Climate change is an urgent and unprecedented problem; effectively addressing its challenges requires an ambitious reconfiguration of almost every aspect of contemporary life. Yet, as the past decades of climate advocacy attest, these changes will not be achieved unopposed, nor without significant disruptions to current social relations and cultural norms. Climate politics, accordingly, needs a better understanding of cultural politics: the disputed processes by which climate solutions and actors are made obvious or elided in the framing of social problems, and how older cultural legacies run deep within seemingly new environmental logics. Why, for example, do we seem to worry more about the climate impacts of individual consumer behaviours than collective action opportunities? When we say that we ‘believe’ in climate change, do we all mean the same thing? And who is this ‘we’ anyways?
This course focuses on culture as a site of potential and peril for the climate movement, emphasizing why climate change is taken up differently within and across different social groups, how some groups work to shape or foreclose different conceptualizations of the problem of climate change, and what’s gained and lost in approaching climate as an apolitical, rational, or universal issue.