Human Impacts Bay Area: Innovation for Climate Breakthrough

In 2013-2014 the Human Impacts Institute is partnering with the Transatlantic Climate Bridge Program of Germany to explore how we can make climate change personal to our communities and re-communicate climate issues to the American public in creative and engaging ways through our “Creative Climate” Human Impacts Salons series. Working with local partners in eight U.S. cities and in Berlin, this year-long tour bring together creative visionaries with community leaders, environmental experts, and activists in a salon-style event of performance and in-depth discussion to highlight local action, resources, and solutions to addressing one of the most pressing issues of our times–climate change.

What excites you about climate innovation? As we all know, climate change can often be a fear-inducing topic. But can it also be an opportunity? This was the central idea at play during Human Impacts Bay Area, the seventh stop in the Human Impacts Institute’s national salon tour. Bay area residents gathered at UC Berkeley’s CITRIS Headquarters to take part in a salon-style evening of discussion and creative performance.

HII’s Tara DePorte welcomed audience members and introduced a panel of inspiring Bay Area artists, scientists, and changemakers to give their personal take on climate innovation. Spoken word artist and environmentalist AshEl Eldridge gave the first original performance of the evening, making use of spoken word and other vocal phrasing. Other panelists included Joshua Fouts representing Bioneers, changemaker Zakiya Harris, Georg Maue from the Transatlantic Climate Bridge Program of German, as well as Berkeley Center for New Media’s Greg Niemeyer and IDEO’s Jason Rissman (a complete list of panelists is included at the end of this blog).

Panelists brought many exciting ideas to the table, including Greg Niemeyer’s hopes for the future of data visualization and well as Jason Rissman’s views on how innovation occurs socially. When it comes to new forms of social innovation, such as social networks, Rissman emphasized that “We don’t need to be working on these problems alone.” Unlike the common image of the lone genius working alone in her lab, new innovations are coming from groups of people at Hackathons or other collaborative spaces. Fortunately, social experiences– like parties or salons– may now become opportunities for progress.

To add a little audience participation to the mix, salon attendees were asked to write down and share their “6 word climate change story”– an activity made popular by Hemingway’s famous six-word story, “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” One attendee’s anonymous submission– “Sandy destroyed my family and my hometown”– was particularly resonating. You can check out the HII facebook or twitter for more Bay Area 6 word climate stories.

As the salon came to end, DePorte challenged panelists to respond to a final question: what can we truly implement right now? Joshua Fouts responded with the very simple act of “putting aside our differences”. With that in mind, let us know what solutions you’re ready to put into action by joining our Human Impacts Salons discussion group on facebook or sending us your feedback. Lastly, stay tuned for HII’s upcoming salon in Houston, Texas, this December.

Panelists include:

Dr. Georg Maue, First Secretary of Climate and Energy, German Embassy to the U.S.

Greg Niemeyer, Director, Berkeley Center for New Media

Zakiya Harris, Artist and Changemaker

Joshua Sheridan Fouts, Executive Director, Bioneers

Jason Rissman, Managing Director, OpenIDEO, IDEO

Ashel Eldridge, CEO and Founder SOS Juice, Founder Earth Amplified

This program would not be possible without the support of the following:

The Transatlantic Climate Bridge Program of the German Government, which aims to support platforms and partnerships that help Americans and Germans exchange their know-how and to pave the way for joint solutions.

The Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany in Chicagoproviding information on Germany and the consular services for Visa, Passport, and Legal advice, and Germany-related news and events. They offer a wide spectrum of information, including details on traveling, studying, and doing business in Germany. Their German language website features information and news relevant to German citizens.

StoryCorps’ mission is to provide people of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share and preserve the stories of our lives. We do this to remind one another of our shared humanity, to strengthen and build the connections between people, to teach the value of listening, and to weave into the fabric of our culture the understanding that everyone’s story matters. At the same time, we are creating an invaluable archive for future generations.

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