Climate Solutions: A Costa Rican Sea Turtle Case Study

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Course DatesLengthMeeting TimesStatusFormatInstructor(s)CRN
June 21, 2021 - July 21, 20216/21 - 7/214 WeeksOnlineCancelledOnlineJane Diener
Catalina Gomez Vives
Katherine Martinez Campos
Carlos Trejos Jimenez

Course Description

The global climate is changing and that humans are not only the cause, but also the possible solution. This new course, developed in partnership with Ecology Project International, aims to bridge the gap between theory, case studies, and a vision for climate action. By looking in detail at climate stories and evidence of impacts on ecosystems of Costa Rica, we can internalize the depth of our local and global connection and interdependence. Recognizing our global interdependence is essential to dream and develop systemic solutions. It is the moment to choose to build our common future.

The course will begin with an exclusive virtual visit to Costa Rica’s Pacuare Reserve, one of the main nesting beaches for leatherback turtles in the Caribbean; home to a lush and mature rainforest and habitat to hundreds of animals such as jaguars, monkeys, elusive amphibians, and the magnificent Agami Heron. Students will then explore how encroaching local economic forces and the impacts of climate change are altering the Reserve’s ecological equilibrium and the health of the sea turtle populations.

This course will focus on many ecosystems and communities: sea turtles and the threatened beaches; coral reefs and ocean dynamics; rainforest biodiversity and monocultures, among others. Students will study misconceptions and action frameworks, along with many case studies, in order to gain the confidence and tools needed to motivate people to go from no action to inspiring, positive change.

During this course, students will analyze causes and impacts of climate change based on cases from Costa Rica, looking at case studies involving both local land and marine ecosystems, as well as case studies from their own communities around the world. Students will focus on how these examples are interconnected with the lives of locals in these areas. Causes, consequences and possible solutions will be addressed from a systemic view, reflecting as well on the urgency of strengthening global ethics, inspired by the Earth Charter and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Costa Rica is one of the leading countries in mitigation efforts to face climate change in Latin America. Students will learn about some innovative climate efforts, a detailed decarbonization plan, widespread sustainability efforts and creative solutions to inspire them to shape their own mitigation efforts. We will explore what makes climate change action challenging and some reasons people find for not wanting to act. By learning about misinformation and behavior theory you will get new insights to design a successful final project for the course.

All the course lessons, workshops, and assignments culminate with a final presentation that students prepare for throughout the course. Students will identify a pressing issue that they are passionate about and, with support from instructors and peers, will create an Action Plan to apply their new leadership knowledge to this issue in their home community. We encourage students to think about potential Action Plan topics before they come to this course, but most develop their ideas during the course with help of peers and in-class activities. All students are provided with a detailed Action Plan Workbook to turn their great ideas into solid, achievable, meaningful plans. For example, past students have established new service clubs at their schools, written a grant to install solar panels on a school building, and coordinated lake, river, ocean or beach clean-up events.

During this course, students will learn to:

  • Identify connections between climate change effects in Costa Rica and around the world, focusing on causes, consequences, and the scope of their personal actions.
  • Clearly communicate concepts in environmental studies and/or environmental justice to a variety of stakeholders or individuals.
  • Learn about climate change mitigation policy and efforts from Costa Rica.
  • Recognize concepts in behavior theory that relate to climate change awareness and action efforts.
  • Apply a climate change solutions framework to inspire tangible action initiatives.
  • Deepen knowledge on systems thinking, global ethics and the pursuit of the common good.
  • Identify and strengthen leadership qualities that may lead to improved collaboration and problem solving.

Prerequisites: While we welcome all students, we encourage students to enroll in this course with an existing knowledge of (and some previous learning about) basic concepts of climate change causes and effects. One unique quality of this course is the large emphasis on community development among students in each section. Therefore, this course has a synchronous component, meaning students will be expected to join for some real time lessons and class discussions at least once per week. The real time classes will be scheduled and published in advance. There are always alternative assignments available for students who are unable to attend because of time differences or technical difficulties.

Course Information

  • Course Code: CEES0934

Program Information


Brown’s Pre-College Program in the liberal arts and sciences for students completing grades 9-12 by June 2021.

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