A year and a half ago, Brandon Wood was looking for a forum where he could connect with other graduate students about climate change. Today, he is one of the folks in charge of curating more than 100 pieces of climate art, some valued at over $10,000.
Wood, a PhD student in Applied Sciences and Technology, is one of the lead organizers for the Earth Action Initiative, a direct action climate conference that will be hosted April 6. The event boasts two major components — an afternoon block of workshops and a Climate Art Show.
The event is the second iteration of a forum that was originally organized by a collective of graduate students passionate about finding ways to do meaningful work around climate change. Last year’s event, “Fired Up,” was focused on connecting graduate students with external organizations, who were invited to present 2-3 minute “flash talks” about their work and show how students could be involved at the local level.
They wound up attracting more than 20 organizations and 150 attendees. However, because “Fired Up” was entirely a volunteer effort, run on little budget, they were unable to do the kind of follow-up and assessment that they were hoping to do, Wood explained.
This year, Earth Action Initiative will be funded by The Green Initiative Fund and co-sponsored by The Graduate Assembly and the Union of Concerned Scientists.
“This year’s event is more structured in many ways, with the focus on workshops and the art show,” added Andreana Rosnik, a 4th year PhD student in Physical Chemistry, and one of the organizers for the art show. “We have a bit more than one hundred submissions to go through. I am excited about the variety and range of work,” which will include drawings and paintings, as well as textile pieces and sculptures.
“The art show is a critical communication tool,” explained Nanticha Lutt, one of the other lead organizers, and a PhD student in Plant and Microbial Biology. “Raw climate data can be overwhelming and difficult to internalize, and so we hope that the art can provide an evocative, intimate experience to connect with and be inspired by.”
Workshops will cover a variety of topics ranging from nuclear energy to environmental justice, and all will have some direct action component. “I really hope people take away that we all have a role to play in climate justice, and feel empowered to take action!”
“There’s definitely a community building aspect to the entire evening,” says Wood. “There are a ton of people on campus, across disciplines who care about climate change, but are all spread out. We hope this event helps build some connections.”