Orfalea Center Thematic Research Cluster

Environmental Justice & Climate Justice Studies


On this page, you can find relevant syllabi for the Environmental Justice & Climate Justice Studies.

ENVS 50, Spring 2018: Bending the Curve: Climate Change Solutions- Prof. Summer Gray

Drawing on concepts from the social sciences, we will come to see how climate change solutions entail questions about societal change, human agency, and environmental justice. The point of this course is to empower you with critical thinking and a sense of hope. It’s not the end of the world yet! People all over the planet are linking hands and minds, both in real and virtual spaces, to find answers. Together, we will identify opportunities for action within our own communities and imagine creative solutions that can help build ecologically sustainable and just futures.

ENVS 193 CR, Spring 2019: Field Seminar in Community and Personal Resilience- Prof. Summer Gray

Structured as a field seminar, 193CR is designed to push the boundaries of what constitutes a “field” (gathering from sociological insights on field theory and the built environment and moving beyond to acknowledge the interconnectedness of all beings). Lessons will take place both on and off campus, exploring readings and activities related to ecological crisis, social equity, intersectionality, and regenerative economy. The course format emphasizes experiential learning through a cycle of action, reflection, and analysis of the underlying patterns, beliefs, structures, systems and conditions that give rise to the social and environmental crises we face. This capacity helps us to comprehend the forces at play and develop strategic interventions to affect systemic change, allowing us to build resilience and co-create a life-sustaining society.

INT 133B Summer B 2020: What’s Wrong with the World? What Can We Do About It? This course is divided into two parts

Part 1 Prof. John Foran: Perspectives and Pathways from the Social Sciences

In this course, we will investigate the future, asking what might the world look like in the year 2030? 2040? 2050? Or how about 2020?? What will be the state of climate change? What will schools, cities, agriculture, jobs, nations, energy sources, technology, political systems, international relations, the global and local economy, and much more look like? How will people make sense and meaning of their world? What future worlds can we foresee from where we are now, ranging widely and wildly from the awful to the utopian? How will we get to the better worlds we hope to be living in?

Part 2 Prof. Ken Hiltner Perspectives and Solutions from the Environmental Humanities and Social Sciences

This course is an experiment. It begins with the assumption that global climate change is real and that its causes are anthropogenic (i.e. human caused). Consequently, solutions will not be just technological, or even mostly so, but will also need to involved profound changes to human beliefs, practices, and styles of life. The difficulty in bringing this about is not only that a broad swathe of Americans deny that our climate is changing, even if this is acknowledged, the causes and solutions to the problem are being fiercely debated on the public stage. It has also, sadly, become a political issue dividing our nation. This course will carefully look at the rhetoric of these debates.

SOC 134A Winter 2019: Activism, A Love Story? – Prof. John Foran

This course, offered only for the second time (the first was five years ago), and itself the result of activism on the part of students, explores the phenomenon and experience of activism, and is focused this quarter on climate justice activism.  For the purposes of discussion, we will start with a definition of activism as “efforts aimed in the direction of a deep transformation of a society toward greater economic equality and political participation, involving the actions of a strong and diverse popular movement.”

SOC 265EC Fall 2019: Earth in Crisis- Prof. John Foran

This course will explore the causes, consequences, and possible outcomes of the climate crisis on a global scale, with attention to the social, political, economic, and cultural implications of the most recent science, the current and future impacts of climate change, climate governance and the global negotiations process, and climate justice activism.

SOC 91/190A Summer A&B 2020: The Eco Vista Community in the Time of Coronavirus- Prof. John Foran

Therefore, now in the Summer of 2020, our work is about how Eco Vista will be made relevant, useful, and life-affirming  in the uncertainty of the coronavirus. We will ground our own work together by participation in the exciting new multigenerational student-community project we call Eco Vista – www.ecovistacommunity.com – the transition of Isla Vista into a model eco-village through our efforts in tandem with other community organizations over the next five years.


SOC & ENVS 130SD Spring 2020: The World in 2050 2025: Systemic Alternatives- Prof. John Foran

Why is this class important? Because it’s your future we’ll be trying to figure out!
This special course starts with the current crisis of the Earth and humanity, marked by economic insecurity, a lack of faith in political parties, pervasive cultures of violence, and now, the wild card that makes them all scarier – the coronavirus. Oh, yeah, and climate change too.
But this course is about hope, imagination, and the roles all of us could play in building a far better world by 2050 2025.
This means we will need to take action right here and now to deal with the most pressing problem of the 21st century, the problem of climate change. One major question addressed in this course has been posed by my friend Bill Barnes: “Can we create new, transformative narratives to inspire political movements able to force vigorous engagement with climate change?”

SOC 91/190A Fall 2020: The Eco Vista Community in the Time of Coronavirus

This is a regular group study designed to focus our sociological imaginations on creating the kind of society that might weather the climate storm that is coming and actually come out on the other side (or more realistically in the midst of it even as it deepens) with societies far more suited to human well-being and thriving than the ones we presently have all around the world, now so evidently under stress and with our institutions so revealed in all their inadequacy by the virus. Therefore, now in the Fall of 2020, our work is about how Eco Vista will be made relevant, useful, and life-affirming in the uncertainty of the coronavirus.


SOC 134EC/ENV S 134EC, Fall 2019: Earth in Crisis- Prof. John Foran

This is the situation today on our Earth in crisis:  we are in a huge mess!  So it’s time to really wake up…

The purpose of this course is to get our heads around this new reality and to explore together and collaboratively the implications of this for living in and creating, at a minimum, a survivable future, and potentially, a much improved, more just one than we have today.  This course is therefore all about knowledge and positive action to secure such a better future.

SOC 265SD, Fall 2018: The World in 2050 – Sustainable Development and Its Alternatives- Prof. John Foran

2015 is one of those hinges of history, when, in a happy confluence of timing, the Millenium Development Goals that were the highest expression of the dream of development will get traded in for the new model – the Sustainable Development Goals (in a three-day U.N. conference in New York that begins on the day of our first meeting!), and when the world community – or at least the United Framework Convention on Climate Change – has vowed to deliver a global climate treaty that will save us from the elephant in the room of all discussions of future worlds, in Paris on practically the last day of class in December.

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Jéssica Malinalli
Jéssica Malinalli
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