As the world has sought to understand the causes and impacts of climate change, the topic has long been situated within the domain of science. In the 21st century, data, studies, reports, and academic/technical discourses have been the central mechanisms by which we learn about and process climate change: its consequences, our roles, and possible solutions. In recent years, however, artists and cultural institutions have developed a powerful interest in the topic and begun to employ myriad strategies by which to explore, draw attention to, and process it. There is an evolving understanding among educators and community and political stakeholders that in order to be impactful, messages about climate change need to be delivered from a wide variety of interdisciplinary sources and perspectives. When presented from multidisciplinary vantage points, discussions related to climate change can deepen the appeal to diverse audiences; promote innovative approaches to understanding the issues; inspire empathy; and sound a clarion call to action.
Many of the Green Ribbon Commission (GRC) members represented on the Cultural Institutions Working Group are working to help their audiences access climate change content via non-traditional entry points in order to have a wider and more impactful reach. This GRCx program will highlight three such approaches: the Emerald Necklace Conservancy’s Olmsted Now initiative, the Harvard Museums of Science & Culture’s In Search of Thoreau’s Flowers exhibition, and the Leventhal Map Center’s More or Less in Common: Environment and Justice in the Human Landscape exhibition. The program will consider how cultural institutions are particularly well-equipped to document and interrogate the long time horizons of climate change and resilience, shedding light on how environmental challenges stretch deep into the past and, similarly, how their solutions must speculate about distant futures. The program will also explore the critical role cultural institutions can fill in showcasing the intersections between climate, history, racial equity, public health, and empathy.