The KIE and Ethics Lab hosted more than 100 students in a seminar on the ethics of climate change this week. The seminar was a component of Georgetown’s Core Pathways program, a program allowing undergraduate students to fulfill Georgetown’s core and elective requirements through an interdisciplinary collection of courses that address a complex global challenge. This year’s focus is climate change. Participating students come together for an integrated seminar twice a semester on the year’s selected topic.
KIE faculty and staff members Elizabeth Edenberg, Jonathan Healey, Kelly Heuer, and Nico Staple mediated the program’s first integrated seminar. Using principles from the design-based learning methods in Ethics Lab, the course took a hands-on approach to learning. Students began the session with a stack of sticky notes which were used to quantify individual carbon footprints using a series of questions regarding their lifestyle choices, including:
- How many times a week do you eat beef or lamb?
- How much of your waste do you recycle?
- How many bags of garbage does your house throw out each week?
- Approximate the number of round trip flights of each type you have taken in the past year?
- When you do travel by vehicle, what do you usually use?
Students added sticky notes for choices that prompt higher levels of carbon emissions. They subtracted notes for greener lifestyle choices.
As students measured their carbon footprint, a discussion on the impact of single individual’s lifestyle choices began. Students learned about Downs’ Paradox and the moral importance of collective, rather than individual, action, particularly in the case of large-scale climate change.
Students then learned about advocating for change using moral language, specifically through moral appeals to consequences, rules, and character.
Using what they learned, students put this moral language into action. Armed with glue sticks and markers, students created posters advocating for reducing our collective carbon footprint using a specific type of moral language. Students shared their posters with their peers and worked together to identify which posters were rule-based, consequences-based, or character-based. Some posters will be put on display in front of the Bioethics Research Library in Healy Hall.
The KIE and Ethics Lab will host another Integrated Ethics Day with the Core Pathways Program next semester. Its topic will be global justice and climate change.