Changing Climates: 2018 Theme

As we assess our natural and social environments in 2018, we are finding ourselves in the midst of any number of “changing climates”—all with significant implications for humanity and the world around us.

Among the most evident and pressing is  global climate change, which if unchecked, will have profound and devastating consequences for life on Earth as we know it. Climate change is altering weather patterns, sea levels and oceanic life, global ecosystems and biodiversity, agricultural production, water resources, and the livelihoods—and very lives—of a significant portion of the world’s human population.

But other climates are changing as well: the  social climate, with conflict over women’s rights
and LGBTQ+ rights, conflict over refugees and migrants, and conflicts over the practices of mass
incarceration; the  racial climate  in the United States, in particular, with increased tensions
arising from inequality in law enforcement and emboldened white nationalism; the
international and domestic  political climate, with wars of growing complexity and movements
of growing nationalist and populist tendencies that have fundamentally altered discourse,
policies, and programs; the  economic climate, with challenges to the globalization/free trade
paradigm internationally and the wealth gap at home; the  intellectual climate, with new
challenges to intellectualism itself and intensifying debates within the academy over
specialization, professionalization, and interdisciplinarity; the  cultural climate, with ever-
growing impacts of technology in our lives, with gaps between highly educated and less
educated segments of society, with controversy over sources of information and expressions of
creativity, and with living in community with people of different faith traditions, ideologies, and
life ways; and, indeed, our own  university’s climate, with efforts to achieve the reality of a
campus dedicated to “diversity and inclusion,” and with new initiatives to evaluate our very
notions of academic purpose and success—through experiential learning, “signature work,” and
collaborative engagement.

At the same time that we  investigate the changing climates around us,  we also can—and
must—engage in the active project of changing climates.  We have the opportunity to utilize
the knowledge we gain through our education at IWU to change a variety of climates in a
positive way—as we try to implement our university’s mission of “commit[ment] to diversity,
social justice, and environmental sustainability” in order to produce students dedicated to
“democratic citizenship and life in a global society.”