IHP: Climate Change: The Politics of Food, Water, and Energy

IHP: Climate Change: The Politics of Food, Water, and Energy

Study the social impacts of climate change through the political economy of food, water, and energy in some of the world's most productive and vulnerable landscapes.

This program examines the interconnections between the economics, politics, geography, and science of climate change and its effects on human society. You will learn about the varied impacts of climate change — extreme weather, desertification, ocean acidification, melting glaciers, rising sea levels, loss of biodiversity, and dangerous social upheavals — and will be encouraged to think seriously about realistic solutions.

Key Questions:

  • How is climate change impacting regions differently? How are people adapting to these changes?
  • What are the appropriate roles of government, business, social movements, and individuals in addressing this multifaceted crisis?
  • Which technologies and traditional forms of local knowledge can realistically meet humanity’s need for energy in a sustainable way?
  • What are the economic interests and institutional arrangements that prevent us from more effectively addressing the climate crisis?

Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.

United States: San Francisco

(2 weeks)

windmills in the USThe program begins in the San Francisco Bay Area, where you will examine basic climate science both globally and regionally. You will also explore the fossil fuel industry and California’s burgeoning renewable energy sector involving wind, solar, and geothermal energy. The program looks at the health of San Francisco Bay and examines the politics and economics of aquaculture. South of the city, you will study the state’s massive agricultural sector, both organic and chemical based. You will also meet activists struggling to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh City, Can Tho, Mekong River Delta, Hanoi

(4 weeks)
The program then travels to Vietnam, a country which is considered highly vulnerable to climate change. You will spend the first week in Hanoi, to the north. In Hanoi, the capital city of this one-party, nominally socialist country, you will learn about Vietnam’s environmental and climate change policies (including its position on renewable energy). Here, you will meet with NGOs, academics, and government officials to get both the “official” and alternative perspectives on how Vietnam is planning, or is not planning, to cope with climate change. After that, you and your group will head to the Central Coast region. In Hue and Hoi An, you will have a chance to see firsthand the impact of climate change on the interrelated socio-ecological systems of food, water, and energy of this agricultural region. Here, you will learn firsthand about the consequences of highland dams for downstream communities and ecosystems. You will visit Tam Giang Laggon, biggest fresh water lagoon in the region, to learn about aquaculture farming and how changing climate patterns are affecting this practice. You will go to the Cham Islands to learn about their vulnerability to climate change and the adaptation strategies under consideration. In Hoi An, a UNESCO World Heritage site, you will live with a local family, join with farmers who are part of a budding organic farming movement in the region, and learn about rural-urban dynamics and the ability of coastal cities to adapt to the effects of climate change. Finally, you and your group will travel south to Ho Chi Minh City, the largest city in Vietnam, where you will wrap up your time in Vietnam and prepare for the trip to Morocco.

Morocco: Rabat, Casablanca, the Atlas Mountains

(4 weeks)
You will be based in the port city of Rabat, Morocco’s capital and political and diplomatic center, and will travel to other important sites within the country. You will visit Casablanca, Morocco’s largest city and economic center, and will have an excursion to the Atlas Mountains, where you will study issues around water and development. Further north, in Tetuan, you will visit a major wind farm.

Bolivia: Cochabamba, La Paz, Lake Titicaca

(5 weeks)
BoliviaYou will be based in Cochabamba, one of Bolivia’s most socially progressive cities and, in 2000, the location of successful protests against the privatization of water. You will take excursions to La Paz, Bolivia’s seat of government, and Lake Titicaca, which, since 2000, has experienced consistently receding water levels because of changes in climate. Bolivia is a politically complex country; on one hand it has very strong social movements, has elected the first indigenous president in the world, and has passed a new constitution that recognizes the “rights of Mother Earth.” On the other hand, Bolivia’s economy is still structurally dependent on mining and exporting natural gas.


None, although previous coursework in political science, economics, and/or environmental science is recommended.

Access virtual library guide.

The program takes a holistic, interdisciplinary view of academic topics, drawing not only on articles and faculty lectures, but also student observations, guest lectures, and homestay interviews to facilitate learning. Assignments typically involve written essays, oral presentations, and more creative projects such as posters and photo stories.

A major portion of the curriculum will be based on field trips, interviews, and guest lectures. The field trips and interviews must be structured around the core themes of the curriculum as laid out in the four classes. In addition to classroom time and field trips, students will have time to reflect on and write about their learning and experiences on the program. At the end of the program, students will produce a cumulative project involving data collection and qualitative research undertaken in each of the countries visited.

Students enrolled in this program will take all courses listed below for a total of 16 credits.

The following syllabi are either from a recent session of this program or for an upcoming session. Because courses develop and change over time to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, actual course content will vary from term to term.

The syllabi can be useful for students, faculty, and study abroad offices in assessing credit transfer. Read more about credit transfer.

The Science and Policy of Climate Change – syllabus
(ECOL3010 / 4 credits / 60 hours)
This course unpacks the basic science of the climate system by examining the state-of-the-art science collated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and through regular engagement with scientists and researchers. Students learn how to read scientific papers and analyze the policy process at local, national, and international levels. They also consider the tangle of acronyms - such as IPCCC, UNFCCC, and CDM - that define international policy discourses on climate change. The course looks at smaller scale, regional initiatives such as California's state-level efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions and its investments in renewable energy; Morocco's green plan; and Plan 2020.
Political Economy and Environmental History: 1492 to the Present – syllabus
(ECON3010 / 4 credits / 60 hours)
This course analyzes the development and history of modern capitalism on a global scale. Topics of consideration within this context include state formation, war, imperialism, technology, energy, environmental change, economic crisis, and “long waves of accumulation.” There is a particular focus on post–World War II developments, including the rise of Keynesianism globally; the role of socialist economies; the political economy of the Cold War; Third World development; the global crisis of profitability in the 1970s, the resultant economic restructuring, and the turn toward neoliberalism; the collapse of communism; the acceleration of neoliberalism and its deepening crisis; the rise of developing economies such as China; and the possibility of alternative economic models.
Comparative Issues in Food, Water, and Energy – syllabus
(SDIS3070 / 4 credits / 60 hours)
This course looks at agriculture and energy, and the attendant resources upon which those sectors depend. Students visit farms, fishing communities, food processors, and food transportation companies, while examining the history and political economy of food production in each country visited. A similar approach is taken in examining the energy sector; fieldwork complements detailed studies of geography and political economy as students encounter the natural sciences, companies, technologies, and regulatory arrangements that constitute “the energy sector.” The course also examines the technologies of emerging alternatives such as solar, wind, and tidal power.
Fieldwork Ethics and Comparative Research Methods – syllabus
(ANTH3500 / 4 credits / 60 hours)
This course enables students to understand and benefit from experience-based learning processes. It provides students with skills related to gathering, analyzing, and interpreting information from a range of sources, maximizing the knowledge provided by local contexts. The course intends to assist students in assessing their own cultural assumptions and in understanding people from different cultures. Students are familiarized with the World Learning/SIT Human Subjects Review Policy. The seminar provides a framework for a cumulative project involving data collection and qualitative research undertaken in each of the countries visited.

These letters home are from previous terms. Site locations may vary from term to term.

Letters Home: Climate Change

May 3, 2016
IHP Climate Change Spring 2016 – Vietnam
Letter Home from Vietnam   Upon arrival in Hanoi, we went to a restaurant that served us many different foods and everyone had to brush the dust off of their chopstick skills. Some food was dropped into soy sauce and many laughs were shared at the struggle of getting used to our new utensils. We […]
January 27, 2016
IHP Climate Change Fall 2015 – San Francisco
San Francisco Letter Home   Getting Oriented The morning of August 24th dawned just like any other day, except for the fact that all 25 members of our IHP Climate Change cohort were awake for that dawn, preparing to embark upon a semester the likes of which none of us had ever experienced before. Not […]
August 17, 2015
IHP Climate Change Letter Home from Morocco Spring 2015
IHP Climate Change Spring 2015: Morocco Country Blog Khobz Babies, Medina Mazes, & Sahara Sandstorms   Food in Morocco   Moroccan cuisine was definitely an immediate and obvious departure from Vietnamese cuisine; as soon as we landed in Casablanca it was out with the rice and noodle soups and in with the khobz (pronounced “hobs”, […]

The faculty/staff team shown on this page is a sample of the individuals who may lead your specific program. Faculty and coordinators are subject to change to accommodate each program’s unique schedule and locations.

Nicolas Stahelin, Program Director

Nicolas Stahelin is an educator and political ecologist who has worked in the field of experiential learning, international and cross-cultural exchange, school-community partnerships, and higher education for nearly fifteen years. He has a BA in environmental studies from Oberlin College, an MA in international educational development from Columbia University, and is in the final stages of his doctoral candidacy in international and comparative education, also at Columbia. His teaching and research engage with sustainability in global and comparative perspectives at the intersection of political ecology, environmental justice, globalization studies, and the sociology of education. In recent research, Nicolas examined the ideological divergence between critical environmental education movements in Brazil and UNESCO’s Decade of Education for Sustainable Development. He is an alum (fall 2000) and former program assistant (spring 2001, 2003–2004) of SIT’s Amazon Resource Management and Human Ecology program in Northern Brazil. More recently he was the director of the Peace Corps Fellows Program at Columbia University. Originally of Swiss-Brazilian nationality, Nicolas lived for twenty years in Brazil and Venezuela and is fluent in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and French.

BarthelmessCybelle Barthelmess

CyBelle Barthelmess, a former Trustees’ Fellow for IHP’s Cities in the 21st Century program, has returned to the IHP family in the role of program manager. She holds a master’s degree in international education from SIT Graduate Institute and a bachelor’s degree in communications and urban youth work from Gordon College. For the last decade, Belle has worked in the field of higher education across the globe, empowering undergraduates through their development of identity, intellect, and intercultural competence. Along with her role as program manager, Belle is an assistant faculty member within the Global Studies Department, at Azusa Pacific University, in Los Angeles, CA. Whether in the highlands of Fiji, the “bush” of Africa, or an urban classroom in LA, Belle has taught from the pedagogy of experiential learning, encouraging students to identify their own culture, unique perspective, and story and to expand their cognitive complexity through conceptualizing the world through the lens of people around the world. She resonates sincerely with the vision and mission of IHP and is excited to start this new season.

Erin Axelrod, Launch Coordinator

Erin Axelrod is a partner/worker-owner with LIFT Economy, a consulting firm providing technical skills for mission-driven entrepreneurs, where she helps accelerate the spread of climate-beneficial businesses. Her specialty is working with businesses that address critical soil and water regeneration. She experienced firsthand the critical connections between climate change and food as a participant in IHP: Cities in the 21st Century during the 2008 global food riots. This experience anchored her commitment to a career supporting local food sovereignty. After graduating with a BA in urban studies from Barnard College, Columbia University, Erin worked for four years as the city programs coordinator for Daily Acts Organization producing water conservation programs for cities, transforming lawns into food, and helping design and manage a successful greywater reuse education and installation program. She works with the Fibershed Project and was a contributing author for an economic feasibility study for implementing a bioregional-scale regenerative textile mill in California. She is on the advisory board of BlueBarrel Systems, a women-owned national rainwater catchment start-up company. A frequent public speaker, she has given presentations at conferences including the Permaculture Voices Conference, the Sustainable Enterprise Conference, NorCal Permaculture Convergence, and the California Greywater Conference. 

Phuong Hoang, Country Coordinator, Vietnam

Phuong earned a master’s degree in sustainable development from SIT Graduate Institute in 2010 and a bachelor of science in international relations from Edgewood College, Madison, Wisconsin, in 2007. After ten years studying and living in the US, Phuong moved back to Vietnam in late 2010 and worked for UN-REDD Programme Vietnam as a communication and network officer, and now she is a coordinator for Participatory Governance Assessment for REDD+ with UNDP Vietnam.

Jawad Moustakbal, Country Coordinator, Morocco

Jawad Moustakbal graduated in 2000 with a degree in civil engineering from the EHTP engineering school in Casablanca. He worked as project manager in several companies including OCP, the Moroccan phosphates state company. He is working as consultant in construction management services (CMS). He worked also as a temporary professor in Bouchaib Doukali University. Jawad is also an active member of ATTAC/CADTM Morocco and ACME: Moroccan association for an international water agreement.

Kathryn Ledebur, Country Coordinator, Bolivia

Kathryn Ledebur studied Andean history at FLACSO in Quito, Ecuador, and is a graduate of Oberlin College. She has collaborated with a series of human rights and drug policy organizations in the United States and Latin America. Since 1997, she has worked at the Andean Information Network (AIN), which promotes human rights and socioeconomic justice in Bolivia and more humane and effective illicit drug control policies. AIN provides information and analysis to NGO colleagues, the media, and international policymakers on developments in Bolivia and the impact of the US government and European policies. Working closely with civil society organizations in Latin America and the United States, AIN promotes policy dialogue and the development of pragmatic alternatives that address the underlying economic, social, political, and cultural needs of Bolivia. Kathryn lives in Cochabamba, Bolivia, and has been AIN’s director since 1999. She is the author of numerous articles as well as the chapter on Bolivia in the book Drugs and Democracy in Latin America (2003).

ChandrasekaranPriya Chandrasekaran, Traveling Faculty

Priya Chandrasekaran has joined SIT after teaching anthropology at Hunter College and liberal arts at Pratt Institute. She has an MFA in fiction writing from the New School and is an advanced doctoral candidate in cultural anthropology at the CUNY Graduate Center. Her research concerns food as a nexus through which to examine the entanglement of human rights, labor exploitation, natural resource dispossession, aesthetic shifts, and political solidarities. Her NSF-supported dissertation investigates how women farmers and rain-fed grains in the north Indian hills are situated in regional, national, and transnational circuits of political economy, food production, and rural activism as well as how women farmers' knowledge and labor are implicated in competing projects for “food security/sovereignty,” “biodiversity,” and “development.” She has extensive professional background as a college writing tutor, outdoor educator, and leader of service learning programs throughout the Global South. She has also been a Fellow at the Center for the Humanities; the Center for Place, Culture, and Politics; and the Committee on Globalization and Social Change at the CUNY Graduate Center.

Caitlyn Clark, Trustees’ Fellow

Caitlyn Clark is pursuing her degree in sustainable development at SIT Graduate Institute in Brattleboro, VT. She received her BA in cultural anthropology from Bryn Mawr College in 2007 and spent the following summer studying Maya archaeology in Mexico. Caitlyn then moved to Philadelphia where she served in AmeriCorps for two years working in public high schools. She also rehabbed an abandoned elementary school garden, taught summer school, coached soccer, and frequented many farmer’s markets. But it was a humanitarian trip to Cuba in 2006 that fostered Caitlyn’s passion for traveling, more specifically, traveling with the purpose of engaging with people in different countries, while studying cultural, socioeconomic, and political factors within a specific context. Before moving to Vermont, she returned to Cuba and then backpacked through Latin America for eight months, setting up volunteer gigs along the way. She started in Peru, where she served as the coordinator for undergraduate students in an archaeological field school, and ended in Guatemala, at a health and nutrition nonprofit serving youth in the Tz’utujil community. Caitlyn’s studies at SIT have merged her interests in Latin America, sustainable food systems, climate change, and community development.

VietnamYou will live with a host family for between two and four weeks at each program site, with the exception of the first location. Homestays are the primary form of accommodation on the program; other accommodations can include guest houses, hostels, dormitories, and/or small hotels.

Homestay families provide you with the opportunity to live as integrated members of the host communities. In sharing daily life, conversations, family stories, celebrations, and community events, you will not only learn a tremendous amount, but also develop lasting friendships.

Family structures vary in every place, and SIT values the diversity of homestay families. For example, the host family may include a single mother of two small children or a large extended family with many people coming and going all the time. Please bear in mind that the idea of what constitutes a “home” (i.e., the physical nature of the house) may be different from what one expects. You will need to be prepared to adapt to a new life with a new diet, a new schedule, new people, and possibly new priorities and expectations.

Country coordinators in each location arrange homestay placements. In most cases, students will be placed in homestays in pairs, with placements made to best accommodate health concerns, including allergies or dietary needs. You will not receive information about homestay families until you arrive in each country.

A diversity of students representing different colleges, universities, and majors study abroad on this program. Many of them have gone on to do amazing things that connect back to their experience abroad with SIT. Learn what some of them are now doing.

Recent positions held by alumni of this program include:

  • Research assistant for the United Nations, conducting work in Ecuador
  • Truman Scholarship recipient, continuing research at the postgraduate level
  • Fulbright recipients, returning to work in the countries the program visits

Program Dates: Fall 2016

Program Arrival Date:  Aug 29, 2016

Program Departure Date:    Dec 19, 2016

The dates listed above are subject to change. Please note that travel to and from the program site may span a period of more than one day.

Student applications to this program will be reviewed on a rolling basis between the opening date and the deadline.

Application Deadline:   Jun 1, 2016


SIT Pell Grant Match Award. SIT Study Abroad provides matching grants to all students receiving Federal Pell Grant funding; this award can be applied to any SIT semester program. View all SIT Study Abroad scholarships.

Tuition: $18,000

The tuition fee covers the following program components:

  • Content and logistics for field programs in San Francisco, Vietnam, Morocco, and Bolivia
  • Cost of all lecturers who provide instruction to students in:
    • Locally taught classes
      • Comparative Issues in Food, Water, and Energy
      • The Science and Policy of Climate Change
    • Classes taught by traveling faculty
      • Political Economy and Environmental History
      • Fieldwork Ethics and Comparative Research Methods
  • Guest lectures and panel discussions
  • Site visit hosts and facilitators
  • Transportation to classroom spaces and daily program activities
  • All educational excursions to locations such as the Atlas Mountains, including all related travel costs
  • Traveler’s health insurance throughout the entire program period 
  • Instructional materials
  • Other direct program costs

Note: Vacation costs are not covered by program fees; students are responsible for this.

Airfare: $4,500

  • Group airfare during the program
  • Airfare includes a flight back to a city in the US at the conclusion of the program.

Room & Board: $4,500

The room and board fee covers the following program components:

  • All accommodations during the entire program period. This includes during orientation, time in all four countries, urban and rural stays, all excursions, and the final retreat. Accommodation is covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend provided to each student, or through the homestay. 
  • All homestays in Vietnam, Morocco, and Bolivia
  • All meals for the entire program period. Meals are covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend, or through the homestay.

Estimated Additional Costs:

Domestic Airfare to Program Launch Site

Domestic airline pricing can vary greatly due to the volatility of airline industry pricing, flight availability, and specific flexibility/restrictions on the type of ticket purchased. Students may choose to take advantage of frequent flyer or other airline awards available to them, which could significantly lower their travel costs.

Visa Expenses: $ 275

Immunizations: Varies

Books & Supplies: $ 150

International Phone: Each student must have a phone in each country. Cost varies according to personal preferences, phone plans, data plans, etc.

Discretionary Expenses

Personal expenses during the program vary based on individual spending habits and budgets. While all meals and accommodations are covered in the room and board fee, incidentals and personal transportation costs differ depending on the non-program-related interests and pursuits of each student. To learn more about personal budgeting, we recommend speaking with alumni who participated in a program in your region. See a full list of our alumni contacts. Please note that free time to pursue non-program-related activities is limited.

Please Note: Fees and additional expenses are based on all known circumstances at the time of calculation. Due to the unique nature of our programs and the economics of host countries, SIT reserves the right to change its fees or additional expenses without notice.


Tap to display sub-menu choices,
press & hold to open topic in new page.


SIT, 1 Kipling Road, PO Box 676, Brattleboro, VT 05302-0676
802 258-3212, 888 272-7881 (Toll-free in the US), Fax: 802 258-3296 

SIT was founded as the School for International Training and has been known as SIT Study Abroad and SIT Graduate Institute since 2007. SIT is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Inc. (NEASC) through its Commission on Institutions of Higher Education

Accreditation | Privacy Policy | Site Map

Copyright 2016. World Learning. All rights reserved.

Back to top