C. Wastal

University of California San Diego (UNITED STATES)
Climate change and sustainability is at the forefront of many political, educational, economic and social discussions. This is a global issue, but this presentation narrows the object of study to focus on the response of the state of California, more specifically the University of California. Several years ago, the University began developing programs to address current and future climate change. One such program is its 2015 Carbon Neutrality Initiative, which commits the University of California’s ten campus university to zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2025.

Faced with extreme drought conditions and other new climate realities, the University of California, with support from the state, has developed programs to involve faculty from across the disciplines course development with curriculum that focus on climate change education. In order spread awareness of the dangers of climate change, students need to be informed participants in the dialogue on climate change and sustainability. In this talk, the presenter examines the outcomes of a faculty workshop that helped them develop new curriculum emphasizing climate change education across disciplines. Instead of a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) approach, the university decided on a more inclusive science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) approach.

This paper, then, discusses the ways that a first-year writing program incorporated climate change and sustainability in ways that engage undergraduate students in the challenges of climate change and sustainability. Faculty that we associate with climate change research are usually from the hard sciences. A first-year writing course is not what pops into mind what we think climate change. However, a first-year writing course has access to large numbers of students (1,500 an academic year), emphasizes academic argument over the genres while promoting critical thinking and analysis. This is a fertile medium for germinating new ideas and new understandings of climate change and its effects.

At the time of this conference, faculty attendees will have attended a second networking event, designed to develop alliances across disciplines and to hear how others incorporated climate change in their curriculum. The kinds of questions raised and the solutions offered at this event will be mirrored in the conference audience’s post-paper conversations. What curriculum was developed? What issues arose? What worked and what did not work? How did the students react to the material? Did students resist talking about climate change?