Unit name: Climate Emergency. New third year unit taught for the first time in 20/21.
What is the unit and what does it cover?
The unit covers an introduction to the climate emergency, its causes, impacts, and how society needs to change to fight it. It starts with brief intro to the science of the climate emergency and what is driving it. The next few weeks are about international agreements such as Paris and Cop. Then, it delves into the issues with these solutions and of the ‘status quo’ – issues of justice, politics, economics, etc. The final few weeks focus on activism and where individuals fit into solutions.
The unit is quite generalist and aims at giving a holistic view of the problems and the politics behind those problems. It doesn’t delve deep into the political theory, which is covered in SPAIS and elsewhere in the school, and is more focused on the active situation and what needs to happen to create change.
If it uses any unusual/original pedagogy or assessment approaches to do this, what are these?
Interdisciplinarity is central to the unit – I have included teaching from lecturers across the university by recording interviews with them and using that as asynchronous teaching material. This informal approach to interdisciplinarity by-passes the barriers such as timetabling and financing. There have also been interviews with activists from outside the university included in the teaching. It is essential to teaching the science of the climate emergency, which is not an area I am expert in.
The ’Leaflet Assessment’ is an example of an original assessment approach – to complete it, students are asked to create a leaflet to persuade the public on a certain issue. It’s extremely useful for developing communication and argumentative skills.
Although not an unusual pedagogy, debates are essential to developing students’ critical thinking and ability to build an argument. The key thing with debates is ensuring the subject of the debate is an area of actual controversy among students (e.g., the only way to end the climate emergency is to end capitalism) which will spark truly engaging debate.
What sustainability-relevant ‘takeaways’ would you expect students to gain?
The aim of the course is to ensure that students take action on the climate emergency in the future. I want them to think critically about the injustices that have created the climate crisis, the injustices which will result from it, and how it can be solved without reproducing these inequalities. The ultimate question is: How to change the world?