Professor to offer class on climate justice


SF State Professor Philip Klasky sits next to the pond with giant rocks on campus to take a portrait Wednesday,April 15. (Angelica Williams / Xpress)

Ethnic studies professor Philip Klasky garnered support and input from student activists for a new class on climate justice that could be offered next semester during a meeting April 9 at the J. Paul Leonard Library.

The class, called “Race, Activism and Climate Justice,” was proposed by Klasky in January and will explore the unequal effects climate change has on different groups of people. As both an academic and an environmental activist, he believes a class like this is long overdue at SF State.

“Studying climate change is not sufficient to look at the entire picture of the impact on different peoples–low income and peoples of color,” Klasky said. “When we look at the impact of climate change, we have already seen and will continue to see unequal impacts.”

Other universities in California have added climate justice to their class schedules and Klasky said he wanted to bring a similar course to SF State. He said the University should dedicate its resources to helping solve climate change problems.

Liana Derus, who studies environmental and sustainability issues and is a member of SF State’s Environmentally Concerned Organization of Students, an organization that promotes sustainability on campus, said she agreed with Klasky on the importance of studying environmental issues and dedicating University funds to the expansion.

“The year to care about (climate justice) was 50 years ago, not tomorrow, not next year,” Derus said. “It’s incredibly time-sensitive. I don’t think there’s a more important issue to be focusing on.”

Klasky reviewed the syllabus with students during the meeting and said the curriculum will include examining “cli-fi” or “climate-fiction” novels and movies, satirical bits from Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert and student-led discussions about the content of the class. He explained the course will be divided into three parts: understanding the science of climate change, environmental justice and solutions.

SF State Professor Philip Klasky sits next to the pond with giant rocks on campus to take a portrait Wednesday,April 15. (Angelica Williams / Xpress)
SF State Professor Philip Klasky sits next to the pond with giant rocks on campus to take a portrait Wednesday,April 15. (Angelica Williams / Xpress)

Imani C. Davis, a member of ECOS and the Black and Brown Liberation Coalition at SF State, said that studying both environment and social justice is crucial to understanding the environmental movement and other movements like Black Lives Matter.

“We’re all being oppressed by the same institutions, just in different ways,” Davis said.

Davis praised Klasky’s sensitivity with talking about an issue like climate change.

“He was really kind and gentle with the subject,” Davis said. “He understood just how deeply traumatic this stuff is and how after taking in the information, people needed to have a step back and talk. I think he would be a great professor for that.”

Unlike geoscience classes which explain the process of climate change, Klasky’s class will focus on the social justice aspect of climate change.

“This course is going to be very different from other courses on this campus, excellent courses on this campus, about climate change and environmental justice because this course will talk about issues of race, income and gender,” Klasky said.

Klasky said he has high hopes for the course because he wants it to be approved as a general education class so that a variety of people will take it, instead of only students interested in climate change.

“I predict that this class will be very popular, not because of me or whatever, but because students are so hungry right now to learn more about what’s happening to the environment,” Klasky said. “They’re freaked out and they don’t know what to do about it, like the general population.”

Derus said she is interested to see what the class will bring to the SF State community.

“I think it’s absolutely essential that a course like this comes to life, and I don’t see a better place for it than at SF State,” Derus said.