Curriculum

Climate change is arguably the central moral, economic, social, and environmental issue of our time. The UK has exhibited significant leadership on climate issues, with much of that work centered in London. The spring 2021 London Program will focus on exploring the concept of “climate resilience."

Climate resilience can be generally defined as the capacity for complex ecological-social systems to (1) maintain fundamental characteristics and functions in response to external stress imposed by climate change, and (2) adapt, reorganize, and otherwise change in ways that prepare them for additional climate stress.

London provides a case study that is inspiring, yet also represents the complexities and challenges that communities all over the world face. For example:

  • London has a goal of becoming one of the most climate-resilient cities in the world, yet many of the factors that make London a global center for culture and commerce also render it vulnerable to current and future impacts of climate change.
  • London is a diverse city and contains a concentration of groups that are likely to be disproportionately impacted by climate change; issues of climate justice are evident and provide a rich opportunity for study.
  • There is considerable climate activism in the UK. The “Transition Town” movement was initiated in the UK but is now global in application. A focus on local self-reliance represents one important strand of community resilience.

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Faculty

John Petersen, Environmental Studies & Biology

“The challenges of climate change are already affecting everyone everywhere on earth, and this will accelerate in the years ahead. My background is in 'systems ecology,' a field that focuses on understanding flows of energy, cycles of materials, and feedback control operating in complex systems. The London Program provides a unique opportunity to explore the complex interplay between social and ecological systems in response to a rapidly changing climate in one of the premier cities in the world.

‘‘I am excited by the prospect of working with students to apply a systems framework, focused on the concept of resilience, to discover the various ways in which social, technological, and ecological systems are adapting in response to the climate crisis. I’m equally excited by the unique opportunities for hands-on, experiential, and collaborative learning that the London Program affords.

’’For over a decade, Cindy Frantz and I have been working with each other and with students on research that promotes systems thinking and behavior change. I’m excited to collaborate with Program participants in the design of projects focused on understanding resilient systems in London.”
More about John Petersen

Cindy Frantz, Psychology

“I am a social and environmental psychologist who has spent my career thinking about how to change human behavior to be more sustainable, and how to help humans resolve conflict more effectively. Responding to the climate crisis will require us to do both! I have been a frequent visitor to London, but have not yet had the pleasure of engaging in systematic people-watching.

’’London will provide the perfect venue for observing how one of the most international and ethnically diverse cities in the world creates community and resilience in the face of rapidly changing conditions. Another focus of my research is understanding humans’ psychological connection to the natural world. Thus I am also looking forward to field trips into the English countryside (Cotswolds and Stonehenge, here we come!), where we can deepen our connection to the natural world and reflect on the choices local UK governments make to preserve natural beauty.

’’John Petersen and I have worked together for over 10 years. Exciting things happen when people from different disciplines sit down to work on solving problems together. I look forward to welcoming a new group of students into the conversation as we tackle London together.”
More about Cindy Frantz