This fall, I’ve been leading Princeton undergraduates as we take a deep dive into the climate debate in the seminar “Crossing the Climate Change Divide.” Tom Garlinghouse from Princeton’s Office of Communications joined us to share what we’re doing. To see the full syllabus, click here. And here’s his piece:
The course is taught by award-winning journalist Meera Subramanian, who is asking students to examine what people think about climate change — whether they accept the current climate science, reject it or are simply confused by it — and why they think the way they do.
“I’d love the students to engage in the conversation around climate change with a slightly more wide-open lens about how people are thinking about this and why people are thinking about it in the ways that they do,” said Subramanian, the Currie C. and Thomas A. Barron Visiting Professor in the Environmental Humanities in the Princeton Environmental Institute (PEI). She is participating in a panel titled “Breaking the Logjam” at the Princeton Environmental Forum on Oct. 25.
Subramanian wants the students to use what anthropologists call an “emic,” or “insider’s,” approach — that is, taking into account a person’s words, perceptions and beliefs as main sources of information rather than adopting a potentially more objective or “outsider’s” approach. This demands that the students consider factors such as how an individual’s ideology, religion, economic level and politics impinge on a particular topic — in this case, the climate debate.
“Humans are messy creatures,” Subramanian said. “It’s not like we’re just economic creatures or just religious creatures. We are all of those things, all at once.”