Environmental Studies & English 4120 -- Spring 2023
Cultural Studies and Climate Change
Now is a time of dire emergency for the Earth, a time when drastic and dramatic measures must be taken so that our planet remains habitable. The global COVID pandemic was a kind of fire drill for the climate crisis, emphasizing the the importance of science, the relatedness of all human communities, and the necessity of collaboration and changing behavior.
A cultural studies approach to understanding the climate crisis can foster a deeper understanding of the human social systems that cause global heating and possibilities for meaningful action.
This course brings together tools from the humanities and social sciences to consider: the global impact, history, politics, and ethics of global warming; imagined representations of warming in the future and their relevance to the present; and, ways to mobilize people to address climate change via social movements. This semester we will begin by paying special attention to the topic of climate migrants and refugees.
Geologists now identify our geological epoch as the Anthropocene, a time when our planet is dominated by humanity. But that domination is not equal among all people. A cultural studies perspective might more specifically say we are living in the Capitalocene; as Jason Moore describes:
The Anthropocene is not only dominated by the rise of global capitalism, but also a history of invasion, genocide, slavery, colonialism, and ongoing inequality and exploitation. As Kathryn Yusoff puts it in A Billon Black Anthropocenes or None:
As a senior-level course crosslisted in both English and Environmental Studies, this class involves careful and extensive reading. Students are expected to purchase paper copies of the books, always do the reading, bring books to class, and come prepared to contribute. Since the class is discussion-based, attendance and preparation are essential to your own learning and to the learning of your classmates. Your class participation grade is based on how well you have done the reading and prepared for class; I will ensure that your voice is heard and everyone participates!
Missing any classes will affect your learning. Missing 3 classes or more will lower your grade and missing 5 classes may lead to failing. Study my philosophy regarding discussion, preparation, participation, attendance, grading, and learning!
Students in this course are expected to keep up with current events regarding the course theme. Take advantage of the WMU library making the NY Times available to WMU students for free. The Guardian is also a good news source, especially on climate issues, and can also be accessed for free.
The course is intended to develop your ideas, your capacity to share ideas, your commitment to preserving life on earth, and your capacity to make a difference. Much of the writing for this course will be in a public voice and for an audience beyond the classroom. Your final course grade will be an average of grades for the major assignments, listed and weighted below.
WMU Climate Change Syllabus Statement: Climate change is a serious social problem, and examination of the climate disruptions due to global warming may evoke a strong emotional response. Some who come to understand the dire consequences of the climate crisis may experience what has been called 'climate grief' or 'climate anxiety.' To seek counseling, become informed about ways to deal with climate anxiety, or to get involved with others who are as concerned about the climate crisis, view the resources listed on the WMU Climate Change Working Group website.
Furthermove, WMU has many additional resources to foster student health and well being.
My office is 723 Sprau Tower, 387-2605. Office hours are before and after class and by appointment. You can always reach me via email.
Mon Jan 9: Introductions
Wed Jan 11: Our Climate Future
Mon Jan 16: MLK Day
Wed Jan 18: Migrant & Refugees
Mon Jan 23: Migrants & Refugees
Wed Jan 25: Climate Migrants & Refugees
Mon Jan 30: Climate Migrants & Refugees
Wed Feb 1: Climate Emergency Month Planning Day
Mon Feb 6: Climate Migrants & Refugees
Wed Feb 8: Present Climate Migration Public Documents
Mon Feb 13: Africa, Asia & Latin America
Wed Feb 15: Africa, Asia, & Latin America
Mon Feb 20: Africa, Asia, & Latin America Cont'd
Wed Feb 22: Climate Emergency Month Planning Day
Mon Feb 27: Africa, Asia, & Latin America
Wed Mar 1: Imagining the Future
Mar 6-10: Spring Break
Mon Mar 13: Imagining the Future
Wed Mar 15: Imagining the Future
Mon Mar 20: Imagining the Future
Wed Mar 22: Electrify!
Mon Mar 27: Electrify!
Wed Mar 29: Electrify!
Mon Apr 3: Promoting Electricity Transformation
Wed Apr 5: Competing to Go Electric
Mon Apr 10: Social Movements
Wed Apr 12: Social Movements Cont'd
Mon Apr 17: Social Movements Cont'd
Wed Apr 19: Social Movements Cont'd
Apr. 24-27 Finals Week
Wed Apr 26 2:45-4:45: Final Exam