Today’s students face a future marked by an unprecedented global environmental crisis. From climate change to water pollution to deforestation and more, environmental problems are widespread, but their consequences are not borne equally. Instead, it is often residents of marginalized and under-resourced communities who disproportionately bear the brunt of environmental impacts. Environmental justice offers tools to better manage these structural inequalities and increase the prospects for a healthier planet and a more livable future for all.
But teaching environmental justice principles in the classroom is complex. Instructors should have a broad and interdisciplinary understanding of the interconnections between social and environmental issues. They also need to know how to respectfully and ethically integrate knowledge produced by different types of knowledge holders, such as indigenous communities and other frontline communities who have deep experience of environmental impacts. And instructors need creative new teaching strategies to deeply connect with students and build their resilience and capacity for action in the face of daunting global challenges.
A new book developed by UC Santa Cruz faculty and staff helps educators better address these challenges. Teaching Environmental Justice: Practices for Engaging Students and Building Community offers an accessible, flexible, and evidence-based collection of teaching examples, strategies, and classroom tools to help integrate environmental justice into courses in ways that center equity in course design and student learning experience.
The first section of the book provides instructors with concrete classroom activities for teaching environmental policy and justice and offers recommendations to help instructors develop appropriate learning outcomes through such projects. The second section of the book then looks beyond the field of environmental policy and justice to consider what instructors can learn about teaching this topic from strategies used in other disciplines to center the equity and justice in student learning and integrating other ways of knowing the world.
The book project itself also offers a model for how teachers can advance their teaching practice by learning from each other. It was developed through extensive collaboration among faculty-researchers from 16 institutions across the country who represented a broad range of fields, including political science, the arts, economics, astrophysics, history, Native American studies, engineering, online education, ecology, pyrogeography and many others. The contributors were an exceptionally diverse group that included many BIPOC scholars.
“The learning community we built to produce this book was absolutely crucial,” said the UC Santa Cruz environmental studies professor. Sikina Jinnah, co-editor of the project. “We helped each other break away from the norms of our respective disciplines and leverage our successes to produce truly innovative new ideas and recommendations. »
In addition to the book’s introductory chapter, Jinnah also contributed a project-based chapter related to his research on climate engineering. The book also contains contributions from many other UCSC faculty and staff, including faculty members in the Division of Physical and Biological Sciences. Kristy Kroeker, Robin DunkinAnd Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz; Faculty Members of the Division of Social Sciences Ravi Rajan And Flore Lu; Assistant vice-rector for educational innovation Michel Tassio; and Deputy Director of the Center for Creative Ecologies Chessa Adsit-Morris in the Department of Art History and Visual Culture. Three UC Santa Cruz leaders Teaching and Learning Center (TLC) co-edited the book with Jinnah, including Associate Campus Provost for Student Success and founding director of TLC. Jody Greeneassociate director for learning Jessie Dubreiuland general manager Sam Foster.
Representatives from the UCSC Center for Teaching and Learning brought expertise to the project on how to apply the science of learning to support faculty preparation, course and curriculum design and student success. TLC founding director Jody Greene said the center plays a supportive role in collaborative work among faculty.
“This book is an exceptional example of what can happen when leading researchers in a common scientific field and dedicated to teaching come together to share and refine their teaching practices,” they said. “The novelty of our approach was to ask these researchers to join a community of practice and also to work with teaching and learning specialists and educational innovators in other fields as we go along. as they developed their contributions to the book. We believe that instructors, both in the field of environmental justice and beyond, will find the book very useful and that students will benefit from the approaches it recommends.
Green believes the book “debunks the old adage that the best researchers are not the most dedicated educators,” and they hope other groups of academic educators can be inspired to try the approach of bring together to share and disseminate innovative teaching practices. The book’s editors and contributors also hope that their efforts will inspire more instructors to integrate environmental justice teaching into their classrooms in a way that gives students hope and equips them with the skills and understanding they need to create positive change.
“Environmental justice is essential to addressing the greatest social and environmental challenges facing our world today,” Jinnah said. “As educators, it is our responsibility to challenge how we prepare the next generation of leaders and equip them with the tools to not repeat the mistakes and injustices of previous generations.”