My Favorite Lecture: Coming of Age at the End of the World

May 1, 2018

Imagine you’re an environmental studies professor. Every semester you're faced with a roomful of idealistic students. You then have to present to them the grim forecast that climate scientists expect. These students may have known the planet faces challenges - but this is bad.  

And that, says Dr. Sarah Jaquette Ray, is where things might go sideways.

"They become fatalists in the face of no easy solutions," says the environmental studies professor. "We turn them into sad, hopeless, powerless students who can barely come to class, much less graduate and save the world." 

Credit Sarah Ray
"These are real-world issues, that trigger real-world emotions." - student

So how do you teach climate change without inducing so much eco-grief that your students are immobilized? "We don't take students' emotional engagement with the material seriously enough, and that's my proposal to you today," she told a standing-room only audience at the Plaza View Room in Arcata, California.

And her classroom agrees. One of Ray's students wrote, "These are real-world issues, that trigger real-world emotions. If we neglect our emotions, we are lying to ourselves about the magnitude and effects on the world around us.”  On this episode, Ray gives you a play-by-play for the emotional arc many of her students go through. She deconstructs why emotional content in the classroom is so uncommon. This lecture shows what teachers go through to get heavy lessons across, hopefully without harmful side effects. 

Recommended Reading

My Favorite Lecture is a collaboration between Arcata Main Street, KHSU and Humboldt State. Special thanks to the Plaza Grill and Sarah Ray for their generosity. Join the live studio audience on Monday, May 7th at Plaza Grill as Kirby Moss delivers "Honeymooners to Honey Boo-Boo", examining television's portrayal of the white working class. 

Download/subscribe to this episode via iTunes