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Spring Course Explores Climate Crisis Through Science, Communication and Culture

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globe graphicOur climate is warming at an alarming rate, thanks to societies’ heavy reliance on fossil fuels for energy. Knowing how we came to this moment in time, where the longevity of human life on the planet is in question, is critical to solving the climate crisis.

CDS 101: Energy, Climate, and Society will be offered at Stony Brook University in Spring 2023. The new class will provide historical context, scientific understanding and potential paths forward to the climate crisis. 

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Given the complexity of reducing carbon emissions and responding to the ways in which the climate has already begun to change, experts from across scientific disciplines must work collaboratively. It’s also important to consider how the climate crisis is manifesting itself in art, literature and social consciousness more broadly to understand how people are making sense of this threat.

CDS 101 will be co-taught by three Stony Brook faculty:

  • Paul Shepson, dean of the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences and an atmospheric chemist, will provide students with the scientific foundation to understand the process of climate change and related challenges we will likely face in the future.
  • Michael Rubenstein, associate professor of English and director of the Humanities Institute, will help students make sense of how we came to this climate impasse and its cultural representations.
  • Christine Gilbert, assistant professor of climate communication, will teach students communication best practices and provide insight into how public discourse around climate change shapes our reality and our personal responses.

The types of questions being addressed in this class include: how did we become aware — culturally and scientifically — of the crisis; what are the cascading impacts of climate change on biodiversity and ecosystem services; how has climate change as a cultural phenomena been explored; why is the subject of climate change divisive; what is the role of art and literature in addressing the climate crisis; how have we and how should we talk about climate change; what can we as individuals do in response to a societal-level issue; how do we address climate change? This class will explore these issues from transdisciplinary perspectives, from climate science to chemistry to economics, to urban planning to communication to literature and film.

The class fulfills a Stony Brook curriculum requirement — exploring interconnectedness (STAS). It is designed to introduce students to the wide range of approaches to working on the issue of climate change.

Students may feel best served by exploring a physical science major or an engineering degree to be part of the technical climate solution. Other students may want to explore how manifestations of the fear and anxiety related to climate change are processed in society. Still others may be interested in understanding how best to communicate about climate change to policymakers or the public. This class is meant to be a jumping-off point for students to gain an understanding of the wide collegiate and eventual career opportunities available to them should they wish to address the problem of our times.

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