Connected \\ April 15, 2022
Earth Week brings a Rare opportunity to talk frankly about the climate crisis
Increasing alarm about the condition of our planet means Earth Day is evolving into Earth Year, especially at PEM. With multiple exhibitions examining the current climate crisis, themes are starting to emerge. And it’s becoming increasingly clear that we cannot change the current situation without first changing ourselves.
As part of PEM’s school vacation week programming, the museum is partnering with Rare, an international organization that identifies human behavior as the root of our global conservation and development challenges. The nonprofit will be on site Friday, April 22, and Saturday, April 23, to help celebrate the opening of the new exhibition Climate Action: Inspiring Change. Rare will set up their colorful exhibition booths in the Main Atrium to educate the community about four specific climate-positive actions they can adopt: Eat More Veggies, Save Money With Community Solar, Make Your Next Car Electric and Give Back to Nature.
While people often want to help address the issue of climate change, they often don’t know where to even start, says Frank Lowenstein, a senior director at Rare, who works in regional sustainability in Greater Boston. “But the most important thing you — as an individual — can do to help change behavior is to talk about it. Share your actions with others. People are most likely to change if they see change happening around them. Your actions can inspire others to act too.”
Lauren Owens Lambert for Rare; RyanJLane, Solstock, Elenathewise for iStock.
Lowenstein says that while government and corporate action are both essential, our individual actions move more quickly, creating momentum. “We are social animals — we look to people we like, and people we want to be like, for cues on how to behave,” he says. “So if we eat less meat or install solar panels on our homes, and we make these actions observable to friends, family, neighbors and colleagues, we are helping shift social norms toward sustainability and pave the way to large-scale, systemic change.”
While an individual’s actions may seem small, the collective impact can be huge, says Lowenstein, adding that if 10 percent of the residents of Greater Boston adopt new climate supporting behaviors, then emissions will be reduced by twice the amount of the annual emissions produced by the entire MBTA system. Lowenstein has worked for over 30 years in the nonprofit sector to advance climate protection and land conservation, most recently serving as the Chief Operating Officer of New England Forestry Foundation.
Rare will bring their colorful information booths to PEM on April 22 and 23. Photo courtesy of Design Foundry.
When asked how he continues to feel hopeful, Lowenstein says, “Our economy has the power to drive a transformation that will preserve a livable climate and improve our lives.” One example is electric cars, he says, adding that they aren’t just better for the climate, but also less prone to breakdowns, quieter and safer. “We can block future vulnerability to economic blackmail around high oil prices by just getting rid of gasoline-powered cars quickly, through collective effort. And collective will is what is needed across the board. Every serious study of the potential to prevent climate breakdown concludes in much the same way: that restraining climate change is possible today using proven technologies.”
On April 23, Lowenstein will be joined by Jordan Sanchez, a writer, educator and climate advocate, who currently studies mathematics, physics and education at Harvard University, for a special event in PEM’s Morse Auditorium. The student climate advocate will kick off the program with an original poem, then join a panel that includes a clinical psychologist and youth climate leaders to discuss the range of emotions brought on by threats to our climate and their tools for maintaining hope.
Sanchez agrees that individual actions are important, especially when they spark others to follow. “If you’re an individual looking to take action against climate change, I challenge you to pick three habits to change in your own life and encourage others in your community to do the same. Changing the culture around you causes a ripple effect, and it starts one person at a time,” she says.
Anjali Mitra, The Seas Are Rising, So Are We, 2020. “Climate Hope: Transforming Crisis” contest entry. Bay State Award, High School. Acrylic on canvas. Courtesy of the artist and Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs Inc.
When she’s not talking about the climate crisis, Sanchez is working on equity in education. Whether it’s her family in Puerto Rico or friends in New Orleans, Sanchez says it’s communities of color who are on the front lines of climate change and the subjects of her poems.
“The purpose of poetry, and art as a whole, is one of the most effective ways to transfer experiences and develop empathy in others,” says Sanchez. “So when we have an issue as distant and intangible as the climate crisis, poetry becomes one of the most powerful ways to connect people to it. Suddenly you’re not talking about random extinct species, planting trees, or overwhelmingly large statistics. You’re listening to a story about a person like you and me. You’re listening to something your heart can connect to. Poetry distills climate change into something you can see, touch and feel.”
SPECIAL OPENING EVENTS
Friday, April 22, and Saturday, April 23
Shifting the Climate Culture
10 am–5 pm | Main Atrium
Join Rare — the international conservation organization helping people and nature thrive — for a hands-on exploration of climate-positive behaviors around food, energy, transportation and nature. Explore their booths to discover simple changes that can help the climate, and your health, budget, and community.
Climate Action: Inspiring Change
3–4:30 pm | Morse Auditorium
Join us as student climate advocate Jordan Sanchez kicks off the event with a new original poem. Be the first to preview clips from PBS FRONTLINE’s three-part investigative climate series, The Power of Big Oil. Jordan Sanchez returns to join Clinical Psychologist Kelsey Hudson, Ph.D, in conversation with teen climate leader Natalia Jacobs and student climate activist Joey Wolongevicz. Together they’ll discuss the range of emotions brought on by threats to our climate and ways to find on-ramps to hope through, coping, self expression, civic action and positive change for the future. A Q&A follows their conversation.
TOP IMAGE: Naima Penniman, Foresight, 2018. Acrylic on wood © Naima Penniman Courtesy of the artist.