(A.K.A. CLIMATE CRISIS 101)
The Climate Crisis, Part II
Local and Global Perspectives
Yes, this is the 2023 website for English 24, which is taught by Professor Ken Hiltner at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB).
I just stumbled on this page. What’s this all about?
This website contains a university course on the climate crisis. It is a complete course and completely open to the public. Although the only way to receive university credit is to take the course at UCSB, all of the course material is available, free of cost, from this page.
Eng 24 introduces students to a variety of perspectives on the climate crisis. In order to do so, nearly twenty scholars and activists will speak to the class about their work on the crisis.
Hence, Eng 24 is an unusual class. Unlike a conventional lecture, where a single instructor speaks to the class, students in Eng 24 will be learning from a range of exceptionally knowledgeable individuals, with the professor for the course (Ken Hiltner) facilitating the conversation.
During the Tuesday and Thursday lecture periods, Ken will ask these scholars and activists (who will be joining us remotely, as many are in different parts of the world) about their work. Hence, Eng 24 classes will be more discussion than lecture. Students will be able to take part in the discussion by asking questions to the speakers.Speakers for 2023
Here are a few of our speakers for the Spring of 2023:
- Bill McKibben has been called “probably the nation’s leading environmentalist” by The Boston Globe.
- Kim Stanley Robinson, a New York Times bestselling author and winner of the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards, is the most respected cli-fi (climate fiction) novelist writing today.
- Sarah Ray is a professor of Environmental Sciences, Studies, and Policy, as well as the author of A Field Guide to Climate Anxiety: How to Keep Your Cool on a Warming Planet.
- Naomi Oreskes is a professor of the History of Science, as well as author of Merchants of Doubt, Why Trust Science?, and The Big Myth.
- Ram Veerabhadran is a climate scientist, who, because of his close affiliation with Pope Francis, was influential in the creation of Laudato Si, the Pope’s encyclical on climate change.
- Sister True Dedication is a monastic at the Plum Village Community of Engaged Buddhism in southwest France and co-author of Zen and the Art of Saving the Planet.
- Peter Kalmus is a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and is the author of Being the Change: Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution.
- Elizabeth L. Cline is the author of Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion and The Conscious Closet: A Revolutionary Guide to Looking Good While Doing Good.
Eng 24 has a significant personal component. Indeed, if you really want to jump in and do something about the climate crisis but are not quite sure where to start, Eng 24 is designed to offer the examples of people who are making a difference in a variety of interesting ways.
In addition to the lectures, there will also be weekly readings and documentaries.
The course lecturer is Professor Ken Hiltner, who wrote and recorded all this material. Whenever something is written in the first person (i.e. “I believe that…”), it is Ken’s voice that you are hearing. In addition to the University of California, Santa Barbara, Ken has taught at Harvard, where he received his Ph.D., and at Princeton, where he served for a year as the Currie C. and Thomas A. Barron Visiting Professor in the Environment and Humanities at Princeton University’s Environmental Institute (PEI). Ken is the founding and current Director of both UCSB’s Environmental Humanities Initiative and the T. A. Barron Environmental Leadership Program.
He/His/Him; always “Ken,” never “Professor Hiltner.”
In one sense, the climate crisis is being caused by a rise in atmospheric CO2 and other so-called greenhouse gases. Science can address this cause.
However, approached in another way altogether, this crisis is being caused by a range of troubling human activities that require the release of these gases, such as our obsessions in wealthy countries with endless consumer goods, cars, certain food, lavish houses, fast fashion, air travel, and a broad range of additional lifestyle choices. The natural sciences may be able to tell us how these activities are changing our climate, but not why we are engaging in them. That’s a job for the environmental humanities and social sciences.
In this course, we will see anthropogenic (i.e. human-caused) climate change for what it is and address it as such: a human problem brought about by human actions. Thus, we will be taking a long hard look – from the perspective of the environmental humanities – at these actions and how they are culturally constructed. In other words, we will be exploring why we do what we do, even when these actions are disastrous for our planet and our species (along with most other species on the planet).
While this largely academic question is interesting in its own right, the course is also meant to be deeply personal insofar as we will each be looking at our own actions and how they impact the planet and climate – as well as our own happiness and well-being, which have been in decline for many decades now as the result of these actions. Moreover, we will not just be considering our individual actions, but also forms of collective climate activism. Becoming engaged and active, whether simply by voting or by becoming a committed climate activist, is of paramount importance if we are to mitigate this crisis.
In this course, we will not generally be focusing on technologically-based solutions, but rather on human-based ones. In other words, instead of looking to technology for solutions to the problem of the climate crisis, we need to look at its cause directly: human action. While human action caused the climate crisis, the good news is that human action can go a long way toward solving it.
In short, this course is in many respects less about climate change than it is about human change.
As noted above, the climate crisis can be seen as a human problem brought about by human actions. In addition to seeing the problem in this way, the solutions to this crisis that have the greatest potential impact also center on human behavior (i.e. cultural norms) rather than just technological innovation.
According to Project Drawdown (see Scenario #1), which is the most comprehensive plan ever put forth to reverse global warming, the #1 thing that we can do to roll back global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions does not involve wind turbines, solar panels, electric vehicles, or any sort of similar technologies.
Instead, what is required is a cultural change regarding food: we need to waste far less of it and to switch to largely plant-rich diets. Doing so will result in a staggering reduction of 167 gigatons of CO2 or equivalent gases.
In comparison to this reduction, globally shifting from fossil fuels to electricity generated by photovoltaic (solar) panels will roll back less than half this amount of emissions. The adoption of electric vehicles? Far less than ten percent. We should, of course, work on exploring a variety of technologies to help reduce our emissions, but it is important to keep their relative impact in perspective.
Worldwide, agriculture is the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases, yet between 1/3 and 1/2 of all the food that we produce on this planet is wasted. Regarding the switch to a largely plant-rich diet, the same amount of greenhouse gasses is released in producing one pound of beef as is released in producing thirty pounds of lentils, also a great source of protein.
I know, changing how we eat doesn’t sound nearly as sexy as a self-driving electric car, but it would nonetheless be ten times better for the planet.
On a similar note, the #2 thing (according to Project Drawdown) that we can do to roll back GHG emissions is also a cultural issue that is a far cry from technology.
We need to educate more girls and women (which dramatically curbs population growth, as the more education a woman has, the fewer children she has) and promote family planning (globally, there are roughly 85 million unintended pregnancies every year).
This is not to say that we should place responsibility for this particular issue with girls and women. To the contrary, the responsibility lies with the institutions that restrict a woman’s access to education and control of her own body. And too, it is obviously the case that contraception is a male responsibility as well.
Why is population so important? Sixty years ago, the global population was about 3 billion. Currently, it is 8 billion. By 2050 it will be approaching 10 billion. The simple fact is that this many people are profoundly taxing the resources of our planet. Hence, reducing the population of our species is one of the main things that we can do to mitigate the climate crisis.
However, population is a complicated issue. As we shall see, when people in wealthy countries like the US. call for low and middle-income countries to reduce their population, this can sometimes be simply racist. The profound irony here is the poorest half of the world’s population have had a minimal impact on CO2 rise, yet will suffer the consequences of the climate crisis the most.
For the most part, these individuals, who are in low and middle-income countries, will suffer because of the actions of wealthy countries like the US. Astonishingly, the U.S. alone has produced five times more greenhouse gas emissions than the poorest 3 billion people on the planet. Please reread the last sentence and pause on it for a moment. This is a justice problem, a climate justice problem.
Taken together, these two cultural changes regarding food and population can take us nearly a quarter of the way to where we need to go to get GHG emissions under control. Note that very little is needed by way of technology here, as the necessary changes can be made right now by both individuals and a range of groups and institutions.
This is not to say that these changes will be easy. Indeed, it is arguably far easier to change cars (such as by making them electric) than to change people’s actions, as issues like family planning are controversial across the planet, including the U.S., where Roe v. Wade was overturned.
Nonetheless, we need to seriously roll up our sleeves and address the climate crisis as a human problem in need of human solutions.
Incidentally, many of these may well be win-win solutions, as giving girls and women equal access to education, as well as control of their own bodies, are worthwhile goals in their own right – at least as far as I am concerned.
Similarly, reducing the global herd of 70 billion animals that we keep for food is obviously great from the perspective of animal rights. Hence, the changes that we need to make to address the climate crisis may not only be better for the planet, but for human (and a range of) beings in a host of ways.
Although I have great respect for the sciences, science- and technology-based solutions to cultural problems like the climate crisis are rarely sufficient in themselves. The simple fact is that they often fail to attend to the root cause of problems of this sort.
This course will focus on these root causes.
One of the things that I find interesting about this human-based approach is that it returns (to echo a 1960s phrase) “power to the people.” In other words, you do not need to be a specialist in climate science or lithium battery technology to make a dent in the climate crisis. Instead, anyone can make a meaningful, indeed crucial impact on the climate crisis, either through personal action, collective activism, political action, or – ideally – though a synergy of all three.
Does this course have discussion sections?
No, it does not. Even though you will be assigned a TA, there are no discussion sections in this course.
All course content will be delivered through the lectures, the readings, and the course films. Weekly course discussions will primarily take place through the comments on the readings and films, as well as by way of questions to our speakers.
Your TA is your primary contact person for Eng 24.
If your last name begins with A-M, your TA is Stephanie Goldstein (firstname.lastname@example.org).
If your last name begins with N-Z, your TA is Emily Pelstring (email@example.com).
Please direct all questions to your TA, not Ken, as they handle all issues regarding attendance, comments, exams, and grading.
However, whenever possible, please post any questions that you may have to the GauchoSpace Q&A forum – which can be accessed at the top of the course GauchoSpace landing page – rather than emailing them to your TA. See the below FAQs for more on the GauchoSpace Q&A.
The Lead TA, who handles the technical aspects of Eng 24, is Aisha Anwar (firstname.lastname@example.org).When to contact the lead TA
Please direct questions to the Lead TA regarding
1) iClicker issues,
2) Gauchospace, where the online gradebook resides,
3) Gauchocast, from which some of the documentaries stream,
4) DSP accommodations on the exams,
5) all additional technical questions.
Course format (this is not an online course!)
Details on course format:
1) All students enrolled in Eng 24 are required to attend the lectures on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11:00am-12:15pm in Campbell Hall (where attendance, which will be part of the course grade, will be taken via iClicker).Why is this the course policy?
During 2021–22, students in English 22 and 23 were given the option to either attend lecture in Campbell Hall or attend a live-streamed Zoom webinar of the lecture in a place where they felt safe.
However, on March 17, 2022, all UCSB instructors received an email from David Marshall, UCSB’s Executive Vice Chancellor (EVC). Here is the relevant section for us:
“Dual-mode Instruction. This refers to an in-person course taught with a fully remote alternative—for example, by live-streaming or classroom recording—and it is not allowed in Spring Quarter.”
As this is a campus-wide mandate from the EVC, we have no choice but to comply by eliminating the live-streamed Zoom webinar.
Please understand, this was not my decision.
2) Please note I am not in a position to be able to offer any exceptions to this in-person policy, as this is a campus-wide mandate.
3) PDFs will NOT available for the Eng 24 lectures.Why aren't there PDFs?
In some of my other courses, I am able to provide PDFs of the lecture material. This is either because the primary lectures have been written in advance (which is the case with Eng 23) or because I am presenting from detailed lecture notes (i.e. the Prezi presentations used for Eng 22). Hence, it is possible to share the lectures or lecture notes as PDFs.
However, since English 24 is based on live interviews twice a week, the lectures are not written in advance, nor are there lecture notes.
Hence, there is nothing from which to create a PDF. Sorry.
4) The only exceptions that can be made to attending the lectures in Campbell Hall are for medical reasons approved by UCSB’s DSP office.How do medical exceptions work?
According to UCSB’s Executive Vice Chancellor (EVC), medical exceptions must be DSP-approved: “[s]tudents with documented medical situations, such as serious immuno-comprised conditions that preclude their participation in classroom instruction, may be approved for a remote learning accommodation. These accommodations are approved and administered by the Disabled Students Program (DSP)…”
Contact the DSP office regarding such accommodations, as they are the office that needs to approve it.
Please note that I have no connection to (or influence over) the DSP office.
5) If you miss class for a brief temporary period for a documented medical reason, including a positive COVID test or required isolation or quarantine, please contact your TA.
6) On a positive note, a university experience should involve more than just coursework. It’s an opportunity to meet a range of new people – sitting right next to you in class – and to gain insight into their way of seeing the world. One of the unfortunate consequences of the pandemic was that students largely lost out on all this. In this sense, the return of in-person instruction should indeed be welcomed.
Is Eng 24 related to Eng 22 and Eng 23?
Yes. English 24 is part of a sequence of three courses that I generally teach every year at UCSB: Eng 22 in the Fall, Eng 23 in the Winter, and Eng 24 in the Spring.
Although complementary, none of these courses is a prerequisite for the other.Descriptions for Eng 22, 23, & 24
English 22 (Introduction to the Environmental Humanities, formerly Intro to Literature & the Environment) explores how we got into our environmental predicament by considering nearly 5000 years of Western literature, thinking, and culture that helped bring us here.
English 23 (The Climate Crisis, Part I) introduces the climate crisis and explores what each of us can do about it. Hence, it is designed to invite personal reflection, as it explores ways that we can all help mitigate the climate crisis.
English 24 (The Climate Crisis, Part II), which is our course, is, as noted above, designed to introduce students to a variety of perspectives on the climate crisis, as a range of scholars and activists will speak to the class about their work on the crisis.
Does Eng 24 count toward the T. A. Barron Certificate in Environmental Leadership?
Yes, people who have taken English 22, 23, and 24 automatically receive the T. A. Barron Certificate in Environmental Leadership for having taken all three courses. There is an award ceremony every Spring for the Certificate.
All that you need to do is email me (Ken) with proof that you have taken these three courses. Because Eng 22, 23, and 24 can be difficult to get into (they often have waitlists of nearly 200 people), if you have taken two of the courses and are having trouble getting into the third, just email me, as I will give you admission preference.
This Certificate is made possible by author T. A. Barron, who generously donated $500,000 to UCSB in order to create the T. A. Barron Environmental Leadership Program. The Barron Certificate is something that you can list on your résumé (and on LinkedIn and anywhere else that you’d like).
Why are you teaching Eng 22, Eng 23 & Eng 24?
We are often asked about what we do (i.e. asked what do we do for a living or what it is that we are majoring in school), rather than why we do what we do – which, as far as I’m concerned, is a much more interesting question.
Why am I teaching these three courses every year?
It is simple enough: in order to foster greater awareness of the climate crisis and draw attention to what needs to be done to mitigate it.A more complete explanation
The first iteration of the companion course to Eng 24 (Eng 23, “The Climate Crisis, Part I”) began as a new decade opened, on January 6, 2020.
This decade, 2020-30, has been called the “decisive decade,” as the nations of planet earth need to cut their carbon emissions in half by 2030 in order to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050. If we are able to achieve these reductions by 2030 and 2050, we will be able to keep global temperature from rising above 1.5–2 °C of pre-industrial levels – which is necessary to avert a true global climate catastrophe.
I think of myself as a scholar-activist, which means that, in addition to spending my days reading and writing (i.e. being a scholar), I also work at bringing about societal change. Specifically, in my case, as I am a scholar of the environmental humanities, I work at bringing about cultural change with respect to the climate crisis. Hence, I am really a mash-up of scholar and climate activist.
By teaching as many students as possible about this unfolding crisis and what we can do about it, my hope is that I just might make a difference in the world – even if it’s only a small difference.
Why is it so important for me to try to make a difference?
I have a young daughter, who was born in the teens. The world that I will be leaving her is in the midst of a climate crisis that might just turn into a full-blown catastrophe. For her sake, I need to do what little I can to keep that from happening.
That’s why I’m teaching these courses.
My goal is to continue teaching this suite of courses to as many students as I can throughout the “decisive decade”
Why are Eng 23 & Eng 24 also called Climate Crisis 101?
Although the URL and YouTube channel associated with this material are called “ClimateCrisis101,” the UCSB courses that this is all based upon have the designation “English 23 and English 24.” Sorry for any confusion – as this is hardly an ideal situation – but this is how UCSB designates its courses. Nonetheless, Eng 23 and Eng 24 are 101 (i.e. introductory) courses on the climate crisis. Why not stick with the names “English 23 & 24” throughout? The simple fact is that they are hardly descriptive names. Actually, they are not even a little descriptive… So, in order to make these courses immediately recognizable to an online audience as introductions to the climate crisis, they are also known as “ClimateCrisis101.”
Navigating this website
In the lower right of this page, note the faint box with a small chevron in it. Click the chevron at any point and the page will quickly scroll up to the top. At the top of every weekly page is a “Back to Syllabus” link that returns you to this page.Navigating this site on a mobile device
If you are viewing this website on a smartphone and the text seems small, please hold your phone horizontally (i.e. in landscape mode). If you are reading on a tablet, do just the opposite: hold the device vertically (portrait mode).
Reading on a smartphone turned sideways may initially feel a little odd (especially if you, like most people, are used to holding your phone in portrait mode), but this webpage was designed so that doing so replicates the width and line length, and hence in some ways the general feel, of a print book.
Since this long webpage is filled with just text, scrolling through it like a book should make for a more pleasant experience. Note that some mobile browsers will display this page better than others. Safari works well on iOS, Chrome on Android.
Week 1, Ken’s Introduction and Sarah Ray
Week 2, Elizabeth Cline and David Pellow
Week 3, TBA and Bill McKibben
Week 4, Kim Stanley Robinson and Peter Kalmus
Week 5, Ram Veerabhadran, midterm
Week 6, Clair Brown and Naomi Oreskes
Week 7, Intersectionality with UCSB faculty and Juliet Schor
Week 8, Nicole Seymour and Theo LeQuesne
Week 9, Richard Widick and Ken’s Conclusion
Week 10, Sister True Dedication, final exam
Generally, each of the ten weeks of the quarter students will attend two lectures in Campbell Hall, which take place from 11:00am-12:15pm (PST). One is on Tuesday; one is on Thursday. Lectures start promptly at 11:00 and run for the entire period. As 2 of the 20 class sessions this quarter will be taken up by the midterm and final exams, there are a total of 18 lecture periods.
The Campbell Hall lectures will be filmed and uploaded to Gauchocast shortly after class. Attendance at the Campbell Hall lectures is nonetheless required (and will be taken via iClicker). The recorded lectures are not a substitute for going to class, but rather are made available in case you miss a class or would like to reference them while studying for the exams.
Each week there is an assigned reading of one or more texts.
Since this course is offered by the English Dept, it requires a significant amount of reading. Most weeks, we will be reading around 150 pages.
There is no Course Reader, as most of the course texts are available free online. Links to these online readings can be accessed via the above “Weekly Schedule.”
However, you need to purchase these three books:
The Ministry for the Future: A Novel by Kim Stanley Robinson
Zen and the Art of Saving the Planet by Thich Nhat Hanh (coauthored by Sister True Dedication)
Note that Sarah Ray, Kim Stanley Robinson, and Sister True Dedication will all be visiting our class.
All three books are available 1) in print form, 2) as e-books, and 3) as audiobooks. If you purchase them as e-books, the total cost should be under $40.
I tried to limit the number of books required for Eng 24. There are no other costs associated with this course.
I will be recording short introductory talks for each week’s reading(s), which will be posted on YouTube. After doing the weekly reading and watching my video introduction, please make a comment to this YouTube video. Since my videoed talks are designed to give context to the readings, you may want to watch them prior to doing the reading. However, you are free to do the readings first if you would rather.
Either way, make sure to watch my videoed talk in its entirety, as it will offer instructions on how to make the weekly comment.
Please note that, in addition to making a comment on the readings, there will be questions on the weekly readings on the midterm and final exams. Hence, you need to do the readings (and do them carefully), as you will not be able to answer the exam questions correctly by simply reading a plot summary.
Each of the ten weeks of the quarter you will watch a film. Details can be accessed via the above “Weekly Schedule.” The films all stream from GauchoSpace.
As with the readings, I will record a short introductory talk for each week’s film. These short talks will stream from YouTube. After watching the weekly film, please go to YouTube to comment on my weekly talk. As with the weekly readings, you may well find the films more interesting if you first watch my talk contextualizing them. Similarly, make sure to watch my talk, as it explains how to make the weekly comment.
Please note that there will be questions on the weekly films on the midterm and final exams.
A) Midterm and Final exams
The midterm will be in Campbell Hall during our regular class period, 11:00-12:15pm, on Thursday, May 4. Please save this date!
The final exam will be in Campbell Hall during our regular class period, 11:00-12:15pm, on Thursday, June 8. Please save this date!
Common details of both the midterm and final exams:
1) Each exam is worth 30% of the course grade (i.e. 60% total for the two exams).
2) Each exam has 60 multiple choice questions. Therefore, each exam question is worth .5% of the total course grade.
3) The exam questions are all multiple-choice and you will generally be selecting from five possibilities.
4) Since they are taking place during the regular class period, each exam will be 75 minutes long (unless you have a pre-arranged DSP accommodation, in which case you will be taking the exam in a separate room with a proctor).
5) Exams will be paper-based. Please bring a number two pencil.
6) Exams will NOT be open-book.
7) In order to discourage academic dishonesty, there will be four separate versions of the exams, with each version having the exam questions in a different order. Hence, the person sitting next to you will be working on a different exam.
8) In addition to questions on the readings and lectures, the exams will also include questions on the course films and Ken’s short intros on YouTube.
9) Talking to your neighbor is not allowed during the exams.
10) No devices may be open during the exams.
B) Comments are worth 20% of the total course grade.
During the term, you will be making a total of ten comments on the course readings, which will constitute 10% of the course grade.
Similarly, you will be making a total of ten comments on the course films, which will also constitute 10% of the course grade
Thus, you will be making a total of twenty YouTube comments, two per week for the ten-week term, starting in week #1. Thus, each comment counts for 1% of the course grade.
You have seven days to make the weekly comments. Each week, you must comment by 6am (PST) the following Monday to receive credit for the comment. For example, for Week #1, your two YouTube comments most be posted by 6am on Monday, April 10.
Twelve of your YouTube comments (i.e. 6 of the first 10 and 6 of the second 10) should be made to a comment made by another student. Since comments are made to YouTube, you are able to see what your classmates have written.Why are we required to reply to our classmates?
Reading these comments can be a thought-provoking experience, as it can give you the opportunity to see the sorts of reactions others have had. (This might also help you assess your own work, as you can see how much time and thought that your classmates are giving to the assignment.) As you no doubt know, online discussions are not only possible, but are often particularly thoughtful, as we have the benefit of time in making our replies well considered.
It is also the case that, historically, students were rarely offered the opportunity to read what their classmates had written, even though in English classes (for example) they often had multiple writing assignments per term. As far as I am concerned, that just doesn’t seem right. Not only can you benefit by what your classmates think and write, reading their comments also gives you an opportunity to see how much time and effort they are devoting to the assignment – which, in turn, can help you decide how much effort to put in.
Getting graded on your comments:
As you make your weekly comments, please cut and paste each of them into a single text file on your computer. Doing this as you make them will save you the trouble of trying to find them on YouTube. Please make sure that you create and save this file, as there are occasionally issues with YouTube (see below).
1) Comments for the first five films and first five readings need to be uploaded to GauchoSpace by 6am (PST) on Monday, May 8.
2) Comments for the second five films and second five readings need to be uploaded to GauchoSpace by 6am (PST) on Monday, June 12.
Complete instructions on how to upload your comments will be available on GauchoSpace prior to the above deadlines.
Regarding issues with YouTube comments: in previous classes, a small number of people have emailed to tell us that comments that they made to YouTube were not there when they went back to check. This seems to be an issue with YouTube. But, no worries; in the unlikely event that happens, just make a note of it when you are uploading your comments. If you have had one or more comments disappear on YouTube, simply make a note (a short sentence is all that is required) that this happened on the top of the file that you will be uploading (see above). You will in no way be penalized for the fact that this happened and there is no need to email your TA about the situation. In general, please do not be overly concerned about this issue, as it happens quite infrequently.
C) Attendance will be taken by the iClicker app and is worth 20% of the course grade. If have a reason for missing a class, such as for medical reasons, contact your TA. Please make sure to download and register the iClicker app before the beginning of the term.
What do I do if I have further questions? (Course Q&A)
Whenever possible, please post any questions that you may have to the course Q&A (which can be found at the top of our GauchoSpace page), rather than emailing them to your TA. Because we have such a large class (860 people), the answer to your question may benefit a number of your classmates, not just you.More on the GauchoSpace Q&A
How, exactly, is the Q&A useful?
Let’s say that I note something in one of the lectures that seems to somewhat contradict a reading. As the response to your question may help clarify a real ambiguity, everyone in the class could potentially benefit by reading it. Moreover, if you are unclear about a technical detail, such as how to upload your comments to GauchoSpace, the clarification could help others.
Although the course TAs and I will be monitoring the Q&A throughout the day for questions, feel free to answer any questions that you can, as you may be able to really help someone.
For example, let’s say that at 11pm someone posts that they are confused about where to find the course films. It is unlikely that the TAs and I will read this till the next morning. However, if you happen to see this post, you could explain where GauchoCast is on GauchoSpace and how it works. In so doing, you could help someone out who was hoping to watch the film that night. It is also sometimes the case that people are looking for material that can be found on the course website or GauchoSpace. In which case, all that you need to do is point them in the right direction.
Because a number of important points will likely be raised throughout the quarter in this GauchoSpace Q&A, please regularly read through it, as this will become a useful knowledge bank. If you have a question and would like a quick answer, it might just be in the Q&A.
Even though this is technically a Q&A, feel free to post comments in addition to questions to this forum. If, for example, you felt that a reading was particularly helpful (or particularly confusing), we would like to hear about it. As our goal is to keep improving this class every year, feedback like this can help us do just that.
Seriously, we are interested in hearing what you have to say!
How do I enroll in the Honors Section?
Email me with your reasons for wanting to join the honors section by midnight on Friday of the first week of class (April 7). If you have not received an email with an add code by 9am on April 10, I was unfortunately not able to admit you to the section (there are 860 people in English 24, but only space for 15 in the honors section). Starting in Week #2, the honors section will take place every Tuesday from 10:00-10:50am in South Hall 2623. The honors section is a one-credit class.
Where is the course material located?
While we will be using GauchoSpace for the exams, as well as to disseminate some information (like the course Q&A), the course content is primarily located on my personal website, which is housed on English Department servers. You are, incidentally, reading this on the course website.Why the material is in two locations
As much as possible, material is located on the course website (rather than GauchoSpace) so that anyone can access it, regardless of whether they are in the class or enrolled at UCSB.
Knowledge, as far as I am concerned, should be as free and accessible as possible to everyone. This is especially the case when it relates to urgent issues of concern to us all, such as our current climate crisis.
Hence, as anyone can view the course content, feel free to share it with friends and family members who may be interested.
Is it possible to get extra credit in this class?
Unfortunately, no. The class is just too large (860 students) for the two course TAs to grade extra credit assignments.
Taking Eng 24 for a letter grade or P/NP
As you likely know, you can either take Eng 24 for a letter grade or do so Passed/Not Passed.
During the pandemic (up to and including the Winter quarter of 2022), you did not need to decide how you wanted to be graded for a course prior to last day of instruction.
Please note that UCSB’s Registrar is now changing back to their policy prior to the pandemic: you need to decide how you want to be graded prior to the end of Week #6. After that date, it will not be possible to switch your grading option.
Please make note of this important change!
Is there flexibility in the grading?
In order to be fair to everyone in the class, no special accommodations will be made with respect to grading. In other words, without exception, your letter grade for the course will be based on your percentage grade. Sorry.Further explanation of grading
Here is the official scale used by UCSB (which we will be using in this class), showing letter grade, percentage, and GPA:
A+, 97 and above, 4.0
A, 93–96%, 4.0
A−, 90–92%, 3.7
B+, 87–89%, 3.3
B, 83–86%, 3.0
B−, 80–82% ,2.7
C+, 77–79%, 2.3
C ,73–76%, 2.0
C−, 70–72%, 1.7
D+, 67–69%, 1.3
D, 63–66%, 1.0
D−, 60–6 %, 0.7
F, 0–59%, 0.0
As noted above, there is no extra credit available in Eng 24.
Why do we need to reply to comments most of the time?
One of the goals of this class, even though it is very large, is to encourage meaningful discussion among students. Hence, more than half of the time you will be responding directly to a classmate on YouTube.
How long should a comment be and what form should they take?
Your YouTube comment on the weekly readings and films should be as long as necessary to make your point(s). A paragraph or two is generally sufficient. Please make specific references to the work at hand in order to make clear that you have read, watched, or listened to it in its entirety. The purpose of this assignment is to expose you to a range of thought-provoking material that can make a real difference in your life. Consequently, your comment should contain your thoughts and feelings on the material.
It is perfectly fine to express an emotional response, just make sure that you are respectful of your classmates.
What about inappropriate comments?
If you encounter YouTube comments containing hate speech, otherwise threatening language, or anything at all that concerns you, please email me or one of the TAs. Please also check out YouTube’s policies on reporting incidents of hate speech, harassment, or cyberbullying.More on inappropriate comments
In deciding to make our discussions public on YouTube, I realized that there was a risk, but I very much like the idea of having thoughtful and far-reaching conversations on important issues available to everyone online. In other words, if someone came upon our extensive online discussions, it could give them a great deal to think about.
However, ever since I decided to make the comments public on YouTube, I have been anxious that the flippant, anonymous culture of the Internet would make its way into our discussions.
The kind of anonymous comments that people make to online forums like Reddit are often very different than what they would say when sitting around a table in a classroom, face-to-face with their peers and knowing that there is an instructor at the end of the table. My hope is that the comments that people make to our YouTube forums will be as courteous and thoughtful as the spoken comments that you would make in class (perhaps even more so, as you will have time to think before making a comment that you would come to regret).
Because of a culture of anonymity, the Internet can sometimes be an unpleasant and nasty place. Please be not only thoughtful with your comments, but respectful as well, offering only the kind of constructive comments that you yourself would like to receive. Note that, as my YouTube talks are open to the public, there may be some comments that may not come from your classmates.
Couldn’t I skip watching the documentaries and doing the readings and get someone (or an AI like ChatGPT) to do the comments for me?
Perhaps, but this would be a recipe for disaster, as you will be tested on all of the readings and documentaries on the midterm and final exams.
After every exam, some people inevitably contact their TAs because they are disappointment with their grades. When they systematically go through questions that they got wrong with their TAs, they find that a surprising number of them are on the readings and films. Suggesting that they may well have not read or watched carefully – or at all. When reviewing Gauchocast Analytics (which allows me to see viewing habits for individual students), I discovered – not surprisingly – that there is a direct correlation between people who do not watch the documentaries in their entirety and people who do poorly on exam questions related to the films.
Reading a plot summary in lieu of watching a documentary is a recipe for disaster, as you will be questioned on specifics not covered in such summaries.
Even though the exam questions on the readings and documentaries can be specific, many people do well on the exams in Eng 23, Indeed, dozens of people will likely get an A+ for the class. Clearly, these people carefully did the readings and attentively watched the films. They likely took notes – perhaps extensive notes – even while watching the films.
So, since you are required to watch the videos and do the readings anyway, why not share your opinions? It is perfectly fine if you disagree with the reading, film, instructor, or your classmates.
Note that instructors can use a web crawler to look for repeated comments and phrases, as well as other inconsistencies, including stylistic, in comments. Similarly, as AIs (even advanced ones like ChatGPT, which use cutting-edge transformer architecture) are generally only capable of delivering largely vague observations – and you should always include specifics with your comments – these are also easy to detect.
Having someone else (or an AI) do your work is a form of academic dishonestly and will be immediately reported to UCSB’s Office of Judicial Affairs.
Do you teach anything other than English 22, 23, & 24?
Although I now only teach large lectures during the regular school year, in the summer I routinely teach two or three small (38-student) classes, which are on various aspects of the climate crisis.
Is UCSB located on ancestral land?
Yes. It is important to note that UCSB is located on unceded Indigenous Chumash ancestral lands and waters. In other words, the Chumash people, who were the first human inhabitants of this region of what has now become California, never legally signed away the land and waters on which UCSB was built. (UCSB is situated on a 1,000-acre promontory that juts out into the Pacific Ocean.)
Asking me to write a letter of recommendation.
Every year, a number of students in my large lectures (Eng 22, 23, and 24) ask me to write letters of recommendation on their behalf. Unfortunately, I regretfully must decline, as I am not in a position to write a strong letter for students in these courses.More on why I decline to write rec letters for Eng 22, 23, & 24
In order to write a strong recommendation letter, it is necessary to know a student well. Even before uploading a rec letter, many portals will require the writer to complete a brief survey ranking factors like a student’s creativity, their problem-solving ability, leadership potential, task management skills, and so forth. Because Eng 22, 23, and 24 are so large, I unfortunately never get to know students well enough to be able to evaluate these things.
With respect to the letter itself, as I am an English professor, there is the expectation that I will focus on a student’s writing and a range of issues related to it (like creativity, research and organizational abilities, and so forth). The problem is that students in Eng 22, 23, and 24 (including the honors sections) do not produce any significant writing for me to evaluate. True, there are the online comments, but these are quite different from an extensive term paper or senior thesis, as they do not require, for example, any significant research.
Having spent three years as the Director of a graduate program, I have read many hundreds of recommendation letters. Without exception, the strongest letters are personal and detailed. For example, the letters reference specific projects, such as term papers, sometimes quoting directly from them.
In order to get a strong rec letter, the key is to develop a solid relationship with an instructor. Ideally, by taking two or more small courses where you work with them directly (rather than working with a TA), which will allow them to reference a range of material that you have produced, as well as your strengths.