What is ‘the climate’? Via Dictionary.com: “the composite or generally prevailing weather conditions of a region, as temperature, air pressure, humidity, precipitation, sunshine, cloudiness, and winds, throughout the year, averaged over a series of years.” And that’s what it’s been for most of the climate change ‘debate’ (yes, those are sarcastic quotation marks): scientific reports and parsing of data, hockey-stick charts and dire predictions. But ‘climate’ can also mean and be defined by: “the prevailing attitudes, standards, or environmental conditions of a group, period, or place.”
Working collectively to shift our collective impact on our physical and personal climates was the theme of last week’s launch of the Human Impacts
Institute's (HII) Human Impact Stories program and a celebration of Climate Diplo Day, a collaboration led by HII with the support of the German Consulate in NYC, the Permanent Mission of Germany to the UN, the French Consulate in NYC, the Permanent Mission of France to the UN, the European Union Delegation to the United Nations, the New York State Pollution Prevention Institute (NYSP2I), StoryCorps, Winter's Past (Isaac Kestenbaum and Josie Holtzman), Andrew Shea, and Amy Braunschweiger.
Climate Diplomacy Day (#ClimateDiploDay) grew out of the fact, underscored by German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, that “no country can control climate risks alone...climate diplomacy can serve as forward-looking foreign policy.” His sentiments were echoed by the speakers from the event co-hosts, whom we were honored to have attend. Ambassador Heike Thoms, Deputy Permanent Representative of Germany to the United Nations (say that three times fast), Ambassador Thomas Mayr-Harting, Head of the Delegation of the European Union to the UN, and Mr. Bertrand Lortholary, Consul General of the French Consulate in NY, each gave a brief overview of their country’s work in climate, and the need to move forward together.
Changing the currently toxic climate on climate can be achieved even faster with the inclusion (and sometimes forceful nudging) of a vibrant civil sector. The Human Impact Institute’s new program premiered with stories of "Climate Sheros": a celebration of inspiring personal stories of 19 New York City-based women who are powerhouses in taking action on climate change. “By sharing these women's’ stories of triumph, heartbreak, and perseverance, we are showcasing the human side of climate change and challenging each of us to find our role to play in creating solutions,” commented Amy Braunschweiger, advisor to the program and HII board member.
Debuting at the French Consulate, (to impressive crowds!) the exhibit shares these women’s personal tales of innovation and impacts that matter via a visual exhibit, podcasts and live art, as well as the people, places, and events that have moved people to take positive action. Their stories are diverse: the women range from a NASA scientist to a South Bronx community activist to high school students who became involved Hurricane Sandy, and touch on issues underpinning climate change, like racism and social justice. Of of their end goals, however, are the same: to inspire New Yorkers to take action on climate change.
HII recorded and edited their stories into podcasts while also creating a moveable indoor/outdoor exhibit featuring the women and their work. To listen to these women’s stories [Kazi Ateea, Wendy Brawer, Majora Carter, Aria Doe, Jeanne DuPont, Gioya DeSouza-Fennelly, Kim Fraczek, Jean Gardner, Sarah Levine, Sabine Marx, Helen Matsos, Mary Miss, Eve Mosher, Cynthia Rosenzweig, Anasa Scott, Courtney St. John, Shino Tanikawa, Annie Willis, and Bethany Yarrow] and learn more, click here.
And positive action, let’s face it, is more likely to happen when we take the talk out of speaker panels and theoretical workshops. Art helps. Wine does too. Luckily, we had both in plenty (shout out to Trader Joe’s for its extensive organic wine selection)! As different people are inspired in different ways – audio, visual, tactile, etc – HII enrolled musicians, performance artists and a spoken word artist, to retell the women’s stories through their own lens.
Each of the four artists’ performances were created especially for this evening, and you can see them on our YouTube page.
Both Honeychild Coleman (site here) and Emily Danger (site here) and Ricky Watts’s (site here) songs were inspired by the work of Annie Willis and Kazi Ateea, high school students in New York City and featured Climate sHeroes. Honeychild sang ‘Rockaway Resilience’ (and rocked some seriously impressive shoes); Emily sang and played an electric
keyboard; Ricky filled the room with the sound of an electric drum pad.
Lea Fulton (more here) and Janna Diamond (more here) took the phrase ‘body of work’ to another level, by encouraging attendees to think of a word that characterized their feelings about the state of the world and write it on the performers’ bodies.
these words, Janna and Lea ascended two ladders in the center of the room beneath a large chandelier for their movement piece, set to a recording of music and interview clips. Last (but certainly not least) Shan Gao (
, a Chinese singer/songwriter with two #1 hits already under her belt, beautifully performed “We Can Make a Choice,” in part inspired by Wendy Brawer
and her work on creating community ‘green maps.’
For us, the evening was a success not only because of the number of attendees, but their diversity: diplomats and artists marveled together at the moving performances and inspiring stories, while high school students and scientists discussed the latest environmental legislation. And guests rose to the challenge offered by HII founder Tara DePorte, sharing their personal human impacts and expressed a common commitment to climate change activism.
And to us, the event demonstrated that the key to making a positive impact on our environment and climate can never be found solely through a governmental committee or scientific panel. Climate change must come through a collaborative process involving people of diverse backgrounds and experiences. Then perhaps, we can truly make the necessary changes to create a just and livable world.
Even though the list is far too long to include here, we want to thank all the people that helped make this evening a success, including: German Consulate in NYC, Permanent Mission of Germany to the UN, French Consulate in NYC, Permanent Mission of France to the UN, EU Commission, New York State Pollution Prevention Institute (NYSP2I), StoryCorps, Winter's Past (Isaac Kestenbaum and Josie Holtzman), Andrew Shea, Amy Braunschweiger and all of the women who shared their stories and inspire us to follow their footsteps: Kazi Ateea, Wendy Brawer, Majora Carter, Aria Doe, Jeanne Dupont, Gioya DeSouza-Fennelly, Kim Fraczek, Jean Gardner, Sarah Levine, Sabine Marx, Helen Matsos, Mary Miss, Eve Mosher, Cynthia Rosenzweig, Anasa Scott, Courtney St. John, Shino Tanikawa, Annie Willis, and Bethany Yarrow.