Jennifer Atkinson's "Eco-Grief and Climate Anxiety" seminar featured in Grist and McMenamin's Pub Night Talk

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IAS faculty member Jennifer Atkinson's seminar on Eco-Grief and Climate Anxiety was featured in a recent news story on Grist.org, an online magazine that has been publishing environmental news and commentary since 1999. The story, titled "The life-altering, world-ending topic they’re still not teaching you about in school," reported that a majority of K-12 and college level sciences classes in the U.S. still do not teach climate change material -- or even talk about it during class time -- despite the fact that 86% of teachers surveyed said they wanted to include it in their curriculum. The Grist reporter, Paola Rosa-Aquino, claimed that with few exceptions, "college courses have been failing to prepare young people to face real-world problems related to global warming." She went on to write that

"Professor Jennifer Atkinson is in charge of one of those exceptions, a seminar at the University of Washington, Bothell on “Eco-Grief and Climate Anxiety.” She likens the course to “boot camp, preparing students for the long, hard fight ahead.” Her class explores climate issues and environmental issues through literature, poetry, film, and the arts. As part of the Winter 2019 offering, students prepared responses from David Wallace-Wells’ grim prognosis of our climate future in ‘The Uninhabitable Earth’ and arranged outdoor experiences. As a final group project, they had to develop a climate change website, handbook, or proposed retreat to help others cope with the “anger, grief, and despair that can arise in the face of our environmental crisis.”

The article also explored ways that climate education could be included throughout the curriculum, and held up Atkinson's course as an example:

"At the University of Washington, Professor Jennifer Atkinson was inspired to start offering her climate anxiety course to students after over a decade of watching them struggle with the depressing realities of our ecological crisis. A faculty member at the School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, she’d like to see climate change incorporated into the curriculum in many different disciplines, including the humanities. “The fact that we’re leaving climate discussions primarily to the natural sciences is itself part of the problem,” she said."

A week earlier, Atkinson spoke about her seminar at the UW Bothell/McMenamins Pub Night Talk. Her presentation, “Depressed about Climate Change? Moving from Angst to Action in an Age of Ecological Disruption,” argued that while anxiety and despair are increasingly common responses to our environmental crisis, such feelings rarely motivate people to action. The talk also explored how to build resilience to stay engaged in solutions.

Pub Night Talks are a free monthly lecture series cosponsored by UW Bothell and McMenamins, featuring university and community experts. Topics have ranged from butterflies to black holes.