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What motivates me is talking to students in a way that they’re not going to come back to me in 10 years with this look on their face, you know, Dr. Hiser, why didn’t you tell me this? Why didn’t you tell me? I want to be sure that they’re going to leave the interaction that we get to have that they’re going to leave with at least an idea that someone tried to help them see that reality.dr krista hiser, conscient podcast, may 19, 2021, hawai‘i
Krista is a longtime Professor at Kapiʻolani Community College in Hawai‘i where she teaches composition, climate communication, and climate fiction. Her PhD in Educational Administration focused on students as stakeholders in sustainability curriculum. She has published on service-learning, community engagement, organizational change, and post-apocalyptic and cli-fi literature. She is currently serving as director of the University of Hawai‘i System Center for Sustainability Across Curriculum where Krista’s work is to facilitate change management, coordinate sustainability across the curriculum, and facilitate interdisciplinary dialogue and professional development opportunities for faculty interested in teaching sustainability, climate change, and resilience. Krista is motivated by a quote from David Orr who said, “students deserve an education relevant to the future they will inherit.”
I first heard about Krista work at a meeting of a group of climate educators, organized by Jennifer Atkinson and Sarah Raquette Ray, where Krista spoke about some of her research. I also heard her in conversation with my fellow art and climate podcaster Peterson Toscano on Citizens’ Climate Radio Ep. 51: Art & identity in a time of climate change.
I enjoyed my lively conversation with Krista, notably about how our brains try to protect us for the reality of the climate emergency and how to understand the levels of grief that we can experience and how to overcome it. I was also impressed by her thoughts on ungrading (which I shared with my two children, both University students).
Some of my favourite quotes from our conversation include:
The art space is maybe the last open space where that boxiness and that rigidity isn’t as present.
The shift is that faculty are really no longer just experts. They are knowledge brokers or knowledge intermediaries. There’s so much information out there. It’s so overwhelming. There are so many different realities that faculty need to interact with this information and create experiences that translate information for students so that students can manage their own information.
There’s a whole range of emotions around climate emergency, and not getting stuck in the grief. Not getting stuck in anger. A lot of what we see of youth activists and in youth activism is that they get kind of burned out in anger and it’s not a sustainable emotion. But none of them are emotions that you want to get stuck in. When you get stuck in climate grief, it is hard to get unstuck, so moving through all the different emotions — including anger and including hope — and that idea of an anthem and working together, those are all part of the emotion wheel that exists around climate change.
As I have done in all episodes in season 2 so far, I have integrated excerpts from soundscape compositions and quotations drawn from e19 reality, as well as new field recordings and moments of silence, in this episode.
I would like to thank Krista for taking the time to speak with me, for sharing her deep knowledge of climate education, her passion for literature and music and her courage to speak the truth to power through her work.
For more information on Krista’s work, see https://www.hawaii.edu/sustainability/staff-item/krista-hiser-phd/ and https://www.gcseglobal.org/bio/krista-hiser