Students in canoes on Anacostia River

Environment, Technology and Economy (ETE) Scholars students participate in a field trip each year where they canoe down the Anacostia River and learn about human impacts on the wetland. In other parts of the world, human impacts have led to climate migration. PHOTO: ETE

3 Theme Questions With... Tim Knight

This is the first entry in our blog series, "Three Theme Questions with..." Throughout the year, our Scholars faculty and staff across programs will share their responses to three questions around our 2018–19 annual theme, "Migrations: Populations and Practices on the Move." The questions typically will focus on resources program directors are using for their colloquia. These resources might be field trips, films, readings and moreOur first response comes from Director Tim Knight.

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Name: Tim Knight

Program: Environment, Technology and Economy (ETE)

Resource: Why climate migrants do not have refugee status,” from The Economist

Q1: How do you use this resource in your classroom, and what led you to choose this article?

ETE students read a series of pieces over the summer before their first year. Some of these I reuse from year to year, as they are fundamental to our curriculum. Gary Hirshberg's “No Such Place as Away” is an example of this kind of reading. Others vary from year to year. I was inspired to choose this piece about climate migrants by this year’s Scholars theme, “Migrations.” I chose a literal interpretation of migration, namely the movement of people from one place to another, and tied it to ETE’s sustainability focus by linking it to climate change. As the world warms, places once hospitable to human habitation will become less so, and people will have to move to survive. I particularly like this piece because it ties an environmental issue--climate change--to issues of economic justice and politics.

Q2: What kinds of reactions do you hope for with this reading?

This is the first year I have assigned this particular reading, so I don’t know yet how students might react. In the past, I have found that they are eager to engage with ideas of environmental justice and broaden their understanding of what sustainability means.

Q3: What does “Migrations” mean to your Scholars program?

In ETE, we take an intersectional approach to sustainability. As such, the “Migrations” theme is a perfect entree into ideas of environmental justice and how the costs of environmental degradation are not evenly distributed among different populations. Marginalized communities are left adrift after environmental disasters, while more privileged ones have the resources to move somewhere new. Impoverished nations like Kiribati and Bangladesh will bear the brunt of sea-level rise, while richer nations can afford to explore technological solutions. We look forward to exploring these ideas with the greater Scholars community this year.


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