Talking about Climate Change and Game of Thrones

 

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This morning Brittany Patterson of ClimateWire published a great article in which our class (and our moments of despair) is featured: Can ‘Game of Thrones’ get people to talk about climate change?

I’d honestly be eager to hear your thoughts in response to this question. We’ve taken on similar questions in class, but this is more immediate: how can making connections between trending pop culture (like Game of Thrones — 8 million people watched the Season 5 premiere three weeks ago) aid discussion about climate change issues and themes?

If I teach this class again, I’ll find a way to include Game of Thrones and the larger discussion it’s provoking:

The parallels between the television drama and both the political and scientific discussions related to climate change are striking, said Manjana Milkoreit, a research fellow at Arizona State University. Milkoreit conducted an analysis of how the television show is being used by a handful of “scientists, science communicators and geeks” to break through the hard-to-explain science to engage Americans about the dangers of rising global temperatures.

Captain Obvious Alert

Game-of-Thrones-Season-3-DanyToday Reuters released what is supposed to be the first part of a string of articles by Kyle Plantz, who interviewed me a few weeks ago about our class. Suffice to say that if I knew the article was going to be about Game of Thrones I would have been super-pumped, as it is literally the only TV show I like other than Antiques Roadshow.

But here we are at the end of the piece:

But Ted Howell, who teaches a climate fiction class at Temple University in Philadelphia, said film-goers may be getting the wrong idea about what climate change looks like.

“Some people think (climate change) is going to be this massive tidal wave or giant snowstorm, but it’s actually slower than that,” he said.

Thank you, Captain Obvious.

I jest, but Kyle’s piece is really excellent and I can’t wait to read the next one.

Selections from Red Mars

KRS trilogy 1992-1996 first British editionsI promised to post a PDF with selections from Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars for those who are interested in checking out the book. Here’s the PDF: Red Mars.

I’ve taught this selection as a standalone reading before, so it works as introduction to the book. Here’s a reading guide in the event that you want to get started:

Red Mars is a book about the colonization of Mars. In the year 2026, 100 people leave Earth for Mars on the spaceship Ares. Many of the people aboard are either Russian or American, for the mission has been funded and organized by these two countries. Once the “First Hundred,” as they are known, leave Earth, they remain in touch with mission control and the governments (and companies) who have funded their trip; the folks on Earth are ostensibly “in charge,” but because the First Hundred are millions of miles away Earth has few ways of exercising control.

Here are some characters you need to know about:

Nadia (Chernyshevski) – Engineer and contractor responsible for building the first settlement on Mars, which is soon called “Underhill.” The section we are reading is written from Nadia’s point of view.

Ann (Clayborne) – American geologist who comes to study the surface and geological history of Mars.

Sax (Saxifrage Russell) – American physicist known for his detachment and sharp, analytic mind.

John (Boone) – American astronaut. He was the first human to step foot on Mars during an earlier space mission, and as a result is the most famous person on Earth and on Mars.

Maya (Toitovna) – Russian astronaut and politician. She is the leader of the Russian contingent.

Frank (Chalmers) – American astronaut and politician. He is the leader of the American contingent.

Arkady (Bogdanov) – Russian astronaut whose main role as member of the First Hundred is to design simulations that test and provide practice for the First Hundred’s attempt to land their ship on Mars. On their way to Mars, Arkady pointed out that they no longer needed to follow instructions from Earth, and could make their own decisions about the future of Mars.

Audit

I’ve taken a plethora of English classes over the course of my college career, but definitely none quite like this one. I honestly had no idea what to expect once I registered for this class, other than the fact that we would be doing a great deal of reading, but I can genuinely say I was not expecting it to be focused on climate change and apocalypse scenarios. With that being said, I definitely enjoy the topics read and discussed for the most part. At times the amount of science incorporated with these issues can be somewhat overwhelming and confusing, but other than that I find the readings and class discussions that follow to be informative and entertaining. I took a sustainable environment course last year and I feel that the class itself generally sparked my interest in the topic of climate change, so when I heard that this class would be specifically reading into that it definitely got my attention.

As for the blogging aspect of the class, this is something I’ve never done for a course. I believe at times it can be a little intimidating, but overall I find it to be very helpful for sorting out my own opinions and feelings towards each book along with seeing if someone else in the class agrees or disagrees with me. I find blogging about the required texts and books is something that has deemed itself very effective for this class. It is a way for the students who don’t necessarily feel comfortable enough to voice their opinions in class to do so via blog entry. I feel that it is also able to successfully engage every student equally. Even though I read all of my peer’s posts every week, I find myself forgetting to comment, so that is something I need to work on.

Audit

I didn’t know what to expect from an elective English course, but I can guarantee you that I did not expect it to be this “science-y.” It’s not necessarily a bad thing as I’ve been exposed to some fictional works that have been interesting and entertaining, works that I definitely would not have come across on my own which is pretty cool *cough cough* Parable of the Sower *cough cough*. I would’ve loved to have a book or two less to read for the class itself, but this is an English class and I understand that the amount of reading should be more than average.

The posting aspect of this class has such good intentions, but it’s definitely troublesome. I know my opinions are not nearly as strong and my knowledge not as vast as some others’ in the class which makes it hard to contribute equally. I think this disadvantage is often overlooked because, I’m sure, it would be expected that the class equally contribute and participate. That being said, I think I’ve done a pretty decent job of commenting on other peoples’ posts and reviews. At least, I’ve done what I think I’m capable of without making myself look like a complete fool. To be honest though, I’d prefer a couple of write-ups that were sent directly to the professor; but I think my feelings about this could be due to the fact that there are a couple of really opinionated students who aren’t afraid to voice their opinions, which isn’t a problem (that’s the point of college, to share different opinions and hear differing perspectives). The only issue I’ve come across is that I don’t personally feel comfortable enough with these topics of climate change and even works of literature to share my perspective. Simply put, I don’t think I bring anything valuable to the virtual table. I’m not ashamed to say that. After all, I signed up for this class so that I could learn.

Overall, the blog posts are a fine idea but they’re not for everybody. I think having required comments is smart though because it makes sure that everybody gets a little bit involved in the course.

Audit

I really like the blogging aspect of this course. I think it gives students the chance to say how they feel in a more casual way. Even though it’s public and can be a little intimidating, I still prefer this to writing actual papers for each book. I think that this is a much more interactive way to see what everyone else is thinking about the books we’ve read and see what alternate themes people picked up on while reading. I’ve never done blogging that is as extensive as this for a class, where we review each book we’ve read; it’s usually a lot less posting. But I like posting the reviews for each book because it gives me a chance to sort out how I feel about it before coming to class.

I think I’d prefer if we had mandatory reviews about the books we’re reading, and anything else we post or comment on could be extra credit. I’m not always searching the web for climate fiction news and when I did look, there wasn’t much that I could find that I thought was interesting and I didn’t want to post something just to fill a quota. I don’t think that that aspect of blogging is for everyone. People don’t always feel comfortable commenting on someone else’s post and like I mentioned, finding an article can be difficult. Hopefully I can find some interesting articles to post before the semester is over!

My Audit-_-

Originally, I did not like the requirement of posting online. I am bad with managing my time, so I have always hated when an instructor incorporated “online Participation” as part of the grade. However, I will admit this blog kind of grew on me. First, it has challenged me to force myself into managing my personal time better. Also, it has forced me to go in depth about my analysis. I have been able to watch my opinions get stronger, to realize why I do or do not like something! Another thing I have not realized until now, is that because this is not a formal paper, I have been able to develop my own voice/style. I like that we have the freedom to go in any direction with our analysis and connections.

I try to stay off most social media, so I don’t have a FB, Instagram, twitter, etc. So I’m definitely not used to posting things up, navigating, re-visiting, and commenting. I feel like that is something that I should be better at… responding and interacting with the other bloggers. But that’s a failing of my own, I like the website, how it’s set up, and how we get graded. Also, how we discuss the blog in class, that brings it back to the traditional form of learning (at least for me), and emphasizes important aspects of the book.

 

Audit

I think the blog aspect of this class is rather interesting. I have never been in an English Class quite like it, so it has taken some time to get used to. I am also not a blogger, so the whole entire process is brand new to me, but I cannot say that I haven’t enjoyed it. I do like the idea that we have an open forum for discussing the books, and that everyone gets a fair chance to express their views, especially because we always seem to run out of time in class. I think this is an excellent experiment, but with that being said, I would find myself rather unhappy if this were the way that all English classes were to be run from here on out. I have enjoyed this experience, but I don’t know that I would enter into it again. I also find writing reviews to be much harder than critical analyses, despite the fact that they are essentially the same. Putting the “review” spin on a book makes it harder for me to focus on the key issues that I would like to discuss, I am also not really accustomed to this writing style so it has taken some time for me to get adjusted to it.

As far as participation goes, I would love to be a more active participant in the blog, but just fully understanding how it works has taken me the whole first half of the semester. And now that I really do understand it better, I would be curious to see how much more active I can be. Also, I try to post stories from the popular media, but quite frankly I find them to be few and far between. I am not entirely sure that this is something which we haven’t discussed, but I do not find it easy to find even one story a week worth posting. I do not think it is impossible, but I would rather not clog up the blog with loads of nonsense.

I think that if I could do anything differently, and this is something I am frequently asked to think about being an education major, I think that I would perhaps offer a variety of assignments, rather than relying so heavily on the blog. It leaves students who are not comfortable with this form of work constantly worrying about their next post and whether or not it will be acceptable. I would like to maybe have some in class work that counts, because while having open discussion is one of my favorite forums for learning, I would like to actually do something that could perhaps help boost my grade if I am lacking in other areas (aka blog participation).

Finally, I do think that this blog is a good idea, and I hope that it does accomplish its purpose of spreading the word about climate change, but I think that at the end of the day, I would rather be without it.

Audit

The blog was a little intimating to me at first, as were the book reviews that were required of us. I was unsure of where to start with the first review, it was incredibly hard to write for some reason, and to know that they would be “public” was daunting. Thankfully, they got easier with practice. I find myself better able to express myself in writing, when I have the opportunity to reflect on the books, and craft a blog around that. The easy part for me was finding relevant information on the topics, since stories about “climate change” are quite widespread in the media these days (and I’m on the computer a lot at work). I actually started a “draft message” in my email, where I would save articles that I found pertinent to our class, with intentions of posting them when I had a chance. Naturally, some would get post beforehand!

This was the first time I used a blog as the primary method of communication for class. The good part is that everything is very accessible and in one spot for news, book reviews and other important information. I didn’t have to shift through papers to find out readings for the next week. I also found myself excited to share information that I found, hoping it would be interesting to the rest of the class, as well as, becoming enlightened by reading the other students posts/reviews. Though, I will make more of a concerted effort to be involved in “online conversations,” sometimes it gets difficult if I have limited time to post. I would also like to be notified of when someone posts on our articles, or book reviews. It would, I think, present good fairly instant discourse, instead of maybe never even realizing someone shared or differed from your own view.

I have had a positive experience with the blog so far, as I find it helpful to the class in numerous ways, and its ease of use. I’m undecided if I am comfortable with the “wider public” being able to read our posts, but I do think it helps for publicity of the class, university and subject matter. Making it more public would also aid in additional dialog on the posts. Overall, I think it is a great medium for this class and wish more would follow this format.

Audit

I’m not sure if my participation on the blog would show it, but I actually write a decent amount. This blog is a different beast from what I am normally used to however. I write fiction, specifically scripts for comics and movies, having little to no experience with a blog or reviews besides the odd school assignment. I am accustomed to people reading the thoughts and dialogue of my characters, but not the actual voice inside of my head.

 
So far I actually have enjoyed writing on a blog and have been thinking of starting my own when I have enough of my scripts finished ahead of time to share them. It is a good way to constantly update an audience on the thoughts and writing of an individual or a group. I tend to enjoy writing on a blog more than other types of class assignments because it gives me the freedom to write as if I was speaking and I do not have to adhere to standard writing for term papers or essays. The informality of the writing on the blog also makes it more accessible to post my thoughts and not be judged about how my writing sounds and who may be reading it. I have really enjoyed the majority of the books that we have read so far this semester, I was not aware that climate fiction would be able to house so many different types of stories and I am looking forward to the books in the back half of the semester.

 
Keeping up with a blog however is a lot more consistent work and thought than the two or three papers I have been assigned for every other class throughout college. It requires me to constantly be analyzing what is already being put on the blog in addition to the other student’s articles so I do not repeat anything. I find having to comment on other peoples blog posts to be my least favorite aspect of the blog because I usually do not have anything to say other than nice writing and that’s a great point. That is definitely the thing I need to pick up through the rest of the semester. Overall the blog has been entertaining and thought provoking which is usually completely absent from most college classes.