Last week I got to do a public interview with one of my long-time heroes, Naomi Klein, whom we’d invited to Middlebury to give the 2020 Margolin Lecture.
We started by watching A Message from the Future, her short film envisioning what a successful Green New Deal could look like. After being introduced by her friend, Bill McKibben, she delivered a powerful lecture tracing the interlocking crises — social, political, economic, ecological — that define the current moment, and the proportionately integrated forms of struggle needed to confront these crises. We left plenty of time for discussion. I posed a series of questions synthesized from conversations with students exploring what it means to be coming of age in an age of climate breakdown before opening it up to questions from the audience.
The place was packed and pretty lively, with folks squeezed into the aisles, spilling out into the hallways, and ultimately rising for a big standing ovation at the end. Here’s the video from the event:
To continue building on the themes of Klein’s lecture, I also organized a follow-up panel the next week broadly themed around my ongoing project, A Clear and Present Pedagogy. I invited an interdisciplinary group of colleagues including Carolyn Finney (Environmental Studies), James Chase Sanchez (Writing & Rhetoric), Jamie McCallum (Sociology), Kirsten Coe (Biology), and Tara Affolter (Education), to engage in dialogue around the following prompt:
The climate crisis confronts each of us, including and especially young people, with urgent questions and bewildering choices about how to live, who to be, what to learn, where to go and what to do at this momentous historical crossroads.
Building on Naomi Klein’s Margolin Lecture from the previous week, this event will bring together students and faculty to discuss how and why college (i.e. what we’re all doing right now) might matter, or might come to matter, as we confront increasingly turbulent planetary futures. What can (and arguably should) college offer to young people as they prepare to join this pivotal historical moment? What does it mean for our students — from dancers and economists to marine biologists, elementary school teachers, and computer scientists — to be coming of age in an age of climate catastrophe? And what would an education that is proportionate to the dire urgencies and radical implications of the climate crisis look like?
I was excited to learn that the student organizing collective I’d been working with on this event had nominated two freshman students to represent them, one of whom produced this sick poster, and both of whom crushed it at the event with their thoughtful and earnest (and challenging!) questions.