Climate Lessons: Environmental, Social, Local
Marja Bakermans, Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Copyright Year: 2021
Publisher: Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Conditions of Use
Climate change is a huge topic that no text can cover comprehensively. However the scope of this textbook hits all areas I want in my class: the science of climate change, the social impact with a focus on inequities, cases studies of specific... read more
Climate change is a huge topic that no text can cover comprehensively. However the scope of this textbook hits all areas I want in my class: the science of climate change, the social impact with a focus on inequities, cases studies of specific communities, and examples of solutions. There are many sources cited at the end of each chapter for further investigation.
However I was a little disappointed in the chapters focused on specific communities located under the third unit, Communities and Climate Change. I did not see a clear focus, main point or lesson learned in these chapters. For example, the chapter on Boston was interesting in the historical view it took in how Boston was addressing climate change, but I would like to have seen the authors take a strong position or make an insightful point through this discussion.
Because I’m an ELL teacher and not science teacher, I can’t speak authoritatively to the content accuracy.
The shelf life of any textbook on climate change is going to going to be short because of the nature of the topic. This textbook is no different. There was much discussion of the Paris Accords, which is less relevant than it was 4-7 years ago. I also noticed that many of the sources in the post-chapter bibliographies were written before 2018.
The explanations are clear for someone who does not have a science background with friendly language for English language learners (ELL) students. The text is not overly technical or jargon-laced with short paragraphs, supporting examples that help clarify, and images and graphs to further support the text. That said, this is a textbook, and the text has the same limitations of the genre with a narrative that is objective, dry and often decontextualized.
Despite the fact and challenge of many authors writing a textbook – most of them undergraduate students in a class on climate change – I still found the text to be internally consistent in terms of terminology and framework.
Abstracts at the beginning of each chapter summarize the content and provide helpful previews. Some of the chapters end with a concluding paragraph that serves as a summary at the end of each chapter, but not all which is a little confusing. Chapters might have benefited with bullet points naming main points. Links for more information might have been helpful. But overall, the modularity of this online book is well-organized making it easy to assign different chapters at different points of the semester without consideration of the ordering of the chapters.
Well-organized. Their is a clear organization to the content chapters with accessible previews. The major units go from science, to social impacts, to case studies of communities. And ends with solutions. Unlike other textbooks I’ve seen, the science of climate change is organized according to earth systems. Though the authors acknowledge that these systems are interconnected and the chapters reflect that, I wonder if this organizational framework makes it harder to see the whole interconnected picture of climate change.
Clear navigational system. However there is not an option for a side bar with a table of contents that I’ve seen in other online textbooks that makes navigation much easier. Some of the graphs are a little blurry.
I caught no grammatical errors and found the writing to be clear and straight forward.
The text takes a truly global look at climate change with case studies drawn from diverse corners of the world. There is also significant discussion around how climate change impacts people differently based on social inequities.
The book covers several topics on socio-ecological systems, and it is clear that they are not trying to cover every single topic. Instead, they are providing a framework, and enough explanation so that students can apply these ideas to topics of... read more
The book covers several topics on socio-ecological systems, and it is clear that they are not trying to cover every single topic. Instead, they are providing a framework, and enough explanation so that students can apply these ideas to topics of their choice.
Overall, most of the chapters are well-written and informative. For the last chapters, it appears the students worked on advocacy projects and presented them as part of a culminating activity for the course. If an instructor were to assign this book to a class, I would suggest reviewing chapters 13-16 to determine if they are all necessary. Chapter 14, in particular, was very well done.
The book was co-authored by undergraduate students, and that alone should make it exceedingly relevant to undergraduate readers. Of course, the book covers climate change and human impacts. Our knowledge about these subjects is changing every day. It would be impossible to write a book on these topics that would not become obsolete within a short period of time. However, the book is written in a way to motivate students to do their own research and apply the ideas to other case studies. The case studies and facts should be relatively easy to update.
This book would be easy for college freshmen to read.
In the introduction of section 2, the authors introduce the terminology Majority World and Minority World Countries to avoid using derogatory language like developed/developing world, First/Third World, Global North/South, etc. The words are linked to a website that explains a lesson plan for students learning about global development issues. The words Majority and Minority are not defined in either the book or the linked website, but it is assumed that the combined Majority Countries have the majority of the world's population and the combined Minority Countries have less. However, these terms are not used elsewhere in the book.
The book consists of 16 chapters divided into four sections. Each section starts with a 1/2-1 page overview. Each chapter is about 6 single-spaced pages long. I can see assigning a chapter to my college freshmen for homework to use as a jumping-off point for them to conduct more research on each topic. For example, chapter 14 presents a five-point decision tree to evaluate potential technical solutions on scope, the problem addressed, the effect on the community and environment, implementation time, and cost-effectiveness. After reading this chapter, students can identify their own solution and evaluate it by applying this matrix.
The sections and chapters are very well-organized. The first section focuses on physical and natural processes related to climate systems. The second section explains human-environment interactions associated with climate change. The third section reviews four case studies to delve deeper into how communities around the world deal with climate change impacts. The examples examine communities at different scales (state, city, country, region).
Very few (I noticed three) figures are blurry but are still legible. The authors include conceptual maps of each case study in Chapter 4 that are too small to read as-is, but can be read when zoomed in. The captions call them "appendices," but they are not available in the Appendix section. I was disappointed that there are only three pictures with people in the background in a book that seeks to integrate social and natural systems. The book could do more to visually "put a human face" on climate change.
I did not see any grammatical errors except in chapter 15, for example, "However, this system is the largest reason why stigmas spread quickly, and as a result, benefit perception towards nuclear energy is getting more increasingly rare." It is unclear what is meant by "benefit perception." There are other phrases in chapter 15 that impede comprehension.
It is clear that the authors made an intentional effort to provide examples from all over the world - Siberia, Afghanistan, South Africa, and Hawai'i, are just a few.
I have been teaching a college-freshman general education course on socio-ecological systems for the last five years. I had to put together my own materials because there were no textbooks available at the time. The organization of this book is very close to how I've constructed my class. I will strongly consider using this book. It is sure to be very motivating to my students since it is written by their peers.
Table of Contents
- Part I. Climate Systems
- 1. Atmosphere
- 2. Hydrosphere
- 3. Cryosphere and Lithosphere
- 4. Biosphere
- Part II. Social Impacts of Climate Change
- 5. Climate Change Impacts on Food Systems
- 6. The Societal Impacts of Climate Change on Water Resources
- 7. Climate Change Impacts on Human Health
- 8. Inequalities Due to Climate Change
- Part III. Communities and Climate Change
- 9. Puerto Rico
- 10. Boston
- 11. The Himalayas
- 12. Fiji
- Part IV. In Search of Solutions
- 13. Rigged for Oil Rigs
- 14. Climate Change Impacts on Native Hawaiian Population
- 15. Destigmatizing Nuclear Energy to Decarbonize the Worlds' Power Supply
- 16. Small Scale Carbon Capture Implementation and Utilization
About the Book
Anthropogenic climate change is one of the, if not the most, pressing issues of our times. The problems that it causes range across many social and environmental domains from habitat and species loss and displacement to the more human and social concerns and issues of access to water, sea level rise that affects coastal communities, to economic degradation as a result of the aforementioned and other connected issues such as increased frequency of storms, droughts, wildfires, and the like. We also know that the affects of climate change are not distributed evenly across populations- that many will and do feel the negative effects of this slow developing problem earlier and more intensely than others based on where they are located both geographically and within economic and other socio-cultural hierarchies. We also know that recently, there is a marked effort to begin to move away from simply decrying the horrors of climate change to a continued recognition of those horrors as they exist now and into the future alongside attempts to begin to come to terms with the changing climate and to rethink the ways that our social and environmental relations and communities are organized with an eye toward both adapting to these changes and mitigating further damage. There is, however, much work to be done. This book was co-authored by undergraduate students at Worcester Polytechnic Institute while exploring the influences of Earth systems and human systems on climate change and the communities at most risk in an interdisciplinary project-based first year course. This course attempts to bring together knowledge of the science of ecological and climate systems and their changing status with knowledge of the social and communal structures within which these systems are embedded and through which they have been influenced. The book highlights key interests and insights of current students in their quest to think through these issues and to create a better world.
About the Contributors
Marja Bakermans, Worcester Polytechnic Institute