Notre Dame Magazine puts a spotlight on Roy Scranton's Witnessing Climate Change humanities-based course

Author: Paul Cunningham

Scranton Witnessing Climate Change 1

Scranton’s course is called Witnessing Climate Change, developed as part of his fellowship with the Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study. It coalesces his scholarship and interest in fostering “conversations about climate change that didn’t focus on the science, that didn’t focus on policy, but rather focused on questions of value and meaning,” he says. “How do we make sense of this thing that’s happening to us?”

In the Winter 22-23 Notre Dame Magazine article, "How Can We Live With Ourselves?," associate editor Jason Kelly provides an insightful overview of Roy Scranton's Witnessing Climate Change course, noting the various ways the professor has challenged his students to consider human-driven climate change not only as passive observers of nature, but as active witnesses to devastating environmental crisis on a global scale. Citing the "metaphor of witnessing" as the "core" of his course structure, Scranton makes the claim that to witness means "both seeing and understanding what's happening, and testifying and talking about it." 

Kelly further notes how the importance Scranton places on a word like "witnessing" results in a distinction that communicates both "human responsibility" and "vivid immediacy" for the students enrolled in Witnessing Climate Change. From poetry readings to treks to campus lakes to visits from Notre Dame biologists Jason McLachlan and Jennifer Tank, Scranton's students contemplate questions of science, policy, power, and spirituality in order to complete a variety of creative nonfiction projects.

"They draw on journalistic reporting, scientific research, theological and philosophical thought, artistic expression and personal experience," writes Kelly. "To deepen their understanding of who they are — and to deliberate what it means to be human — on a planet in perilous flux."

Read the full article in Notre Dame Magazine