The Earth is facing a climate emergency. Globally, seas are rising, coastlines are eroding, weather patterns are changing, floods, droughts, and forest fires are increasing, and species extinction is rising exponentially. The climate crisis and the threat it poses to life on Earth and frontline communities are among the foremost challenges of our times. As an institution of higher education, it is essential that The New School equip students and faculty with the knowledge, skills, and capability to respond to the challenges ahead. Moreover, as an institution committed to public engagement for social justice and sustainability, it is imperative that The New School develop a comprehensive plan to address the emergency and advance climate justice. Therefore, The Milano Whole Earth Task Force, made up of students, faculty and staff, invites The New School community to a climate emergency teach-in. The aim is to raise awareness, build community momentum and open a space to share ideas and proposals concerning the climate emergency and what The New School can do to further climate-related education and actions. 

With collaboration and support from the Tishman Environment and Design Center, the Milano Whole Earth Task Force will lead various modules that will allow participants to examine the climate emergency, its root causes, and pathways for change. These modules will focus on topics like climate justice, intersectionality, race, inequality and frontline communities, the role of universities in education and public engagement, the role of organization, management and political mobilization for cultural, policy and social change, and the practice of nonviolent direct action. We hope that this event will inspire The New School community to develop and explore alternative pathways. 

Throughout the teach-in we will create a space for discussion on the climate crisis and reflect on the steps The New School and its community should take to respond to and act for climate justice. We hope to begin and continue conversations to address the following questions: 

  • What should The New School do to address the Climate Emergency?
  • How must The New School change in the face of this Climate Emergency?
  • What can The New School do to challenge the root causes of the crisis? 
  • How ought The New School work to enable more just and sustainable futures?  
  • How can The New School support frontline communities?
  • What ideas and proposals should be considered for a potential plan to address the climate emergency? 

Resources

Climate Emergency Teach-In Questionnaire 
We invite your thoughts and ideas in relation to any or all of the questions. You can provide answers only to the question(s) that interest you. These answers will be built into a platform for climate action. You can answer in relation to the School as a whole, or to a specific school or unit with it. Climate Teach-in Google Form link

DRAFT Declaration of a Climate Emergency & Climate Action Plan

PREZI Slideshow: Overview of the Climate Teach-In

Social Movements & Policy Change: Environmental and Climate Justice

For inquiries contact Milano Professors Leonardo E. Figueroa Helland or Mindy Fullilove, or Environmental Policy and Sustainability Management graduate student Genesis Abreu.

A Whole Earth Climate Justice Syllabus for Systemic Change

Increasingly numerous alarming reports by frontline social movements, civil society organizations, intergovernmental and governmental actors and, of course, by scholars and scientists, have once again made it clear that current human interactions with the ecosystem are leading to ecological disruptions that have drastic implications for living organisms, including human beings (see, e.g., IPCC and IPBES reports). Interdisciplinary research warns that we are on the path to “Hothouse Earth” which, following business-as-usual, would within the next few decades result in the irreversible disabling of the geological conditions required for ecosystems and humans to survive and reproduce—unless we embrace radical changes (see e.g., Steffen et al. 2018). While the urgency of the crisis is accelerating daily, prevailing institutional and mainstream efforts have largely failed to shift us from this path (Bond 2018); we need to be doing things radically differently.

Our species co-evolved with millions of other species, and all are endangered by massive changes in every dimension of life.  While there is an important focus on the climate changes rocking the world, these are part of a much broader array of planetary disruptions, from the “sixth mass extinction of species”, to toxins spewed across the planet, to the liberal release of plastics everywhere (see, e.g., Bonneuil and Fressoz 2016; CIEL 2019).  The whole earth is involved. Yet while the climate crisis is primarily the result of powerful economies and privileged social groups in terms of class, race, gender, colonial legacies, Northern and urban location, gender, and abilities, it particularly builds on exploitation and harm of and unjustly endangers historically marginalized, including gendered, racialized, colonized, Global South, Indigenous, peasant and local, communities (see e.g., Di Chiro 2016; Pulido 2018; Whyte 2018); hence we must center climate justice. 

Many institutions, including educational institutions like universities, inasmuch as they have contributed to reproduce the dominant global political economy and the theunequal systems of power and privilege upon which it is built and from which it obtains power and profit, are complicit in the reproduction of the systemic injustices and environmental degradations that have led us down the path of a potentially irreversible crisis. And therefore, all institutions must radically change if they are to contribute to change instead of hampering it and perpetuating social and environmental harm. This of course, includes educational institutions like our own who must deeply and systematically reexamine ourselves and the work we do in light of our place, role and location in social, environmental and geological histories, an unequal global economy and a profoundly asymmetric geopolitics of power and knowledge. We must critically reexamine in what ways we could have and continue to contribute to drive and perpetuate the crisis and harms, and how can draw on our tradition of critical thought to lay out an ambitious plan of action geared towards systemic change, climate justice and solidarity with the front line communities confronting the root drivers of the crisis. We must ask honestly and critically: what sort of knowledges, research, forms of institutional organization and modes of public and global engagement do we embody and undertake that may be contributing to or complicit in creating and or perpetuating climate and related crises, harms and injustices? Furthermore, we must ask: what sort of knowledges, research, forms of institutional organization and modes of public and global engagement do we or could we embody and undertake that would seriously and substantially confront the root drivers, approaches and actors creating the crisis and propose and support actual systemic alternatives and the actors advancing and personifying them?

In the face of this crisis we need a collaborative engagement with pathways, alternatives and organizing efforts for systemic change that can move us beyond the systems and practices that create both climate change and climate injustice while blocking the possibility of real solutions. To avoid perpetuating business as usual and reproducing the so-called ‘solutions’ that end up entrenching the very systems, rationalities and injustices that have produced the crisis, we must center the processes, experiences, knowledges and alternatives advanced by grassroots, marginalized, and non-hegemonic communities (e.g., women, youth, indigenous and people of color, peasants, Global South, non-Western, working class, etc,) (see, e.g., Adelman 2015). Beyond the institutional deadlock, the climate justice movement has momentum for systemic local-to-global change; led by frontline communities, youth, people of color, environmental justice organizations, indigenous, peasant and local communities,  women’s and workers organizations committed to just transitions, it is confronting, and advancing alternatives to the drivers of the climate crisis (Bond 2018; Di Chiro 2019; FOEI 2013; FOEI 2018).

We need to center knowledges and actions outside of the mainstream approaches and ways of operating that brought us into this crisis. We need to break away from the dependence on the path of business as usual that brought us to the crisis we are at. We cannot overcome the crisis with the same form of thinking, acting, organizing, teaching, educating and interacting that brought us to the problem in the first place. We must radically change, and this includes institutions like higher education like our own. We need to develop knowledges, forms of education, governance and public engagement that directly confront the root drivers and systems that are producing the crisis. We need to advance structural changes, pathways, initiatives and alternatives that match the scale and scope of the challenges we face and that challenges to step out of the norm so as to contribute to enact the systemic transformation that will bring this cycle of destruction to an end, while opening spaces for renewal. 

  1. https://www.ipcc.ch/reports/
  2. https://www.ipbes.net/library

Readings and Themes

Module 1. Climate Crisis and the Planetary Emergency: The Urgency of Change

I. Overview of the Planetary Crisis:

II. Root Causes of the Planetary Crisis (from an Intersectional Climate Justice Perspective)

  • Davis, H. and Z. Todd. 2017. “On the Importance of a Date, or Decolonizing the Anthropocene.” ACME.
  • Adelman, S. 2015. “Epistemologies of Mastery.” Research Handbook on Human Rights and the Environment. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar
  • Pulido, L. 2018. “Racism and the Anthropocene.” In Mitman, Emmett and Armiero(eds.), Remains of the Anthropocene. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Collard, R. and J. Dempsey, “Accumulation by Difference-Making, A Gendered Anthropocene Story”. Gender, Place and Culture.
  • Gaard, “Ecofeminism, Women & Climate Change”. Women’s Studies International Forum 49:20-33
  • Foster, J.B. and F. Magdoff, “What Every Environmentalist Needs to Know About Capitalism”: https://monthlyreview.org/2010/03/01/what-every-environmentalist-needs-to-know-about-capitalism/
  • Brand, U. and M. Wissen. 2018. “What Kind of Great Transformation? Imperial Mode of Living as a Major Obstacle to Sustainability Politics” GAIA 27(3):287-292  

III. Intersecting Crises: Systemic Analysis Beyond Climate Reductionism (Food, Land, Health, Migration, Economics, Extractivsim, Reactionary Politics, Securitization and Militarization)

  • Ahmed, Nafeez. 2010. A User’s Guide to the Crisis of Civilization. London: Pluto.
  • Altieri and Nicholls, “Agroecology Scaling Up for Food Sovereignty and Resiliency” Sustainable Agriculture Reviews 11:1-29.
  • McMichael, A.J., C.D. Butler and J. Dixon. 2015. “Climate Change, Food Systems and Population Health Risks in their Eco-social Context,” Public Health.
  • Global Health Watch, “Structural Roots of Migration” In Global Health Watch 5,edited by People’s Health Movement, Medact, Third World Network, Medico International, Health Poverty Action, Asociación Latinoamericana de Medicina Social. London: ZED
  • Gill, S.R. and S.R. Benatar. 2019. “Reflections on the political economy of planetary health.” Review of International Political Economy.
  • Gaia Foundation, “Opening Pandora’s Box, Extractive Industries and Land Grabbing”: https://www.gaiafoundation.org/post-library/opening-pandoras-box/
  • Robinson, W.I. 2018. “Accumulation Crisis and Global Police State”. Critical Sociology:1-4
  • Ahmed, Nafeez. 2017. Failing States, Collapsing Systems: BioPhysical Triggers of Political Violence. Cham: Springer.
  • Heinberg, R. Our Renewable Future: https://ourrenewablefuture.org/

IV. Deadlock of Climate Governance: Limits of Mainstream Approaches

V. The Need for a Paradigm Shift: The Search for Alternatives and the Pathways to Achieve them 

VI. Intersecting Crises: Systemic Challenges and Integral Alternatives Beyond Climate Reductionism

VII. Direct Nonviolent Action in the Face of Climate Policy Deadlock: Social Mobilization Paths to Climate Justice

Module 2. Root Shock and Culture Shift: Crisis and Response

Tools and Resources

Module 6. Direct Nonviolent Action in the Face of Climate Policy Deadlock: Social Mobilization Paths to Climate Justice

Trainings on NVDA

Works Cited

Adelman, S. 2015. “Epistemologies of Mastery.” Research Handbook on Human Rights and the Environment. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar

Bond, P., 2018. “Social Movements for Climate Justice during the Decline of Global Governance: From International NGOs to Local Communities.” In S. Lele et al., eds. Rethinking Environmentalism: Linking Justice, Sustainability and Diversity. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, Strüngmann Forum Reports, vol. 23, pp. 153-182.

Bonneuil, C. and J-B. Fressoz, 2016. The Shock of the Anthropocene. New York: Verso.

Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), 2019.Plastic & Climate: The Hidden Costs of a Plastic Planet. URL: https://www.ciel.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Plastic-and-Climate-FINAL-2019.pdf

Di Chiro, G. 2016. “Environmental Justice and the Anthropocene Meme.” In T. Gabrielson, et al. Oxford Handbook of Environmental Political Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Di Chiro, G. 2019. ‘Care, Not Growth: Imagining a Subsistence Economy for All.” The British Journal of Politics and International Relations 21(2): 303-311.

Friends of the Earth International (FOEI), 2013. “Good Energy, Bad Energy? Transforming Our Energy System for People and the Planet.” URL: https://www.foei.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Good-energy-bad-energy.pdf

Friends of the Earth International (FOEI), 2018. “Agroecology: Innovating for Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems.” URL: https://www.foei.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Agroecology-innovation-EN.pdf

Pulido, L. 2018. “Racism and the Anthropocene.” In by G. Mitman, R. Emmett and M. Armiero, eds. The Remains of the Anthropocene. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Steffen, W., J. Rockström, K. Richardson, T. et al. 2018. “Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene.” PNAS 115(33):8252–8259.

Whyte, K.P. 2018. “Indigenous Science (Fiction) for the Anthropocene: Ancestral Dystopias and Fantasies of Climate Change Crises.” Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space 1(1–2):224–242