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Ecological, Political, Educational, and Social Disruption: Reflection on "Teaching for Turbulence" by Michael Maniates

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            Michael Maniates explains that often environmental science can be an ecological alternative to other natural sciences, though he also argues that this field of study should be more open to other disciplines and incorporate insights and perspectives from multiple lenses. He goes further and explains that to only address the scientific aspect of environmental issues, but specifically climate change, does not include the intersecting issues of race, class, geographical location, and other educational fields.

            Michael Maniates explains the difficulties of addressing an issue that is deeply rooted in the cultural, political, and economic systems that everyone is connected to and dependent on:  “They discover that the damage often flows from the very institutions-the market, pluralist democracy, education-that we often look to for solutions” (Maniates 257). I think one of the hardest parts of confronting climate change is that people are trying to find solutions to a type of catastrophe that is unprecedented and no one has ever experienced before.  Also, many who take on this challenge quickly realize that the solutions to slowing down the rate of extinctions and natural disasters involve dismantling our economic system, class structure, and the majority of our institutions. Next, it is essential to replace these systems with ecological alternatives that foster equality, coherence, and sustainability, which many do not understand or do not know how to create or implement. How do we give students the tools to figure out the solutions to these problems when no one has encountered them? “Students must critically assess them and carefully evaluate competing solutions” (Maniates 257). Can we still learn from the past to come up with answers to questions we have not yet asked? How do we solve problems when we do not fully understand the enigma in the first place?

            I think one way Michael Maniates suggests that people can try to solve these issues, specifically in a higher education setting, is including service learning, community projects, and research within and outside their communities. I think it is essential that students are confronting issues of climate change in a hands-on approach and seeing the natural disasters as apart of their classes. Michael Maniates explains that environmental studies is not just about learning and gathering information, but it mandates action and change: “Indeed, perhaps more than any other higher-education field of study, ESS understands and justifies itself as a problem-solving discipline” (Maniates 258). It is important that people feel a personal connection with the loss that comes with environmental degradation and its lasting effects. This is especially true on Bryn Mawr’s campus, where people who live close to a city rarely connect issues of race/class/gender with climate change and where environmentalism is often considered a separate and not as significant issue. It is crucial for students to encounter environmental racism in-person and see how people from different backgrounds confront climate change. I appreciated and had not considered how facing environmental devastation in-person can also be a source of inspiration and hope through seeing how others have dealt with and overcome disasters.

            Another issue with climate change and the environmental movement is the lack of access and dissemination of information about environmental concerns. Unfortunately, not only are the majority of researchers, activists, leaders, and scientists white and at least from the middle-class, but they often share their information with white middle and upper-class people. 

            Also, Maniates discusses how environmentalism has been a comfortable and considerate movement and that in order to bring about change it needs to rattle and question ways of protesting that goes beyond studies and conventional approaches.