BT2P Blog

Brian Murphy

How Do We Educate Students For the Era of Climate Change?

By Brian Murphy | September 11, 2020

Among the dominant issues of the new decade is climate change. All current climate modeling suggests an intensification of climate-related catastrophe, Australia over and over again. Faced with economic and ecological collapse, vast regions of the country will face further deterioration of social life, a continuation of the opioid and suicide epidemic, and violence. The political system will be trapped by its dependence on the money and power of the current economic system. The contradiction between the market (as currently construed) and a plausible future will be evident as the climate crisis intensifies each year. How will students react? How will colleges and universities react, or act? What kind of political choices will be available? How prepared are our students to be a constituency for the tougher choices available? How does higher education play a positive role?

The next decade will have such massive ecological dislocation as to transform the world our students enter. As one of the British academics now working for the Extinction Rebellion puts it, “Why do we educate students for a future that does not exist?”

I have been struck by the degree to which all of our thinking and planning assumes continuity. What if that is fundamentally at risk through the climate crisis?

Brian Murphy is President Emeritus of De Anza College and an Associate of the Center for Studies in Higher Education, University of California, Berkeley.