Friday, October 9, 2015

Vanderbilt professor stands up for climate justice

The upcoming climate talks in Paris are less than 50 days away, and COP21, as the United Nations conference is being called, might very well decide the future of humankind. It's that serious and that foreboding. I'm optimistic. Sort of.

Edward Rubin, a law professor at Vanderbilt University in Nashville is also optimistic, even more optimistic than I am. The author of several academic books about law and justice, Rubin, a former dean of the law school there, is very concerned about climate change and much of his concern stems from his background, he told me in a recent email.

The author of well-received academic books, among them ''Soul, Self, and Society: The New Morality and the Modern State,'' published by Oxford University Press, Rubin has boundless energy and loves to teach, and to write. In fact, he just published his first novel, a climate-themed thriller titled "The Heatstroke Line."

Rubin writes opeds for the online magazine, penning such opeds as "Our end-of-the-world obsession is killing us: Climate denial and the apocalypse, GOP-style," and this year he temporarily exchanged his academic cap for a novelist’s hat and published a cli-fi novel set in the near future about 150 year from now.

"Why are so many people prepared to jump on the denial bandwagon?" Rubin asks his Salon readers in one of his recent opeds. "One answer might be that both officials and citizens cannot face the possibility of nationwide or worldwide disaster. Proponents of global warming, it could be argued, have predicted a future that is just too grim to contemplate."

I read his novel, and whether critics call it sci-fi or cli-fi, one thing is certain: It's part of a new genre that is changing the way we see things in this, the Anthropocene Age.

And next year, for the spring semester at Vanderbilt, Rubin plans on teaching a combined literature and political science course at Vanderbilt titled "Visions of the Future
in Cli-Fi."

He joins several other professors there teaching classes with climate change themes, among them Teresa A. Goddu in the English department, Rubin told me in a recent email.

When I asked him why he wrote a climate fiction novel and then decided to teach a climate literature class in 2016, he told me: "It is important to communicate with a broader audience, and in an immediate and vivid way. I'm hoping to bring home to people the reality of climate change; its main effects may be in the future, but they will actually happen unless we take decisive action now."

Rubin grew up Jewish in Brooklyn, New York, and has always been interested, passionately, in issues such as social justice and human rights, as well as the environment and law. I asked him what in his Jewish background tipped him to want to stand up so strongly for human rights and for climate justice.

"The prophetic tradition, I think," he said. "I remember being impressed with the enormous courage that Nathan shows when he accuses King David of murder, and that Jeremiah shows when he tells the people that disaster is coming and that it is their own fault."

No comments: