Go green with these faculty media recommendations

Green image of woman listening with headphonesIllustration by Deborah Wieder with images from Getty.

Across the Brandeis campus, community members are coming together to learn more, take action, and slow the effects of climate change.

With a major in environmental studies and a newly-established minor in climate justice, science, and policy, students have many opportunities to learn more about the climate crisis.

The university community can also participate in a variety of climate-change related events and programs through the Office of Sustainability.

While it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the effects of climate change, staying informed and taking action can mediate climate-related stress and inspire others to make a change.

“I feel overwhelmed everyday and it is my job,” said Mary Fischer, director of sustainability. “It’s a matter of getting out there and not just taking personal actions but trying to influence actions around me, for example calling my legislators and letting them know I'm concerned.”

With endless informative media ranging from podcasts to books and documentaries, it can be challenging to choose your source. The environmental studies faculty shared their favorite media recommendations and advice for engaging in climate action:

Climate change affects everyone. Inspire others to take action.

Charles Chester, lecturer in environmental studies, wasn’t always focused on the severity of climate change. “I didn’t think climate change was high on the list of threats we face,” said Chester. “It was a slow slog over time before I recognized that climate change was far more than a bullet point on the list of environmental woes.” Now, he’s dedicated to sharing information with his students.

Chester recommends watching the documentary series, “Climate Emergency Feedback Loops,” available for viewing on PBS or Amazon Prime. This short five-film series focuses on why scientists are concerned about the lack of time left to reverse climate effects.  The series features well-known public figures, such as Greta Thunberg, and provides information within short, digestible episodes.

Chester also recommends watching The Trick, a dramatized movie about the deliberate distortion of scientific research on climate change and how scientists work to push back against the myriad actors who want to suppress science through any means available.While it can be challenging to convince people to watch “yet another” documentary on ​​​climate change, this drama film can help, students discover the realities of climate change.

Finally, Charlie plugged the Climate Change Hub of his website, EarthWeb.info, which provides a fairly comprehensive guide to all-things-climate-change on the web.

Avoid ‘doom panic’ through gratitude for nature

With scientific evidence illustrating the grim future in the face of climate change, Sally Warner, assistant professor of climate science, knows it’s easy to ‘doom panic.’ “I practice yoga and complete my gratitude journal every day,” said Warner. “It’s an important tool for me to stay grounded and keeps me motivated.”

Warner suggests her students complete daily gratitude journals as a method to reduce climate-anxiety and show gratitude for nature. She also encourages her students to be mindful of the media they are consuming. “I’m always watching out for doomism,” said Warner. “It's much more inspiring to hear uplifting stories about people taking climate action in their communities.”

Warner recommends students read All we can save: Truth Courage and Solutions for the Climate Crisis, a compilation of writings edited by Ayana Johnson and Katherine K. Wilkinson. This anthology, consisting of all female authors with a passion for climate action, shares thoughts on the crisis from a diverse range of voices while showcasing actions people are taking to make a difference. It addresses the frustrations students may face, but also provides tools to face climate change.

To celebrate the topic of gratitude for nature, Warner recommends Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. The non-fiction book highlights indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge, and the teaching of plants. Above all, the author embraces her love for the land and dedication to protecting it.  “We are stewards of nature,” said Warner. “We need to show gratitude for our planet in our fight for climate action.”

Discover accessible resources

Dan Perlman, professor of environmental studies, has spent the last ten years helping students stay informed about climate change in his courses. He feels that it is critical to find reliable sources for high-quality climate-related information.

“There are some great accessible resources out there,” said Perlman. He recommends visiting the New York Times and Washington Post’s Climate and Environment sections for updates. “It seems like they’re almost daily posting information created from in-depth reports,” said Perlman.

Collaborate with the community

Colleen Hitchcock, associate professor of biology and chair of the environmental studies program, explained the importance of working together as a community. Even actions that may seem small can make a big difference and documenting the world around us is an important part of helping scientists understand climate change. Our campus iNaturalist project, started at Brandeis University over six years ago, allows community members to come together to observe, document, and identify species on campus. Hitchcock recommends students check out the website and share their own pictures. “You don’t need any background knowledge to upload contributions,” said Hitchcock.

People can visit the website, upload a photo of the unknown creature seen on campus (from bird to insects and plants) and add a description of what they see. Other community members may jump in to identify the species or add more information. Over 32,000 contributions have been made on campus. This website, Hitchcock explains, allows scientists to identify and track species beyond Brandeis. The platform is used throughout the world. “It’s a helpful tool for scientists to determine how climate change is affecting species.”

Recognizing social injustices in the pursuit of change.

Rick Schroeder, Professor of Anthropology, explained the social injustices that can occur as a result of green initiatives. “Sometimes when we’re seeking climate action with good intentions, we don’t think about the people who are displaced by those actions, or are forced to shoulder a disproportionate economic burden as a result,” said Rick Schroeder, Professor of Anthropology.

For example, last year a wind farm was created on indigenous land in Norway. Originally owned by the Sami community, they used their land to herd reindeer. While the installation of the wind farm provided enough energy for 100,000 homes in Norway, the loud turbine noises distressed the reindeer population, causing them to flee and destroying Sami tradition. The wind farm was created with good intentions for the environment, but negatively affected the livelihoods of the local community. Injustices like this happen throughout the world.

Schroeder recommends reading ‘Green’ colonialism is ruining Indigenous lives in Norway

to learn more about this community. He also encourages people to discover climate injustices occurring in different parts of the world. "We have to continue to address climate change, but need to act in a way that isn’t reproducing climate injustices,” said Schroeder.

Find a support system

Mary Fischer, Director of Sustainability, isn’t a faculty member of the environmental studies program, but is dedicated to climate action on campus. “I love that everything I do is in pursuit of trying to make the world a better place,” said Fischer.

While making a daily difference can be empowering, it also can be stressful. Fischer recommends finding a circle that will cheer you on. She suggests checking out the different student clubs on campus, joining a counseling group, or finding supportive peers. “One of the best stress cures is finding a community,” said Fischer. “Have a conversation about your stressors. Find a group that supports your passions.”

Categories: General, Humanities and Social Sciences, Science and Technology

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