How students are preparing for a climate-changed future

People and Places | Strategy 3: Thriving Communities
Theme: Collaboration

The view of the North Shore mountains from Point Grey at the UBC campus | Photo credit: Paul H. Joseph / UBC Brand & Marketing

From coping with climate anxiety to analyzing what coffee has the least harmful impact on the environment, UBC students are taking a variety of classes across faculties to get ready for a climate-changed future.

Working with the city to make change

The Certificate in Climate Studies and Action launched earlier this year in response to the climate emergency. Open to all undergraduate students, this certificate focuses on action; all students must participate in a “climate action lab,” where they work in groups on a real challenge posed by a community partner – this year, the City of Vancouver.

“There’s a need for these climate-related skills in the job market right now,” says instructor Dr. Tara Ivanochko, Professor of Teaching in the Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences. “We wanted the certificate to build community and support people working for climate action, across interdisciplinary teams and with real-world action – and helping them learn some of the roadblocks to be negotiated as part of that work.”

Tackling climate anxiety

Helping people take action can lessen climate anxiety by combating paralysis, says Raluca Radu, lecturer in the UBC School of Nursing , who teaches Health Impacts of Climate Change. This second-year course explores how climate change affects peoples’ health, from infectious diseases, to the respiratory effects of air pollution, to eco-anxiety. “Even if it’s just one action, that has a ripple effect and can inspire others.”

The course, open to all undergraduates, encourages students to plan for a climate-changed future from a public health promotion and prevention lens. Health promotion strategies shared with students include checking up on elderly relatives during a heat wave, as well as avoiding strenuous exercise during air quality advisories, among others. “We have a responsibility to protect ourselves and others in our community. As a nursing professional, I am grateful to be able to ensure the next generation feels equipped with practical knowledge to safeguard their health while maintaining a harmonious relationship with their environment.”

How Heavy Metal could help the green energy transition

To meet climate goals, the world needs to transition to green energy sources, but these sources will require many minerals and metals. How to mine for these without further environmental degradation, and in fair and equitable ways, is a question Heavy Metal: Earth’s Minerals and the Future of Sustainable Societies aims to explore.

This new graduate course will be on offer in January 2023 and is a collaboration between the Faculty of Arts, Faculty of Science, Faculty of Applied Science, and the Peter A. Allard School of Law. This interdisciplinarity is key, says co-instructor Dr. Carol Liao, Associate Professor at the Peter A. Allard School of Law. “This is a challenge that requires cooperation across different fields of relevant scholarship, because they remain quite siloed. We need science students to be aware of the legal, policy and sociological issues of mineral exploration and we need humanities students to understand the science.”

Shop until the world drops

Just what does your cup of coffee say about you as a person? Shopping, Society, and Sustainability examines the impacts of shopping on environments, then dives into case studies to help students understand how consumerism plays a role throughout their lives.

“Often, we feel it’s up to us as individuals to change consumption habits to solve the climate crisis, which can be overwhelming and disheartening,” says instructor Dr. Emily Kennedy, Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology.  Rather, the course recognizes that consumption can foster connection, by a shared love of fashion or a favourite singer, for example, but that seeking one’s sense of worth from consumer goods is ephemeral. Students instead learn about making informed or meaningful choices without punishing themselves. “Students understand, okay, as an individual, I’m not going to stop fast fashion but by purchasing one quality item instead of six cheap ones, I feel proud of my purchase. It’s not a silver bullet but there’s meaning to be found.”

Please visit the UBC News website to read the full story.

Through Strategy 3: Thriving Communities, UBC is committed to supporting the ongoing development of sustainable, healthy and connected campuses and communities.