An Affective Pedagogy for Climate Justice: Trauma, Burnout, and Eco-White Fragility in Climate Education

Authors: Sarah Ray*, Humboldt State University
Topics: Environmental Perception, Resources
Keywords: climate justice, pedagogy, affect, trauma, climate anxiety, emotion, student activism
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 23
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This presentation will discuss the importance of an affective approach to teaching climate justice. Environmental pedagogy often assumes a uniform audience of white students, which means that environmental educators often ignore issues of environmental racism and re-center whiteness by assuming one type of student affective responses to the material (guilt, despair, shame). However, environmental students are increasingly more diverse, unevenly privileged across intersectional identities, and often experience various forms of environmental racism or trauma themselves. Teaching climate and environmental issues with a diverse student body requires an awareness of how educators assume students feel about the material. Educators are challenged to help some students translate guilt and climate anxiety into allyship, while also helping other students politicize their environmental harms into action. Inattention to emotion in the climate classroom risks setting students up for division and even turning some students off entirely to the hard work of showing up for climate justice. Ultimately, I argue that environmental pedagogy that honors and provides tools for a variety of affective experiences in the classroom is also the best inclusive, trauma-informed pedogagy. Inversely, any pedagogy that fails to account for students' myriad emotional ways of engaging the material risks silencing many students' environmental experiences and forms of resistance and resilience.

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