10 courses with something to teach you about climate

The need for knowledge and skills to respond to climate change and other climate-related issues is intensifying, and at Portland State there are many opportunities to learn more and contribute. 

Students, regardless of their area of study, can explore how to address environmental issues in their professional, academic and personal lives. 

Here are 10 courses for spring term that focus on climate, spanning the fields of geology, arts, international studies, Native American Studies, English, anthropology, communications and economics. 

Severe Weather (GEOG 314U)

This course examines severe and hazardous weather processes such as hurricanes, tornadoes and thunderstorms. It evaluates the human-environment interaction of severe weather and the potential consequences of global climate change. The Physical Geography class (GEOG 210) is a recommended prerequisite. 

Artist as Citizen (COTA 335)

Students in this course will collaborate with socially engaged musicians, community organizers and activists, local business owners and Vestal Elementary school students to highlight the school’s local actions projects. At Vestal’s Social Justice Night, student-led projects addressing social justice issues like climate change will be highlighted in an evening filled with music, food, art and celebration.

Seminar: Climate & Society (INTL 407/507)

Societal impacts, social vulnerability and responses in the context of ongoing climate change in developing countries will all be under examination in this seminar. Key topics include demystifying climate science, societal transformations under climate change, the politics of sustainable development and climate migration.

First Foods of the Pacific NW (NAS 410)

Investigate the interconnected social, cultural and political relationships between Indigenous food systems, spirituality, kinship, food sovereignty and ecology. With examples centered on the Pacific Northwest, students will contemplate and learn about Traditional Ecological Cultural Knowledge and the impact of colonization on Indigenous food systems and landscapes from a place-based lens. The course will incorporate experiential forms of learning, including nine weeks of hands-on activities, trips to the field to learn from Indigenous community members and the land and with guest speakers. The class culminates with a community meal on campus. Introduction to Native American Studies (NAS 201) is a prerequisite.

Seminar: Environmental Theater (ENG 407)

Visit Portland theaters to understand how theater can change the environment and how the dynamic environments in which theater takes place change what happens on stage. This course features deep readings of contemporary plays and ecological criticism, trips to current shows and meetings with artists who reflect on the environmental impact of their work. Topics include environmental justice, apocalyptic narratives and possibilities for collective action.

Climate Risks & Vulnerabilities (ESM 464)

Those seeking to manage climate risks will need to understand the fundamentals of adaptation planning, climate impacts, risk and vulnerability and implementation. With an adaptation-centered view, these managers can focus on the power of local actors to develop strategies that protect and facilitate human and environmental values under threat from climate change. This course has a prerequisite of Introduction to Environmental Management (ESM 335) or equivalent.

Environmental Anthropology (ANTH 418)

How can one examine contemporary environmental problems from an anthropological lens? This course features cross-cultural study of human-environmental relations, which can improve understanding of contemporary environmental problems and their solutions. Topics include environmental change, adaptation, conservation and sustainability, biocultural diversity, resilience, political ecology and environmental justice. This class requires upper-division standing and may be taken as one graduate level credit (ANTH 518). 

Forest Ecology (ESM 444) 

Students in this course will study forested ecosystems and their biotic and abiotic drivers. They will also examine theories and tools used to understand forest ecosystems and project how they will change. Key issues include forest succession, carbon and nitrogen dynamics of forests, forest soils, climate, weather, water and energy balances and disturbances. The course is limited to environmental science and management majors and has prerequisites of Environmental Systems (ESM 320) and Environmental Systems II (ESM 321). 

Environmental Campaigns (COMM 327)

Professional environmental communicators will be a necessary piece in combating issues such as climate change. This course introduces the principles of environmental communication and environmental campaigns. It will allow students to improve environmental literacy, learn to communicate about the environment with different audiences and develop other skills required to be a professional environmental communicator. These skills can also transfer to an array of communication-related careers.

“Responding to the climate crisis requires effective communication about the environment and data-driven public engagement strategies,” Professor Brianne Suldovsky said. “This class prepares students to engage public groups about environmental issues like climate change with a special emphasis on environmental campaigns.”

Economics of Environmental Issues (ECON 332U)

This course introduces basic economic concepts and tools fundamental to understanding the social, economic and environmental impacts of current and proposed environmental policies. It will examine issues from local, national and global environmental perspectives.