Living with Climate Change

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Fall 2018, Winter 2019, and Spring 2019 quarters

Taught by

mathematics, history of science

Climate change is happening. The lack of action by our public- and private-sector leaders has created a reality where catastrophic effects of climate change seem unavoidable. What are the consequences of that reality, across global regions and here in the Pacific Northwest? What can we expect to happen as our planet's basic physical and biological systems encounter greater stress?

In fall we will define climate carefully, examine the related major Earth systems, and review the geologic evidence for massive climate changes in Earth’s history. We will review the overwhelming evidence that our climate is undergoing rapid, powerful changes. Finally, we will consider the scientific evidence, past and present, that human activity profoundly affects the atmosphere and the biosphere that depends upon it, and consider various scenarios for the future based upon that evidence. Students will complete a research paper, with the option of publishing it to an online academic journal.

In winter quarter students will develop and enact one or more projects to query, lobby, or otherwise engage with local institutions, with the goal of promoting active planning for the likely impacts of catastrophic climate change in our local communities. We will consider the range of institutions that already exist from local farms, to activist groups, to state and local governments and ponder the question of what new institutions might be useful to weather the changes to come. Who are the stakeholders now, and how might they change over the next two or three decades? How can our communities plan for, among other things, a wave of climate-driven migration, the disruption of national and international food systems, and changes to our watershed ecologies? In order to effectively engage with local institutions, students will gain basic statistical skills, including: interpreting graphics, organizing data, representing data visually, using quantitative information to support positions, and communicating technical information in conversational English. This quarter will include one night per week dedicated to introductory statistics or basic GIS software, knowledge and skills that students will use to inform their project work (25 seats for each option). Students will develop a written civic action plan with clear steps and achievable goals, and follow through on that plan. The quarter will conclude with a public symposium.

Spring will lead us toward the study of agriculture and the adaptation of our food production systems. As extreme weather events and climate change threaten those systems, community members may need to produce food, either on their own land or in shared community gardens. Working with the Evergreen Organic Farm and/or other nonprofits, we will learn the fundamentals of plant physiology and biology, and gain practical, hands-on know-how about growing food, taking into consideration changes in seasonal weather patterns over the next three decades and beyond. Students will learn social science research methods and complete a project on local farmers’ plans for climate change adaptation. This quarter will end with students prepared to be community leaders in the area of climate change preparation and adaptation, including a potential mentoring role in future iterations of this program.

Anticipated credit equivalencies include: climate change studies, political ecology, civic and community studies, introduction to Geographic Information Systems (GIS), introduction to statistical analysis, introduction to plant biology and physiology, and social science research methods.

Research Opportunities

Spring 2019:  social science research project involving surveys and semi-structured interviews with local farmers, regarding their plans for climate change adaptation.  Students may become co-authors of a published article or conference presentation.

Program Details

Fields of Study

ecology environmental studies geography sustainability studies writing

Preparatory For

climate change research and adaptation, social sciences and research, political ecology, climate change policy


Fall Open Winter Open Spring Open

Location and Schedule

Campus Location


Time Offered

Evening and Weekend

Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning

May be offered again in