Climate Justice and Climate Consequences: Education and Action for Social Justice and Regeneration

Marna Hauk, PhD
Faculty, Institute for Earth Regenerative Studies and Postdoctoral Scholar, Prescott College


This graduate climate justice course brings clarity to the structural dimensions of climate change. It is designed around the belief that community-based action and contemplative processes to redress structural inequities and build regenerative capacity can be effective at taking action on the environmental justice dimensions of our climate crisis.

This course leverages the Transformative Sustainability Learning (TSL) model for sustainability education by combining hands, head, and heart approaches for transformative learning (Sipos, Battisti, & Grimm, 2008). The hands-on dimension of this course involves twenty+ hours of service learning and ethnographic research volunteering with a climate justice nonprofit, as well as including contemplative and experiential features of concurrent course activities, as nurtured by student-designed, catalytic-creative and reflective, in-class processes. Intellectual dimensions of the course include (1) collegial and vigorous online and synchronous reading, dialogue, and inquiry to build a dynamic and supportive community of learning; (2) the shared development of original resources on climate justice and climate justice education through development and web-based sharing of co-designed curricular materials and presentations, and (3) contributions toward a jointly authored, peer-reviewed journal article using APA style. The reflective (heart) dimension of this course includes reflective and analytic research "memoing" in a research journal for in-class experience and ethnographic field work while volunteering (Miles, Huberman, & Saldana, 2013; Sunstein & Chiseri-Slater, 2012) as well as deep immersion in the contemplative dimensions of the core companion text, Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We're In Without Going Crazy (Macy & Johnstone, 2012).

Course Size:
fewer than 15

Institution Type:
University with graduate programs, including doctoral programs

Course Context:

This is a graduate school elective that is open to all masters and doctoral students from the fields of sustainability education and environmental science, adventure education, education, and psychology. Students have an option to take the course for 1, 2, 3, or 4 credits and they undertake additional writing and research assignments appropriate to their respective individual course-loads. The course is offered at an activist-oriented institution with a mission of social justice and environmental responsibility. Most graduate courses have experiential and student-directed components; they enable the students to move their own research projects forward as they come to life with the course-content and process.

Course Content:

Topics in this course include:

- climate ethics
- environmental racism and environmental justice
- the climate justice education spectrum for effective curricular design ( See Climate Justice Education in the teaching materials section for links to related content)
- community organizing exemplars and vibrant practices, including coalition-building, allyship, and solidarity, and regenerating capacity for inter-generational flourishing.

The course is structured with three simultaneous tracks (theory, educational context, and field organizing).

Course Goals:

By the end of the course, students will be able to:

++1. Identify, participate in, live deeply with, and transform through the stages and cycles of Active Hope and climate justice learning and leading;

++2. Identify ethical dimensions and community exemplars in climate justice and social justice regeneration;

++3. Demonstrate literacy in key concepts of climate justice, including distributive justice, procedural justice, inter-generational ethics, global dynamics, coalition, and solidarity;

++4. Actively design and co-facilitate earth-regenerative climate change and climate justice community-based experiential learning;

++5. Contribute to original scholarly work via development of annotated resources, interlinked web resources, critical perspectives, and academic writing for a collaborative article submitted for peer review;

++6. Envision and sustain solution-oriented, visionary activism for the long haul.

Course Features:

The course is structured with three simultaneous tracks (theory, educational context, and field organizing). Students use ethnographic research methods in community-service engagement relevant to their research trajectory. They will also co-develop web resources for other climate justice researchers on exemplars from the field.

A Theory and B. Educational Context - Each week features an article to read to focus attention on a particular theme. Here is a sampling of themes and articles to give a sense of the course discussion. There are also some sample links to students' work when they facilitated that theme and co-designed the class encounter on different climate justice related topics. Some of these presentations become web resources in a public-facing web resource (still under development) for climate justice educators, to help alleviate the gap since there are scant online resources for climate justice educators.

Examples by Topic: Topic Theme - Article - Link to Sample Student-Developed Resource (When Available)

  1. Theme: Social Justice Lens for Climate Justice Education - Exemplar: Dr. Heather Hackman - Article: "Five Essential Components for Social Justice Education" (Hackman, 2005)

  2. Theme: Climate Ethics - Exemplar (several, including Dr. Vandana Shiva, Andrew Revkin, and Dr. Stephen Gardiner) - Article: "A Perfect Moral Storm: Climate Change, Intergenerational Ethics, and the Problem of Moral Corruption" (Gardiner, 2006) - Student Prezi developed by R. Kippen - including contemplative activity on "Widening Circles of Self" (Macy & Johnstone, 2012, p. 89), contemplation of who is harmed, what are the harms, and who counts, ethical considerations in Shiva's Earth Democracy Principles, and discussion catalysts.

  3. Theme: Environmental Justice & Climate Justice - Exemplar: Dr. Robert Bullard and Dr. Dorceta Taylor - Article: "The Rise of the Environmental Justice Paradigm: Injustice Framing and the Social Construction of Environmental Discourses" (Taylor, 2000) - Student Powerpoint Presentation by R. Thomas - including contemplative discussion reflecting on feelings about the state of the world; information about environmental racism and environmental justice, impetus for paradigm shifts, and discussion of catalysts for change.

C. Field Organizing Track - Example Student Assignment. The students keep ethnographic journals (field notes/field journals) of their community-based experience. In the following research memo (shared with permission), a Masters student in Environmental Studies makes field notes and responds and reflects on her experience helping with a climate mural that the local climate change cultural regeneration nonprofit was spearheading. Student R. Kippen wonders how more critical and connective environmental justice/climate justice considerations could be added to the experience, including gang violence and the local significance of the work.

  • Example Student Field Note - R. Kippen (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 14kB Sep14 17) R Kippen Fieldworking Reflection Posted on Moodle Online Course Discussion
  • R. Kippen Field notebook - Image 1 of mural making
  • R. Kippen - Field note 1 of field observations (image from field notebook)
  • R. Kippen - Field note 2, responses to field observations (image from field notebook)
  • R. Kippen - Field notebook - Image 2 of mural making
  • Example Organizational Purpose - Volunteer Placement (Acrobat (PDF) 102kB Sep14 17) Background Information on local Climate Justice organization purpose
  • Example Youth Leader Profile of Community Organization- Volunteer Placement (Acrobat (PDF) 57kB Sep14 17) Background information on local Climate Justice organization - youth leader profile

D. Experiential Prompts for Encouraging Student Reflective Writing - I recently was honored to be a featured presenter at the North American Association of Environmental Education EE Capacity track on Climate Change Education. I co-developed a set of writing prompts for "Surfacing Unheard Voices: Catalyzing Collaborative Writing for Climate Change," which include contemplative and experiential prompts to catalyze increased expression and ways of knowing regarding climate change education and climate justice education (Hauk & Pickett, 2016, 2017). The following link is to the related prompts and catalysts used in this presentation. Additionally, if you download the linked book I coauthored on Community Climate Change Education: A Mosaic of Approaches (Hauk, Pickett, & Chung, 2017), there are detailed instructions and guidelines for facilitating such contemplative writing activities, which I also used during course experientials in the graduate course, "Climate Justice and Climate Consequences."

Surfacing Unheard Voices Materials for Facilitating Climate Change Expressive Writing:

Course Philosophy:

Climate change entangles issues of fairness, vulnerability, historical and structural inequities, intergenerational ethics, and procedural and distributive justice. At sociocultural, regional, and global scales, often the populations who are most at risk for climate change impacts are least responsible for generating them (Adger, Paavola, & Huq, 2006). Attention, research, and investments in those communities more vulnerable and dispossessed could provide high value mitigation and adaptation zones (Taylor, 2000). Community-emergent organizing within the resilience zones of the most marginalized offer high-priority climate justice action spaces.

This philosophy ties into the course structures because the students are engaged at multiple scales of building regenerative community action spaces:

(1) The class itself becomes a site of mutual learning, collaboration and support and a community action space. The co-learners support each other by translating Active Hope into their co-designed curriculum they develop for each other to experience, including in-class experiences, Moodle online platform reflective writing spaces, and other mutual support;

(2) The class produces community action spaces through generating give-back/reciprocity materials as a part of the learning process. An example of this is students conducting their own learning so that they produce annotations and brief writings that mosaic together into a web-based resource for other climate justice educators;

(3) The students each write part of a collaborative, academic paper that is submitted for peer review. This helps generate climate justice action space within the academy. The example of this is still in process for this class. I used a similar approach with a different course, and the result of the academic paper published by the Journal of Sustainability Education co-authored by 16 graduate students gives a good flavor, on a different topic, of what is possible (Hauk et al, 2016)

(4) The students actively and directly contribute to a nonprofit organization in their community engaged with climate justice. Examples of this included: working with a Just Transition organization, curricular design with a Bay Area environmental justice education project, and contributing actively to a climate change policy advocacy nonprofit based in Washington DC.

(5) Students further become activists or support activists in resilience zones in these community organization action settings, both in their research and application of climate justice topics which they then apply in their community work, as well as through the metacognitive dimension of fieldworking ethnographic journaling which nurtures their own growing sense of empowerment, clarity, and inspiration.

(6) The twining of Active Hope-style contemplative and experiential metabolizing of their feelings of overwhelm, fear, and despair support them in long haul engagement of ecopsychological and community resilience in each of these contexts of climate justice community action, from the classroom, within their research, in giveback to scholarly and educator community, and in community=based service and action.

Please note the details offered in the course overview section where I described how a Transformative Sustainability Learning (TSL) pedagogy was used to design and teach the course, involving a combination of hands-head-heart learning approaches (Sipos, Battisti, & Grimm, 2008) and contemplative sustainability education approaches (Eaton, Davis,Williams, & MacGregor, 2017).

Note, I have written a 20 page paper that details the connections between contemplative approaches and enhancing climate justice education. Designing Graduate Climate Change and Climate Justice Education with Contemplative Dimensions: Approaches and Tools via The Work that Reconnects and the Climate Justice Education Spectrum (Hauk 2017) (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 118kB Jul31 17)

This paper ties together the work accomplished in the iterating Climate Justice Education Spectrum Model - both the instrument itself and a poster with contextual information [See Teaching Materials Linked Below].


Several forms of review and assessment support deep insight in course flow and student progress and learning. The Prescott College approach to evaluation and assessment includes student-directed and student-centered self-reflective formative and summative assessment strategies:

(1) Formative assessment includes the check-in time during each course meeting. Using appreciative inquiry style oral reflections, students share briefly one or more items that is/are working well and what is their most emergent learning.

(2) Formative assessment is also conducted through a midpoint oral collaborative review during the middle week of the course, touching in on what is working well, what might want modification, and any other suggestions from each students. The instructor uses this as feedback for continuous, iterative, in-flight course improvement and to tailor support of particular student learning and progress.

(3) Informal formative assessment is also conducted through one or more 1:1 meetings with the instructor and each student throughout the semester. These meetings are conducted through the Zoom video platform and range from 30-60 minutes in duration. Ideally there is one 1:1 meeting with each student to gauge student research and scholarly interests before the start of class which also helps each student tailor their learning contracts and supports the student in identifying an appropriate community organization for the service learning/ethnographic portion of the course. Then another meeting is scheduled toward the middle of the semester and supports the student in reflective self assessment and resource sharing. Students can additionally request and schedule other 1:1 feedback and meetings from the instructor.

(4) Summative assessment for student progress is conducted at the end of the semester through the process of student narrative reflection and faculty narrative reflection. These narrative reflections make up the graduate transcript for the learners and there are no letter grades assigned. The summative evaluations by the instructor involve describing both quantitative and qualitative dimensions of student progress and learning, including sharing a raw count of number and word count of online posts, as well as detailing successes and challenges (as relevant) with each of the main structures of the course, including word counts, page counts, number of references, number of hours in the community organization, and synthesizing evaluative statements characterizing quality of student effort, curricular co-design, collaborative writing and website production and quality, etc. Statements are made about each student's work regarding each of the objectives for the course (see related section). Additionally, statements are composed relevant to the program the student is in, whether doctoral or graduate.

(4a) For all doctoral Sustainability Education classes at Prescott, the following are the graduate competencies and criteria upon which extensive narrative evaluations are formulated:

- Ability to see research and practice as complex, transdisciplinary, emergent, and ecologically and socially situated;
- Ability to interact with theory and modes of practice in the field (sustainability education);
- Demonstrate fluency in theoretical, creative, generative, and reflexive thinking skills;
- Ability to frame fruitful and relevant research questions in the process of inquiry;
- Skills to design ethical research by approaching researchable problems with appropriate methods of inquiry;
- Ability to discover and communicate new knowledge, including collect, analyze/synthesize, and interpret data/sense meaning;
- Actively contribute to current, critical conversations as a scholar practitioner using expert skills in oral and written communication for various audiences;
- Effectively collaborate in communities of practice and with forms of collective intelligence; and
- Demonstrate leadership that supports resilience and regeneration of communities.

(4b) Master's level students are additionally evaluated against the following general learning characteristic criteria in addition to the particular department-specific criteria of their Master's field:

Cognitive Domain:

    • Relatively independent initiation of effort toward proposing and solving a novel problem, creating new scholarship, and/or producing a new intellectual product;
    • Independent application of best practices of the field in solving a novel problem, creating new scholarship, and/or producing a new intellectual product;
    • Increased focus on student becoming a practitioner of the field of knowledge rather than primarily a learner of that field.

Student Behavioral/Affective Domain:

Inherent interest in self-education and self-direction within the field;

Willingness to accept responsibility for outcomes of self-directed research and creative activities.

Assumed/Expected Student Preparation:

Facility with obtaining and understanding current primary literature/scholarly works and/or literature focused on practitioner/professionals within the field; Ability to communicate effectively using accepted conventions of the field through oral, written, and/or performance modes.


Teaching Materials:

Annotated List of Teaching Materials

Climate Justice and Climate Consequences - Course Flyer (Acrobat (PDF) 878kB Jul31 17) - Course Flyer, "Climate Justice and Climate Consequences: Education and Action for Social Justice and Regeneration"

Course Briefing for Climate Justice and Climate Consequences - Spring 2017 (Acrobat (PDF) 1.1MB Jul31 17) - Powerpoint- Climate Justice Graduate Course Overview and Introduction on Distributive Justice (Hauk, 2017)

Designing Graduate Climate Change and Climate Justice Education with Contemplative Dimensions: Approaches and Tools via The Work that Reconnects and the Climate Justice Education Spectrum (Hauk 2017) (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 118kB Jul31 17) - Paper - "Designing Graduate Climate Change and Climate Justice Education with Contemplative Dimensions: Approaches and Tools via The Work that Reconnects and the Climate Justice Education Spectrum"(Hauk 2017) - A 20-page paper that details the connections between contemplative approaches and enhancing climate justice education.

Climate Justice Education Spectrum Model used for teaching Climate Justice Education Unit (see also []

References and Notes:

Main Text: Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone, 2012, Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We're in Without Going Crazy. Novato, CA: New World Library.

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