2023-2024 Annual Topic: Climate and Democracy

Climate and Democracy

2023-2024 Topic for the Penn Program in Environmental Humanities

Presented with the Andrea Mitchell Center for the Study of Democracy 

Crowd protesting for climate action.

Since its birth in revolutions that swept the Atlantic world two centuries ago, modern democracy has developed under a relatively stable, if gradually warming, global climate. Now, even as they are beset by a diverse set of challenges – including right-wing populism, increasingly powerful authoritarian regimes, forms of media susceptible to disinformation campaigns, the impacts of the pandemic, and mass migrations sparked by environmental stresses, political instability, and economic inequality – the world’s democracies must also face accelerating climate change as it intersects with these other pressures in unpredictable and potentially devastating ways.

For its 2023-24 annual topic, CLIMATE AND DEMOCRACY, the Penn Program in Environmental Humanities partners with the Andrea Mitchell Center to explore the risks posed by climate change to democratic norms, as well as the capacity of democratic institutions to address the issue. And while it is possible to imagine a future in which natural disasters and democratic failures compound one another, we are asking how climate solutions and democratic values might reinforce each other and lead to greater political and environmental resilience.

2023-24 "Climate and Democracy" Graduate Fellows

In order to deepen our understanding on this vital topic, the Mitchell Center and PPEH have awarded the Climate and Democracy Graduate Fellowships to five Penn graduate students who will meet throughout the year to work on collaborative projects. The recipients are TAYEBA BATOOL (Anthropology), who studies nature-based urban planning in Pakistan; SARAH ESKANDARI (History), who studies the intersection of women, environmentalism, and revolution in Iran; HELENE LANGLAMET (Communication), who studies the ways in which the coal and natural-gas lobbies shape politics in western Pennsylvania; REHANA THEMBEKA ODENDAAL (Education), who studies youth climate activists in the U.S. and South Africa; and VANESSA SCHIPANI (Philosophy), who studies the roles of science and science journalism in shaping democratic deliberation over climate policy.

"Climate and Democracy” Planning Committee

The members of the “Climate and Democracy” planning committee are Bethany Wiggin, Chair (Penn Germanic Languages and Literatures; Founding Director, Penn Program in Environmental Humanities), Marge Bruchac (Penn Anthropology), Brenda Casper (Penn Biology), Elizabeth Ellis (Princeton History), Jeffrey Green (Political Science; Director, Andrea Mitchell Center), Michael Mann (Penn Earth and Environmental Science), Lisa Mitchell (South Asia Studies), Eric Orts (Wharton Legal Studies and Business Ethics), Gwen Ottinger (Drexel Dept. of Politics; Center for Science, Technology and Society), Jennifer Pinto-Martin (Penn Nursing; Perelman School of Medicine), Matthew Roth (Andrea Mitchell Center), and Paul Saint-Amour (Penn English).


September 21, 2023: Youth-Driven Climate Action: Power and Potential
October 19, 2023: Energy Justice in a Climate-Changing World
November 16, 2023: Fossil Fuels and Autocrats, in Russia and Beyond