J-Term 2023: Climate Crisis a Challenge for All to Tackle

A panel of interdisciplinary faculty teaching J-term 2023 have gathered to place their courses in context of the wider climate crisis and offer suggestions on what can be done in their own respective fields.

A panel of scholars, politicians, and a journalist with professional backgrounds ranging from sea turtle conservation to Communist Russia’s labor culture gathered on campus to discuss the future of the environment and the climate crisis. Despite their seemingly disparate expertise, they came away with one key takeaway:  solving a problem that is global in nature necessitates individual feats of eco-conscious excellence.

The J-term scholars participated in the roundtable “Environmental Interconnections, Boundaries, and Flows” in an event aimed at providing context to their three-week courses being taught in Abu Dhabi and around the world in relation to environmental challenges ahead.

J-term courses will see faculty take students around the world to go in-depth on subjects related to the environment. In a short, but intense, three-week course, students will get a chance to interact with environments from an academic lens, and be exposed to some of the world’s sustainability leaders, and biggest climate advocates.

Perhaps most importantly, students will be actively taken out of the classroom environment and be given a chance to learn through faculty well-connected in the field and knowledgeable on the subject.

Douglas Alexander, a labor politician and former minister in the UK, is teaching a J-term class titled “Moving towards Net Zero while delivering the Sustainable Development Goals January 2023” and provided some insight into the key takeaways he wants his students to leave with.

“One of the lessons I hope students learn is that if we are going to rise to the challenge of climate change, we need to engage people’s minds and their hearts. We live by parables and stories, and I think we’re going to win this challenge through stories. There’s more than enough work for us to do as educators to inspire the next generation of NYUAD students,” said Alexander. 

His course explores how a net zero economy can provide solutions to limit climate change and explores how the climate crisis threatens the progress of the Sustainable Development Goals.

In his course, students will consider public attitudes, together with political and economic considerations to understand their effect on government action to tackle climate change and global poverty.

His course involves a wide range of guest speakers including David Miliband, President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee and former UK Foreign Secretary, Kevin Rudd, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Australia, and other academics.

Sophia Kalantzakos, Global Distinguished Professor in Environmental Studies and Public Policy, is teaching a course “The Himalayas: Geopolitics and Ecology of Melting Mountains Water Towers, Sky Rivers and the Sponge”. She’s working with a network of students, experts in the fields, and most importantly alumni that have enriched the J-term class she’s teaching. 

“We have a team of current students working with us, and NYUAD alumni, those who graduate seem to be staying in touch with their professors. That means the bonds and friendships that we’ve developed over the years have been super important,” she said. 

With a trip to Nepal, students are offered a fresh narrative frame for understanding the Himalayan water crisis. The class will emphasize the roles played by diverse local cultures, regional geopolitics, ecologies, and scientific analyses of earth systems to better understand what constitutes a lifeline for a third of humanity.

On their trip to Nepal, students will attend a daylong conference with local environment advocates, take field trips to understand Kathmandu Valley’s ancient water supply system, and map river systems throughout the country.

Maya Vinokour, Assistant Professor at the Department of Russian and Slavic Studies at NYU, has students engaged in a course titled “Energy Fiction: Blood, Oil, and Capital” students will gain insight into the cultural, political, energetic and visceral dimensions of the world’s love affair with fossil fuels.

This course explores the interrelated flows of blood, oil, and capital in global fiction from the mid-nineteenth century to the present, focusing especially on the Anglo-American world and Russia

Also, on the panel was John Burt, who is a marine biologist working on the Arabian Gulf, David Kanter is an associate professor of environmental studies at New York University, and Eugenia Naro-Maciel, Clinical Associate Professor and Chair of the Sustainability, Health, and the Environment Concentration in Global Liberal Studies. The panel was moderated by Kunda Dixit, publisher at Himalmedia and editor of the Nepali Times newspaper in Kathmandu ,who is also teaching a course on the Himalayas for J-term.