Contesting Climate Change Class Connects Students in a Shared Desire for Justice

Students in Block 6 Contesting Climate Justice examined the conception of fairness, equity, and justice in relation to climate change. Students in this class were empowered by their shared desire to combat climate change, as well as their dedication to Colorado College’s antiracism commitment.

“This class genuinely did an excellent job of advancing CC's antiracism initiative,” says Gina Lynch ’24. “Marion consistently incorporated relevant and interesting material on Indigenous climate justice, and I can confidently say it was the main focus of the class. I feel like I learned a lot about Indigenous experiences and perspectives on the environment, and I have a good understanding of how our current systems of power create injustices for those populations.”

Class instructor Marion Hourdequin, professor of philosophy, says a key goal of the class was to explore the complexity and multi-dimensionality of climate justice, and to examine a variety of perspectives surrounding the topic.

“The class explores how climate justice is contested: there are different views, for example, on what would constitute a ‘fair share’ of emissions reductions for nations around the world, and there are different ways of looking at climate justice: as a question of distributive justice, a human rights issue, or something else. Issues of climate justice also play out at multiple scales, from local to international levels, and they are entangled with other issues, such as socioeconomic inequities and the ongoing influences of colonialism in North America and around the world,” says Hourdequin.

The class focused on Indigenous climate justice, as well as on intergenerational ethics and justice. “Climate change is very much an intergenerational issue, but dominant institutions and theoretical frameworks tend not to focus strongly on intergenerational concerns,” says Hourdequin, who first taught this class in 2020 online.

Lynch says her favorite part of the class was the readings and discussion on the Indigenous experiences of climate change.

“Marion did an excellent job of incorporating Indigenous voices into our course material, and I feel as though I have been robbed of this information before this class. I learned a lot about how climate policy is administered at the global level, and how Indigenous people have a wide breadth of knowledge on the environment as well as being the most vulnerable populations to climate change effects, and they are given virtually no voice in terms of climate mitigation policy,” says Lynch, a psychology major and philosophy minor.

Contesting Climate Justice had a 19-person waitlist, which some say is due to CC students recognizing what a major problem climate change is, as well as climate change’s impact on marginalized communities.

“I think this class had such a long waitlist because climate change has become a very relevant topic. It makes me grateful to be at a school where students are willing to propose potential long-term solutions to this problem,” says Jack Higgins ’24, who added that this was his first philosophy course at CC, and he is happy that he took it.

“I think climate justice is a very interesting topic to the majority of CC students who value fighting injustices and combating climate change,” says Lily Byrne ’24.

Students were assigned nightly readings and then participated in small and large group discussions about the readings the following day.

“I really enjoy how the philosophy we learned about is applied to a real pressing issue of our time. I think if I had just learned about philosophy itself, I would have been a bit bored, but the application of it was super interesting,” says Byrne, an organismal biology and ecology major and environmental studies minor.

One especially memorable part of the class for Byrne was when the students learned about epistemology, which is the philosophical theory of knowledge.

“I realized the importance of who seeks knowledge and who shares it and what implications that may have, especially when looking at different power dynamics between sharers and seekers of knowledge,” says Byrne.

Charlie Bragg ’23 says it was interesting to discuss the complexities of climate change and how different communities around the world view the issues of warming temperatures, adaption, and mitigation.

“We discussed how language barriers and indirect translations can hinder effective climate policy because certain cultural concepts exist that cannot be perfectly communicated to the parties in power who are crafting these policies, leaving sometimes crucial cultural knowledge out of the equation,” says Bragg, an architecture major and environmental studies minor.

“Contesting Climate Justice had students who were filled with passion to help others, ambition to question social norms, and fun lively spirits,” says Josh Lieberman ’25, a philosophy major and psychoanalysis minor.

Contesting Climate Justice is typically offered once a year and meets the Social Inequality and Equity and Power requirements for general education at CC.

Report an issue - Last updated: 03/23/2023