Climate change is one of the most complicated problems facing our society today.

The debate around climate change and what should be done about it has been going on for decades, and while students may feel strongly about it and have the desire to do something, it is not easy to know exactly what an individual can do.

Climate change and other similar issues can often seem like problems that only scientists can solve. This feeling has led Andrea Soccorsi, a WVU instructor, to develop a new class that focuses on all the different ways the problem of climate change can be approached.

People vs. Planet: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Climate (MDS 293) is being offered for the first time in Fall 2019 and will focus on how individuals from different disciplines can come together to solve complex problems.

“Since I’ve been teaching in interdisciplinary studies for some time, I was very interested in the ways in which interdisciplinarity serves to solve problems,” Soccorsi said. “We often think that our individual respective disciplines are there to solve problems, which of course they are, but I wanted to see how a number of different disciplines could come together to solve, in this case, climate change, something that I’m very interested in.”

Climate change has become a rather contentious subject in modern times; however, Soccorsi said this class is not going to focus on whether climate change is real and just focus on coming up with solutions.

“We’re starting from the premise that climate change is real,” Soccorsi said. “We’re not going to debate that. We’re starting from the premise that it is real and it is caused by direct human interaction.”

Soccorsi said it is important, in a class like this, to get students out into the field to do practical work.

“So we’re going to be doing a number of different field trips to look at the ways that climate change sort of effects our natural environment and, in this case, our local community,” Soccorsi said.

The main goal of the class is to get students thinking about how they can make a difference or solve a problem in an area that they might have previously thought they had little to add.

“I think we’ve talked about climate change a lot, but how can we, as individuals, make changes that we can take out to the world? We all know that we should be recycling, but what else can we be doing?” Soccorsi asked. “That’s where the interdisciplinary perspective comes from because we might think, ‘Well that’s a problem that only scientists deal with,’ but it’s not. We all have our respective disciplines that inform an understanding of this, so how do we take this forward?”

While this class is focused on climate change, the idea of interdisciplinary problem solving is applicable to many different fields and problems.

“I think that the problems of the 21st century are going to require a number of different solutions that come from an interdisciplinary approach,” Soccorsi said.