Starting April 1, Appalachian State University will host its first-ever Climate Justice Month to broaden the conversation surrounding climate change. The university will present several events, ranging from film screenings as well as lectures by visiting scholars, a climate artivist and an indigenous leader whose tribe is being called “America’s first climate refugees.” All events are free and open to the public.
Laura England, senior lecturer in the Goodnight Family Department of Sustainable Development, along with Derek Davidson, assistant professor in the Department of Theatre and Dance, are the lead organizers of Climate Justice Month. After facilitating the start of the Climate Stories Collaborative, an initiative in the College of Fine and Applied Arts designed to grow the capacity of faculty and students to use a variety of creative media to tell the stories of those who are affected by climate change, England and Davidson wanted to continue the conversation.
“The idea for the month came from recognizing that the public discourse on climate change often focuses on ecological and economic effects — science and politics — and not everyone is tuning in,” she shared. “We also need to be talking about the human dimensions of climate change – the disruption and suffering that human communities around the world are experiencing. This approach may speak to more people.”
Davidson, who is also a playwright and director, said one goal is to bring people into the conversation through the arts.
“Issues arising from the changing climate are not only important to scientists and politicians; they affect all of us. And artists of every stripe—painters, sculptors, musicians, photographers, writers—are often able to reach us emotionally and viscerally in ways statistics or graphs never could.”
According to England, April was the ideal time for Climate Justice Month.
“The first week of April is Social Justice Week, and the entire month is Earth Month. It just made sense to host Climate Justice Month in April.”
In addition to guest lecturers and panelists, students are also heavily involved. Students helped plan and facilitate a recent benefit concert, and are planning a poster session, dance performance and reading in conjunction with the April 9 seminar with playwright Chantal Bilodeau.
“Climate change is ongoing and happening now, not in the distant future,” said England. “We have faculty and students from all over the university participating in Climate Justice Month, and I’m hopeful we can give a greater sense of urgency and motivate action to address climate change through these events.”
“I like that our event emphasizes ‘climate justice.’ The idea of climate change as a concept can feel abstract, inevitable. Climate justice requires human participation. Perhaps climate change is inevitable, but how we respond—hopefully with compassion, equity and urgency—is up to us. Change is happening—what are we doing about it? Hopefully, our Climate Justice Month will offer exciting opportunities to see how others are responding right now, and how we might act to prepare for and create a better future.”
Climate Justice Month Calendar
April 4: “Climate Refugees” film screening, 7 p.m.
I.G. Greer Auditorium
April 9: Addressing Change Through the Arts with playwright Chantal Bilodeau, 5:30 p.m.
Parkway Ballroom (PSU 420)
April 11: “America’s First Climate Refugees” with Chief Albert Naquin and short film screening of “We are all Related Here”, 7 p.m.
I.G. Greer Auditorium
April 25: “Community, Culture and Climate Justice” with Dr. Anthony Oliver-Smith and Dr. Elizabeth Marino, 5:30 p.m.
I.G. Greer Auditorium
To learn more, visit faa.appstate.edu/climatejustice.
Climate Justice Month is funded by the Office of QEP and co-sponsored by Belk Library and Office of Sustainability. Partners include the Goodnight Family Department of Sustainable Development, Office of Multicultural Student Development, Department of Theatre and Dance and the Department of Anthropology.
About Appalachian State University
Appalachian State University, in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The transformational Appalachian experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and embrace diversity and difference. As one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina system, Appalachian enrolls about 19,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.