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Master Teacher Institute addresses climate change

July 18, 2013


In early July 2013, The Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies’ National Resource Centers, in partnership with the Northwest International Education Association (NIEA), offered the 10th annual Community College Master Teacher Institute at the University of Washington on “At the Crossroads: Climate Change, the Environment, and Social Justice.” Twenty-three faculty, from as far away as Spokane and Yakima, participated.

Their goal was to utilize the theme of climate change to increase international content in their courses. The seven presentations by UW faculty and local experts, focused on climate change, the environment and social justice in an increasingly globalized world.

David Battisti, UW faculty in Atmospheric Sciences and Tamaki Endowed Chair of Atmospheric Sciences, provided the keynote lecture on climate change and its causes. He utilized a number of models to illustrate that climate change is occurring as a result of human activity. David engaged the faculty in working out a few mathematical equations illustrating that if we wish to stabilize CO2 levels globally, and if the United States were to emit only its fair share of carbon dioxide, the United States would have to reduce current level of emissions to just 2 percent – a staggering figure.

Battisti also pointed out the huge impact of climate change to particular regions in the world. For example, the Arctic region would see the loss of perennial sea ice having a significant impact on local communities; and, South and Southeast Asia would suffer the highest temperature increases with significant impact on food production. His presentation illustrated the important relationship between regional impacts of climate change to the need for global policy development.

Andrea Arai, faculty in the Jackson School and a Japan specialist, brought an anthropological perspective and focused on teaching pedagogy, using her course on Global Sustainability Movements (JSIS 478 B) to illustrate her points. She showcased different teaching strategies using online discussion forums, ethnographic projects, site visits to local P-Patches and the annual Sakura-Con anime convention, and pairing students from Japan and the UW to collaborate on joint activities.

Andrea Rodgers Harris, a Seattle environmental law attorney, discussed the “public trust doctrine.” According to Rodgers Harris, “The public trust doctrine is an ancient legal mandate establishing a sovereign’s obligation to hold critical natural resources in trust for the benefit of present and future generations. The doctrine has roots in Roman and British law and has been extensively applied by American and International courts of law.”

Increasingly, citizens are pressuring governments to protect the public trust including the atmosphere. Rodgers Harris pointed to a global movement of legal cases to protect the environment, citing specific cases from the Ukraine, Columbia, Uganda, and the Philippines. Similar to the earlier speakers, she discussed the notion of “fair share” – a guideline that all global regions have equal rights to “the commons” requiring global legal regimes.

Stanley Asah, faculty in the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, College of the Environment, provided a presentation on hydro-politics – or the politics among states over water resources that transcend international boundaries – providing examples from the Lake Chad Basin in Africa. Lake Chad is currently only 5 percent of its original size and shared by several countries. Here global climate change is impacting local resources, local politics, and local livelihoods.

The Honorable Brian Baird Ph.D., president of Antioch University-Seattle, former Washington state congressman from the 3rd Congressional district (1999 to 2011), and JSIS faculty for the 2012 JSIS Task Force on marine protected areas, gave an engaging talk on global “overheating” and ocean acidification. He compellingly argued that education is not enough – we have to engage students in reflection on the issues. Global overheating and ocean acidification are the real problems. It is absolutely known and undisputed that increased CO2 in the air will retain greater energy from sunlight and heat; and that CO2 in water will change the PH level of water and make it more acidic. And, as he eloquently stated, we have currently reached carbon dioxide levels of almost 400 parts per million (ppm) – after maintaining levels of 180 ppm for more than 800,000 years.

Heidi Gough, research faculty in Civil and Environmental Engineering, brought the conversation back to applied research and direct student involvement in climate change issues. She established a UW study-abroad program that takes students to Jordan to study water issues. The Middle East is one of the most water-stressed regions in the world creating considerable political tensions among the countries in the region. For example, like Lake Chad, the Dead Sea is disappearing at a profound rate; and, the Jordan River has been almost completely drained by national canals. Gough pointed out that a major challenge in international education is taking local approaches to, in this case water engineering, and applying them to other regions of the world. Her presentation pointed out the significant unique challenges to water engineering in Jordan and the region.

Ross Coen, a doctoral student in history, affiliated graduate student of Canadian Studies, and published author of Breaking Ice for Arctic Oil: The Epic Voyage of the SS Manhattan through the Northwest Passage(2012), spoke about the Canada-United States relationship regarding resources development in the Arctic. Canada and the Arctic region is probably the least-understood region in the world, yet one of the most vital concerning environmental impacts as a result of global warming. Drawing on research from his book, Ross provided a fascinating history of the global dispute over the Northwest Passage and the implications of that debate over sovereignty, natural resource development, and most importantly, the context for the fast-emerging global disputes over the Arctic.

After the presentations, Tamara Leonard, Associate Director, Center for Global Studies, Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies, facilitated a discussion with the faculty about ways to incorporate the information into their teaching, develop new classroom processes, and maintain on-going communication and collaboration. Faculty discussed points made in the presentations — particularly questions they had regarding hope and action in an age of climate crisis. Faculty also analyzed how the information was presented as models for classroom experience and engagement. The discussion drew on international examples for responses to local challenges. Faculty also stressed the importance of having some background in science in order to understand and communicate to students the policy issues pertaining to environmental management. “I think an interdisciplinary understanding of these issues,” one faculty member observed, “is what will best serve the challenges facing our world.”

NIEA is a consortium of community colleges dedicated to increasing student and faculty opportunities for international education, training, and exchange. In 2003, Leonard founded the Community College Master Teacher Institute with NIEA. Since then, over 275 faculty from dozens of community colleges across Washington state have participated in the workshop benefiting from the expertise of Jackson School faculty, staff and affiliated researchers.

Funding for the Community College Master Teacher Institute was provided, in part, by grant allocations from the National Resource Center Programs, International and Foreign Language Education, U.S. Department of Education, Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies and the Northwest International Education Association.

The Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies is home to eight National Resource Centers: Canadian Studies Center, Center for Global Studies, Center for West European Studies, East Asia Center, Ellison Center for Russian, East European and Central Asian Studies, Middle East Center, South Asia Center, and Southeast Asia Center.