Caring as Class: Resolving the Emotional Paradox of Climate Change Education

By Lyles Ward, Kelly Overstreet, Yiwen Wu and Jasmin Moore

How do we help students (and ourselves as instructors) prepare to engage in sustained action in the face of climate change and its root causes of extraction, inequity, racism and colonialism? In this article, we elaborate on the conceptual and practical challenges in preparing students for sustained action to imagine and enact a compassionate and sustainable future in the face of climate change. We discuss our integrated teaching-research-engagement approach aimed at examining the potential role of compassion as a transformative practice for reducing long-term risks from natural hazards and climate change. We provide summaries of and reflections on a pair of courses taught in 2019 and 2020 that explored, respectively the inner personal dimensions and external relational dimensions of professional work to reduce climate risks. We conclude by detailing some of the lessons we’ve learned in the processes of convening these courses and look to future opportunities for growth and sustained action as educators ourselves.

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