Young people around the world want to talk about climate change. Intro to Sociology classes could capitalize on students’ interest by demonstrating how sociological thinking is useful for understanding it. For instance, one unit could focus on the factors that make social movements–like the Youth Climate movement–effective. Another could illustrate how inequalities in housing and access to resources mean that climate change will disproportionately impact less advantaged. Still others could show how our socialization shapes how we think about the importance of protecting the environment, or how social institutions can impact climate change and its effects.
The authors argue that Intro to Sociology courses should offer a sociological–not just physical–explanation of its causes, describe the impacts already observed and predicted future impacts, and illustrate how the world’s peoples, institutions, and governments have responded so far to scientists’ and activists’ warnings about the threat. Szasz has even developed a module devoted to sociological analyses of climate change. By incorporating lessons on climate change into the sociology classroom, instructors can help students to educate themselves about one of the most serious social conditions they will face, and demonstrate the power and relevance of sociological thought.