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An Existential Toolkit for Climate Educators

Zoom Video Webinar and Workshop

02.07.2020 – 05.07.2020

Conveners: Jennifer Atkinson, Elin Kelsey, Sarah Ray

UPDATE: This event will now be hosted as an online workshop and Zoom video webinar. Anyone who submitted an application to the original event - even if your proposal was not accepted - is invited to register.

EventBrite link for registration [here]

YouTube channel with Lightning Videos [here]

Purpose of the Workshop: The workshop's primary, tangible purpose is to produce a globally-accessible climate educator's existential toolkit, and a secondary purpose is to plan how we will cultivate a global network of people working on this.

Given the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, we feel an even greater urgency to provide tools for engaging students' emotional responses to climate disruption. This event gives us a unique opportunity to intervene.

Artifacts Resulting from the Workshop (all of which will be hosted on a new Existential Toolkit for Climate Justice Educators landing page via the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society):

  • Lightning Videos in a range of languages from our participant pool
  • Open Access Toolkit of Resources
  • Open Access Video Archive of the Opening Roundtable event (July 2)

Next Steps for each Participant:

If you wish to contribute, please view the sample lightning videos [here] and prepare to record and submit your own video no later than June 26. To submit your video, please upload it first via a cloud or file sharing service of your choice and create a link to the file. Please send this link via email to the RCC IT/Communications Associate Maximilian Heumann (maximilian.heumann@rcc.lmu.de, subject: "Video Existential Toolkit for Climate Educators"). Please note that all Carson Center videos are licensed by Creative Commons BY-NC-ND Germany 3.0.

Mark your calendars for July 2, 8-10am PST to join our Opening Roundtable (details below).

Watch for an email registration link in mid-June to select a Breakout Session of your choice for July 3 (these will be in various time zones so folks can participate during a convenient time - details below).


1.  July 2, 8-10am PST: Opening Roundtable. This event will be hosted on Zoom.

Our round table panelists include:

  • Leslie Davenport, Climate Psychology Author and Therapist at the California Institute of Integral Studies
  • Matthew Kamakani Lynch, Director of Sustainability Initiatives, University of Hawaiʻi
  • Elin Kelsey, Faculty in the School of Environmental Studies at the University of Victoria, Canada. Spokesperson, scholar and educator in the area of hope and the environment
  • Panu Pihkala, Adjunct Professor in Theology & Multidisciplinary Environmental Studies at the University of Helsinki
  • Frances Roberts-Gregory, PhD Candidate in Society & Environment at the University of California, Berkeley
  • Yuan Yuan, Assistant Professor at University of Shanghai for Science and Technology. Primary fields: American Literature; Spatial Literary Studies; Environmental Humanities

2.  July 3, Breakout Sessions (approx 2 hours, running in various time zones throughout the day).

These breakout sessions will be facilitated by regional facilitators. Participants will receive an email in mid-June listing various times they may choose from, and should register then. The intention is to harvest tools from participants and commit to a plan to submit those tools to the online toolkit. These breakout sessions are where the knowledge-sharing and commitments to action will take place, and will be capped around 12 participants to create a more intimate group for discussion. The purpose of the breakout sessions is to harvest our best tools for the educator toolkit. The desired deliverable will be a short summary of main takeaways from your session, modules/resources that the group proposes to be included in the toolkit, and a 2-minute video from each participant in the language of their choice. Summaries and videos will be uploaded to the new Existential Toolkit for Climate Justice Educators landing page in the RCC's Beyond Doom and Gloom virtual exhibition.

3.  July 5, 8am-10am PST: Culminating Workshop (CORE MEMBERS ONLY).

In this final session, our core workshop members will summarize what was provided by the breakout sessions, workshop the shape of the toolkit, discuss next steps, and close the event. We will publicly launch the videos and additional resources on the new Existential Toolkit for Climate Justice Educators landing page hosted by the RCC.


ORIGINAL Call for Proposals (Sept 2019)

This workshop seeks materials and presentations for an interdisciplinary workshop that will address the following question: how can educators, activists, and community leaders help students navigate the emotional impacts of ecological degradation and social injustice in the age of climate disruption? Our aim is to develop a practical toolkit for educators, students and activists across disciplines and professions, with potential emphasis on pedagogical applications, curricular implications, and even co-curricular connections (counseling and wellness, student life, etc).

As feelings of environmental grief, nihilism, eco-depression and climate anxiety become more common within the Climate Generation (including current college-aged students), educators across disciplines need the knowledge and resources to help those students deal with these emotional impacts. Many educators in the environmental sciences and studies (ESS), however, persist in communicating the scale and urgency of our unfolding crisis without adequately addressing its affective consequences on students’ ability to learn, much less address and adapt to climate change. Our challenge today is to ensure that students have the emotional resilience and existential tenacity to stay engaged in climate solutions for the long haul.

This workshop seeks to stage a conversation between activist traditions, environmental humanists and psychologists, ESS educators, and participants from any other discipline engaged in difficult issues like biodiversity loss, climate change, and environmental injustice. Participants will share and develop new resources, practices, pedagogical tools/strategies, and research with the aim of building an interdisciplinary toolkit for effective teaching in the age of climate disruption. As we explore ways to support students grappling with the emotional fallout of the Anthropocene, our questions are:

What emotional, spiritual, psychological, and existential skills are needed by the Climate Generation as they prepare to take up the difficult work ahead?

  • What are the affective implications of our instructional content and methods?
  • What are the implicit or explicit affective outcomes of our work with students?
  • How might we ethically translate tools of social movements into our pedagogy?
  • What might a “climate justice pedagogy” look and feel like, to us and to our students?
  • How do we teach the navigation of the “doom-and-gloom” of environmental disaster and injustice?
  • As students increasingly experience climate change first-hand, how do we address climate trauma in our teaching?

The workshop will also be a resource for instructors navigating the affective terrain of teaching about power, privilege, identity, epistemological diversity, climate justice, and environmental grief. We recognize that many of us working in environmental fields have only recently begun to confront emotional impacts that have long been taking a severe toll on historically marginalized and frontline communities, and particularly encourage proposals that center these questions around environmental justice and privilege.

Our gathering seeks to build on the momentum and work begun at RCC's 2017 workshop on Radical Hope: Inspiring Sustainability Transformations through Our Past and “Beyond Doom and Gloom,” the RCC Perspectives publication edited by Elin Kelsey. While the collaborations at RCC that led to these resources explored ways to encourage hope for the future and foster human resilience in the face of environmental degradation, our 2020 workshop will explicitly take up problems in teaching.