Encapsulating Climate Change in a Capstone

How do you study the climate crisis as a capstone? Climate change will change how society is organized, how we live our daily lives, how governments run their countries. So how do you narrow it down to a neat little project you can finish in a year, tie up with a bow, and present it at a capstone fair? When I first started thinking about doing a capstone on climate change I was overwhelmed and I didn’t know where to start.

Despite all of the discourse surrounding climate mitigation, and strategies for reducing emissions by 2050, climate change is not only a problem we will face in the future; it’s happening right now, and its effects are already creating large scale adaptation challenges that will only get worse. We may not see it yet in our day to day lives, but in some places around the world, climate change is an unignorable reality. When faced with a choice about my capstone topic, I wanted to bring this issue to light; to show that climate change isn’t just something we have to plan for in the future, but something we have to adapt to today. As an SRPP major I’m looking to ethnography to study the on the ground reality of a community adapting to climate change as it is happening. I still don’t have the answers for how to tie all of climate change into a nice little capstone package, but I have two promising ideas to start with.

Newtok Alaska is a tiny town on eastern edge of America’s largest state. Due to sea level rise and erosion caused in large part by our changing climate, it’s slowly drowning. To adapt, the entire town is undergoing a planned relocation. This case fascinates me because it’s a mini representation of what entire countries may have to do in the coming decades if we remain on our current emissions path. If I can get access to research in this community, it has the potential to illuminate countless examples of how we might plan and adapt for the change ahead of us. On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, Moroccan NGO Dar si Hmad is working to combat
water shortages by harvesting fog from the tops of mountains using giant nets. With a dedicated ethnographic field school, this could be an opportunity to learn how new technology can help indigenous women adapt to the impacts of climate change.

To avoid catastrophe, we need to realize the urgency of this crisis. I hope that my capstone can help show that climate change is our current reality and not just our distant future. I want to illustrate how one community’s adaptation strategy can draw a path for the rest of the world as we face this crisis head on.

NYUAD Students Meet Minister of Climate Change and Environment

Read this text from student Hannah Melville-Rae’s visit with the Minister of Climate Change and Environment:

‘Rashtra and I met with H.E. Dr. Thani, Minister of Climate Change and Environment. We went with the goal of sharing with him our student perspective on how NYU Abu Dhabi can become a pioneer for sustainability in the region and were humbled to have the Ministerrespond to our vision very positively. He is connecting us with partners within and beyond the Ministry to help us achieve this vision and we foresee many more meetings over the coming months.’

Student Research

 The GNU Sustainability guide gives a general overview of sustainability efforts and challenges across the three main campuses.  The COP handbook has a section in pages 14-17 that specifically relates to NYU Abu Dhabi and climate change and sustainability issues.

Read the GNU Sustainability guide here.