevada, California, Iowa, and Vermont). I can generate and activate some long-standing connections in the local “extra-college” community that way. So that’s one edge I have.

      But more important, I was able to link up with folks in the fine arts who also think about the community (theatre department). Then I linked with our “outdoor university” which is a staff office that brings 3000 K-12 students on campus for environmental education. That group also does community ed for all ages. They helped bring Climate Generation to the table through their env education connections. These professional connections were really critical in publicizing events and pulling off the logistics.

      Finally, I also thought hard about ways to bring institutional legitimacy from other angles, so I was able to convince the abbot of the monastery that the college is housed alongside to give the welcome/introduction to our largest event, the Talk Climate Institute.

  4. Laura Barbas-Rhoden says:

    Sarah, thank you for sharing this piece. I really appreciate the thoughtfulness with which you approach the teaching of an EJ lens in the course. I wanted to ask about “transfer” and the comment you made in concluding, that is, that after reading and studying Castillo’s book, the students have a lens with which to begin perceiving (or perhaps express their perception of) EJ issues around them. What are some of the EJ issues they’ve perceived in Boulder or their places of residence/origin/transit prior to enrollment?

  5. Alexandra Nikoleris says:

    Judith, thank you very much for your presentation. As someone who has experience in organising climate fiction book clubs for adults, I was wondering if you have had any experience in using cli-fi to help teens and young adults to overcome eco-anxiety, and if you have any specific tips that you would want to share? (I’d be grateful for any pointers to the very rich material on your website as well.) I am planning, together with a few colleagues and librarians, to start a cli-fi book club for teens in Lund, Sweden. My experience is that many cli-fi stories can also trigger anxiety and despair, why choosing the right kind of book seems to me to be of paramount importance.

    • Judith Wakeman says:

      Hello Alexandra.
      I’d love to keep in touch to hear more about your book club.
      I’m afraid covid19 has put a halt to my own research on this issue, so much of my study to date is based on the findings of others looking at mental health in young people, the effects of reading on the formation of a sense self and development of core confidence, and Developmental Bibliotherapy practice itself.
      However, the importance of maintaining communication as the key to addressing mental health seems to be widely accepted, and that must include eco-anxiety. And some would say that if you’re not concerned about the environment then you’re not paying attention. So, I wonder if these books would trigger an anxiety if it didn’t already exist in some form. You might find that “wanting to talk” is a reason that teens are joining your book group. So my research is about using books to begin those conversations.
      Young adult Cli-Fi is a lot less confrontational than adult fiction, but most YA Cli-fi seems to be written for senior students. You could start with “Dry” by Neil Shusterman. I’ve recently read Davina Bell’s “The end of the world is bigger than love” and I’ve invited myself into a book club which has chosen this for October. C.E. Fletcher’s “A boy and his dog at the end of the universe” would be another good book to study. Also Maya Lunde’s books. These are all what I’d call senior secondary.
      For something more uplifting you could investigate the solar punk genre – I’ve yet to explore this genre in depth.
      I would recommend that you work with science/environmental science teachers as it is important that students have an “action” so they can get a sense of community and efficacy. It may relate to a local or personal or school based environmental issue, or it might relate to a social justice issue or something else (in Australia people young and old joined a wildlife rescue craft group making pouches for marsupials after the devastation caused by the January fires). This is the activity section of developmental bibliotherapy.
      You might also need to plan “debriefing activities” for times when discussions get overwhelming.
      I hope this has been helpful and please feel free to get in touch.

  6. Nicholas Reich says:


    Thanks for this wonderful talk! A petro-political classroom is all I’m looking for out of the academy, honestly! 🙂

    But I’d be interested in hearing what you have to say about resistance activities that disrupt hegemony not by thwarting oil but by *embracing* it. If you have time, you might consider stopping by my talk in 7.5 Queer Ecologies & Ecosexualities.


  7. Kim Richards says:

    Thanks for reaching out, Nicholas! I got a lot out of your talk and will follow up on the Queer Ecologies adn Ecosexualities discussion board.

    Judith, Kyhl, and Sarah, I’m curious about your thinking on how we move from nurturuing an awareness of the intersectional violences of extractivism, petro-capitalism, etc. to preparing our students for action beyond writing academic papers, or even using academic writing when that is the teaching we are assigned to lead to more engaged political and/.or even activist actions. What are your thoughts on the classroom as a politicized space (petro, or otherwise)?

    Looking forward to hearing your responses!

    • Kyhl Lyndgaard says:

      Great question, and wonderful talk. I appreciated seeing all those images from Standing Rock again!

      I try to create active learning opportunities in every course alongside the academic writing skills that I also see as course learning goals given what I teach (a fairly even split between first year writing classes and upper-level humanities/literature/research methods for Env Studies majors). I think most of what I call “active learning” in my talk could also be considered politicized space, as you say, as students are moving beyond the classroom and into more public spaces of discussion and performance as they work to develop their own voice and confidence to speak on these topics to a sometimes skeptical audience.

      But even in the classroom doing more traditional academic sorts of things, it is appropriate and possible to bring in ideas about activism and offer possibilities. For example, Wen Stephenson’s book “What We’re Fighting for Now is Each Other” is all about various activists and writers and it is something I’ve taught a couple times in recent years. I make sure to supplement a reading like that with the most up to date info on things “close to home” (noting that while about half of my students are from MN, the other half come from all over)–but what I do is provide news accounts and analysis of projects like Enbridge Energy’s proposed Line 3 project that crosses lots of ground in northern MN including multiple reservations. That becomes a supplement to the more academic text and a bridge to discussion. We’ve also been fortunate to bring in folks like Winona LaDuke to campus and on a webinar during last spring’s COVID shutdown to add her take and voice.

      • Judith Wakeman says:

        Hi Kyle
        I haven’t seen the book you mentioned but I will see if I can find it.
        For younger students you might find this one useful…
        “How I resist : activism and hope for a new generation” edited by Maureen Johnson

      • Kim Richards says:

        That sounds great, Kyhl, and how awesome to be able to engage LaDuke directly. Stephenson’s book sounds really interesting and I’ll take a look at it.

        I’ve also taught academic writing classes at three universities now, all of which have different ideas about what the goals of academic writing should be, but I find them can be really interesting spaces for students to begin to research and investigate topics of personal interest that are also socially relevant. With the transition to online learning and a switch to a new uni with quite a uniform approach to academic writing I am less clear on how I will integrate active learning this semester, but I still think there are possibilities, and in some ways, getting off line seems even more important than ever before.

    • Judith Wakeman says:

      Hi Kim
      I think it is risky turning the classroom into a politicised space for a number of reasons. That is why Cli-Fi, or Young Adult fiction in general can be so valuable in the classroom – it creates distance and provides a variety of perspectives. (As a librarian, my procession also ethics prevent me from having an opinion.)
      However, teachers or other adults must be available who informed of the facts so they can provide answers, reassurance and guidance when issues come up – either in the classroom or with people in the wider community.
      If you are not familiar with the great YA novels of the last few years that address social and environmental issues then check out my Goodreads lists or ask a bookseller or librarian.
      YA Fiction can build hope, efficiency, resilience and optimism but trusted adults still have a role to play in guiding that youth exuberance towards achievable goals and cushioning the blows along the way.

      However …
      I really believe that Activism is a Healthy response to an ailing society – YA fiction is one way to inform and motivate young people.

  8. Kim Richards says:

    Hi Judith,
    I think cli-fi and speculative fiction, especially those that depict Indigenous and black futurisms can be helpful, and also lend them selves to kinds of political spaces. I taught the Dimaline’s Marrow Thieves this year. David Gaertner has a great exercise on teaching this text:

    I think the classroom is always a politicized spaced, and the urgency of the climate crisis provides an argument for why a more politicized pedagogy is necessary, especially given the ways that climate changes and extractive behaviors disproportionately impact BIPOC and the poor, and to do so in a way that does not alienate students whose families have been linked to extractive industries. I appreciate Kyhl’s interweaving approach because at some point I think we have to draw the connections between the fiction we are reading and what is happening on the ground. That certainly doesn’t mean requiring students to do certain kinds of activist work, but providing them literacy so that they are able to understand what is happening and think and act intelligently upon it outside of the class.

  9. Judith Wakeman says:

    Hi Kim
    I’ve worked in public (government run) and private (church run) and I’ve had to be careful in the private schools.
    It may be because their views on education are somewhat narrower.
    And yes, I’ve been able to discuss broader issues at public schools. Perhaps because the students themselves come from more diverse groups.
    I will be interested to look at the link you sent.
    Hope this message gets to you.

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