Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Climate Solutions Lab

Climate Change and Social Change



Spring 2021

Prof. Michael Brownstein


Readings from Underrepresented groups

Climate change will be among the most influential forces shaping human life in the 21st century and beyond, if not the most influential force. It is not just a technical problem, an environmental issue, a moral challenge, or a political quandary. Rather, as environmental engineer Costa Samaras put it, climate change is the landscape on which our future unfolds. While there is well-developed philosophical literature on some aspects of climate change, this course focuses on topics in need of more attention from philosophers. As such, the course presents an opportunity for graduate students to begin work in areas that likely will, and should, gain prominence over time. We will consider some of the cultural, political, psychological, economic, and conceptual changes needed in the face of the climate crisis. Specifically, we will discuss (1) the political psychology of climate voter behavior; (2) the history and recent growth of authoritarianism, right-wing populism, and “eco-fascism;” (3) climate justice and the relationship between prejudice, inequality, and decarbonization; (4) and “individual” vs. “structural” approaches to social change. While no specialist knowledge is required, students should expect readings to draw widely from the social and behavioral sciences, and thus to become familiar with multi-disciplinary literatures and methods by means of which they can make their own work relevant to the climate crisis.