Adaptation, Activism, and the Looming Climate Disaster

Educational Theory 73 (6):801-821 (2024)
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It is likely that the process of global climate change will continue to accelerate. There is a lack of political will to confront the problem and the consequences for humanity — including widespread suffering and institutional destabilization — will be disastrous. How should educators respond to a catastrophic future? Here, Bryan Warnick argues that two criteria should guide the educational response. The response should not (1) undermine efforts to find an “unprecedented solution” to climate change, or (2) leave students unprepared to adapt to a global catastrophe. Using these criteria, he analyzes several possible ways to help students adapt to disaster, including teaching survivalism, encouraging forms of emotional resilience (like the Stoic apatheia), and helping students to appreciate the current moment. These adaptive responses seem to violate the first criterion. At the same time, an educational response focused entirely on climate activism seems to violate the second criterion. Warnick ends by exploring ways to accommodate the need for both adaptation and social engagement, finding promise in the idea of a tragic activism.



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