In one sense, the climate crisis is being caused by a rise in atmospheric CO2 and other so-called greenhouse gases. Science can address this cause. However, approached in another way altogether, this crisis is being caused by a range of troubling human activities that require the release of these gases, such as our obsessions with endless consumer goods, cars, certain food, lavish houses, fast fashion, air travel, and a broad range of additional lifestyle choices. The natural sciences may be able to tell us how these activities are changing our climate, but not why we are engaging in them. That is a job for the humanities and social sciences.
In this course, we will see anthropogenic (i.e. human-caused) climate change for what it is and address it as such: a human problem brought about by human actions. Thus, will be taking a long hard look at these actions and how they are culturally constructed. In other words, we will be exploring why we do what we do, even when these actions are disastrous for our planet and our species (and most other species on the planet).
While this largely academic question is interesting in its own right, the course is also meant to be deeply personal insofar as we will be looking at our own actions and how they impact the planet and climate. Moreover, we will not just be considering our individual actions, but also forms of collective climate activism. Becoming engaged and active, whether simply by voting or by becoming a committed climate activist, is of paramount importance if we are to mitigate this crisis.
Note that Eng 23 has an optional honors seminar that is designed to enrich the large lecture experience for the motivated student.
Eng 23 is a complementary course to Professor Hiltner's other large lecture, Introduction to Literature and the Environment (Eng 22). Although Eng 22 is not a prerequisite for Eng 23 (which, in fact, has no prerequisites), the course takes up many of the themes introduced in English 22. Interested in what students think of Eng 22? Professor Hiltner has published all of the student evals for the last time that this course was taught (Fall 2018) to his personal website. The UCSB Current published an article on Eng 22 entitled “Earthly Concerns.”