Food, Water, Air, and Climate: Critical Topics in Sustainability

Presented by Debra Javeline

This course will introduce teachers to critical global environmental problems and, importantly, their potential solutions. Global population is commonly projected to reach 9 or 10 billion people in the coming decades, and we currently have trouble feeding the 7.3+ billion already in existence, so we will first tackle issues of food availability and quality. In many places in the world, we are running out of drinking water or polluting the water that was once drinkable, so we will next tackle issues of water scarcity and contamination. More than 82,000 chemicals are used in industrial processes. Only about 2 percent of these chemicals have been tested for carcinogenicity, neurotoxicity, endocrine disruption, or other harmful effects, no chemicals have been tested in combination with other chemicals, and only five have been outlawed since the 1976 enactment of the Toxic Substances Control Act, so we will discuss this chemical proliferation, the overconsumption that drives it, and the resulting waste that infiltrates the air we breathe. Finally, the world is being transformed by climate change, with dramatic effects on our ecosystems, coastlines, public health, and urban environments. We will review both the science and politics of climate change and its impacts. Studying such topics can be a gloomy pursuit, and we will look for optimism amidst the gloom: What are the best opportunities, scientific and political, for saving the planet? We will also discuss the school setting, how these issues affect our young students, and what and how to teach students about their changing planet.

About Debra Javeline

Debra Javeline received her BA from Brown University and PhD from Harvard University. She is currently an Associate Professor of Political Science and a fellow at Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, Kellogg Institute for International Studies, and the Environmental Change Initiative. Javeline specializes in the central global challenge of our time, climate change and adapting to its impacts. She is also a scholar of the former Soviet Union with a thematic focus on political conflict, political psychology, and political behavior and a methodological focus on survey research. The linkage between her prior and current work comes in the study of critical world problems and how people cope. Her two current book projects are After Violence: The Beslan School Massacre and the Peace that Followed and Solutions: Science, Politics, and Saving the Planet. She is also collaborating with Notre Dame engineers on a research project on “Coastal Homeownership in a Changing Climate: A Study of Risk Awareness, Risk Reduction, and Resilience.” At Notre Dame, she has taught Sustainability: Principles and Practices (the gateway course to the sustainability minor), Food Politics, The Politics of Adapting to Climate Change, and Solutions: Science, Politics, and Saving the Planet, as well as Soviet and Post-Soviet Russia and Survey Research Methodology. Javeline participates in community outreach on climate change. Given the lack of opportunities to understand climate change and its impacts within standard curricula or community activities, she visits universities, schools, and community groups with the goal of making the complex issue of climate change digestible for a variety of audiences. She is a presenter with the Climate Reality Leadership Corps and a member of the Scholars Strategy Network.