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Instructor’s podcast digs deeper into root causes of climate change

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Portland Community College sociology instructor Ben Cushing thinks there’s something missing from the discussions about global climate change. In Cushing’s view, public conversations have too often been focused on the how and what, and not enough on the why. 

In his four-part podcast, “Tracing the Roots of the Climate Crisis,” Cushing invites listeners to begin rethinking these issues by exploring how societal systems, history and beliefs all contribute to the root causes of climate change. 

By primarily focusing on the mechanisms of climate change, like the greenhouse effect or ocean acidification, or it’s specific catastrophic consequences, like drought or species extinction, Cushing said we’re missing an opportunity to more deeply examine and transform society as a whole. Ben Cushing

“What is it about our society – our economic system, our colonial roots, our cultural beliefs – that seem to drive us into this crisis and constrain our responses to it?” he asked. “Questions like this require us to take stock of our society and our histories. And they help us connect the dots between the climate crisis and the related crises of racial, gender, and economic justice.” 

Cushing, who began teaching at PCC in 2008, said the podcast is based on his “Social Problems” course as well as previous conversations with colleague Matt Glazewski, a climate science instructor at the college. Glazewski first connected with Cushing in 2019 in an effort to integrate more sociological perspectives into his classes, and Cushing said he hopes the multidisciplinary foundation of this work gives it broad appeal. 

Like many instructors around the country, Cushing said a desire to better reach students outside of the physical classroom during the COVID-19 pandemic played a key role in deciding to launch this, his first, podcast. 

“It was part of an effort to get creative with my teaching within the context of the pandemic and remote learning,” he said. 

The past two years have highlighted the topic of community and how to connect with and protect each other during times of crisis. Creating a more communal world that works better for the many instead of the few, is central to what Cushing explores in “Tracing the Roots of the Climate Crisis.” 

“I think it is abundantly clear that the climate crisis – and the broader ecological crisis – is changing everything,” he said. “As I say in the conclusion of the podcast, the climate crisis is a door to another world. The question is, to what world will it lead? What worlds will we build together?” 

To listen to Cushing’s podcast, visit https://www.climateroots.com

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About Alfredo V. Moreno

Alfredo has served PCC's westside communities in both a community engagement and public relations capacity since September of 2018. Born in the border city of El Paso, Texas, Alfredo grew up in the timber town of Roseburg in Southern Oregon... more »