Each September, Climate Week NYC (September 17-24) centers ambition, hope, and resilience. Its theme this year, “We Can. We Will,” is a push for collaborative action that resonates strongly with Barnard community members.
The community collaboration behind Transforming Education for Sustainability: Discourses on Justice, Inclusion, and Authenticity — published in June — engaged 34 of the College’s faculty, staff, and students to create an open-access textbook as part of their shared commitment to Barnard’s Climate Action Vision.
The book started out with a call for chapters in 2017, when campus members across the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities agreed that there was an urgent need to integrate sustainability and environmental justice into the College’s undergraduate curriculum.
One especially distinctive part of the book is its many and varied insights into how to mesh this type of work with one’s personal identity.
Over the course of five years, the textbook’s contributors collaborated to share paper reviews, personal essays, and panel discussions as a guide for how to authentically teach and learn about sustainability by centering inclusivity and justice. They also received funding for a Willen Seminar, which supports the collaboration of faculty scholarship across Barnard.
As a result, two faculty members — María Rivera Maulucci ’88, Ann Whitney Olin Professor of Education, and Hilary Callahan, Ann Whitney Olin Professor of Biological Sciences — edited the textbook alongside Barnard professor emerita and Arizona State University’s Stephanie Pfirman. The trio curated different narratives that closely examined the role that colleges and universities, namely Barnard, can play in creating a sustainable planet.
Below, contributors share about the work that led to the textbook and its role in Barnard’s mission to combat climate change through education, research, and advocacy:
“Inspiration for the book came from conversations with colleagues about how they increasingly incorporated ecojustice issues into their courses. We quickly realized that sustainability, and the sub-themes of justice, inclusion, and authenticity, were the overarching concepts that tied all our work together,” said Rivera Maulucci, an expert in science pedagogy and teacher education. “Barnard was the right place to [take on this book project] because of the great interest many faculty, staff, and students have in sustainability — from finance and facilities to the College curriculum and in their daily lives.”
“It was challenging but also exciting to weave questions about sustainability with themes like intersectional feminism, or the roles of faith-based communities, or the power of reciprocity in mentoring,” said Callahan, who teaches biology and environmental science. “I think that in-the-know readers will definitely find a ‘that’s so Barnard’ sensibility throughout [the textbook]. One especially distinctive part of the book is its many and varied insights into how to mesh this type of work with one’s personal identity.”
“Events in nature are often ephemeral, and whatever power they have to inspire, or to serve as a launchpad for many of the related conversations about stewardship, science, or sustainability, can be missed if we’re not able seize the moment,” said Nick Gershberg, the director of operations for the Arthur Ross Greenhouse and author of the textbook’s chapter “When a Titan Arum Blooms During Quarantine,” which it did on campus in 2020.
“As much as anything,” said Gershberg, “the article in the textbook was an opportunity to chronicle and celebrate the spontaneous collaboration our community undertook so that a meaningful event could be shared together, at a time when physical participation was not possible.”
“When thinking about Barnard’s Climate Action Vision, it is imperative that we look through a DEI lens to ensure that we are all conscientious about our social and ecological responsibility,” said Jennifer Rosales, vice president for inclusion and engaged learning, chief diversity officer, and assistant professor of practice in the Education Department.
In her chapter of the textbook, “Sustaining Curricula: Multidisciplinary Faculty Dialogues for Ecological and Pedagogical Renewal,” Rosales discussed Barnard’s 2021 interdisciplinary panel series that encouraged faculty to integrate climate action into their courses because “on local and global levels, environmental justice impacts human rights, climate, and access to resources and knowledge about our shared world.”