Carnegie Mellon University

Grand Challenge First-Year Seminar: Environmental Justice

Course Number: 66-127

Wondering what the "Green New Deal" proposal is about? Does it seem like you have to choose between protecting people and protecting the planet? How does environmentalism connect to struggles over social justice and human rights? This first-year interdisciplinary seminar is an introduction to the Grand Challenge: Environmental Justice. In Giovanna de Chiro's words, the environmental justice movement is working "toward building diverse, dynamic, and powerful coalitions to address the world's most pressing social and environmental crises of global poverty and global climate change by organizing across scales and 'seeking a global vision' for healthy, resilient, and sustainable communities." In this seminar, we'll study the history and science behind two interconnected challenges for environmental justice: global climate change and fine-particulate air pollution. Both types of pollution start with combustion of fossil fuels. Particulate air pollution kills roughly 7 million globally each year; these air pollution deaths happen close to the source, with unequal levels of exposure and risk for people according to class and race. Climate change, mostly from carbon dioxide and methane emissions, is spread globally and lasts well beyond our lifetimes, yet the effects are again disproportionately based on class and race. In this course, we'll explore the science, history, ethics, and public perception of these problems, with implications for Pittsburgh and the planet, and for the near- and long-term future.

Semester(s): Spring