Can you tell us about your current project on climate justice and children's literature?
A few years ago, I started experiencing intense climate grief. News of extreme weather events would just leave me despondent. I would start thinking, “What’s the use of my research and writing when the world is burning? How come people don’t seem to care about these heat waves and firestorms and superstorms?” To deal with my anguish and paralysis, I started getting involved with a local climate justice group and reading essays by climate activists. I realized then that a lot of people—including children and teens—do care. I also recognized that I can use my knowledges and academic training to contribute to the fight for a better world, a world where we care for one another and our planet.
My current project is hopefully one such contribution. I’m working on a book manuscript that is tentatively titled When Oil and Childhood Mix. It examines the ways fossil fuel industries are represented in children’s books. I’m still in the early stages of my research, but I’ve come across a number of picture books, nonfiction titles, and comics that depict coal, fracked gas, and oil as essential fuels that power the United States, that guarantee American exceptionalism. But there are also books that try to imagine a world beyond fossil fuels and encourage young people to recognize the terrible consequences of our continued dependence on coal, methane, and petroleum.
I also think a lot about how we can develop what I would call “climate justice pedagogies.” How can climate justice movements inform our teaching practices? I’m interested in how, in teaching about climate change, we can integrate literature and the arts and encouraging climate activism. I’m also looking at ways we can reorient teaching away from ideologies of extraction and accumulation and toward values such as renewal, reciprocity, repair, and community. I don’t think we have to reinvent the wheel here. We can turn to already existing critical pedagogy frameworks and models of equitable and accessible teaching to foster learning even in the face of increasingly more frequent climate disasters and to resist neoliberal education that treats people and nature as resources to be exploited.
I’m interested in how, in teaching about climate change, we can integrate literature and the arts and encouraging climate activism."