In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Introduction
  • Sarah Jaquette Ray (bio)

In 2017 I organized a roundtable discussion format on teaching, climate justice, and affect for the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (ASLE) conference in Detroit. The participants agreed that the positive response to the roundtable warranted publishing the conversation in this special issue of Resilience, in order to archive the event and to open the conversation more broadly.

What follows are the contributions to the roundtable by a range of educators and one student, all asked to speak to the question, How do we deal with students' emotional responses to our classes on climate justice? Faculty from a variety of educational contexts—ethnic studies, English, composition, environmental studies—join one environmental studies student in the conversation here, to explore how it feels to learn about climate injustices around the world, debate the range of ways that students and faculty are complicit in those ecological and social injustices, and struggle to figure out how to become agents of social change. The roundtable is comprised of experts on topics of equity and justice, identity, knowledge production, affect or emotion and climate change, critical pedagogy, action and activism, and hope. Covering experiences teaching in places from Georgia to rural Idaho to Singapore, in a diversity of institutions from music conservatory to land grant university to technical college, and to undergraduates in majors ranging from music to engineering to environmental studies, each of five panelists contribute short pieces on the topic of teaching climate justice and affect. An invaluable sixth panelist, Carlrey Arroyo, provides a student's perspective. A brief biography of each panelist accompanies their contribution. [End Page 1]

Motivated by a range of issues from social injustice to ecological degradation, students come to college classrooms ready to gain skills and credentials that will enable them to "be the change they want to see in the world." In recent years, however, colleagues and I have noticed that as students learn more about the connections between our current problems—climate change, the rise of xenophobic nationalism, growing inequality—they become despondent in the face of their perceived powerlessness to solve any, much less all, of these problems.

Even students who are disengaged from these issues suffer a higher degree of mental health problems during their college years than previous generations. In a May 2018 Chronicle of Higher Education op-ed, Brian Rosenberg documents the rise of an "age of anxiety" post-9/11 that has rendered college students more likely to report depression as a health concern. Anxiety in general, as many studies are showing, and ecogrief (more specifically in environmental humanities and environmental studies or environmental sciences classes) have become the norm. Trauma-informed pedagogy and studies in the neuroscientific aspects of learning are helping us understand better the emotional landscape of our classrooms and methods. In addition to the experiences and contexts that shape students before they even come to college, students often become despondent, nihilistic, and apathetic upon learning more about the tragic state of the planet. Without affective tools to cultivate resilience, support in community, and what Jeff Andrade-Duncan calls "critical hope," students often struggle to do the work of college, much less the work of saving the planet that they came to college to become trained to do.

Yet most educators in predominately Western and white environmental fields from ecocriticism to natural resource sciences have not been trained to address the emotional landscape of students in this age of anxiety—or in climate justice terms, the age of the Anthropocene. With PhDs in hockey stick graphs to "prove" climate change is a problem or in analytical skills to reveal environmental themes in cultural texts, the current generation of Anglo-Western environmental educators are ill-equipped to address the affective consequences of these fields' purposes on students. Emerging from dominant colonial educational models, environmental fields know little about liberatory, feminist, critical, or trauma-informed pedagogy. Environmental educators in general have not been as engaged in the abundant scholarship on affect, [End Page 2] liberation, and pedagogy. Yet they wonder why their students find their courses disempowering, depressing, or anxiety producing.

Environmental educators can appeal to a wider range of students, dismantle...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2330-8117
Pages
pp. 1-3
Launched on MUSE
2021-03-09
Open Access
No
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