Climate Narrative Project seeks to turn activism into art


Students who major in chemistry, geographic information sciences, and women, gender, and sexuality studies often don’t collaborate on projects.

However, a campus group is seeking to turn climate activism into art and storytelling by combining a variety of these and other disciplines.

The Climate Narrative Project in the University of Iowa Office of Sustainability brings together students from different fields of study, ranging from first-year undergraduates to fourth-year doctoral students, to discuss climate change.

The project was started in 2014 and has a new group of “fellows” every semester. This semester, there are six fellows who will each do a project to express an issue related to climate change in an artistic way, and it must be related to this semester’s theme — social justice.

“I’m curious to see what’s going to happen, because I’ve seen a lot of interesting topics like climate migration and climate debt,” founder and writer-in-residence Jeff Biggers said. “This is the first time we’ve had such an open-ended topic; one time we did biodiversity, another time we looked at the Iowa River.”

The fellows have met once a week to discuss climate change and to develop ideas for their projects, which will be presented to the community at the end of April. They do not receive university credit for participating but are paid a stipend for their time.

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Biggers said the purpose of the projects is to find a better way to communicate about climate justice.

“You don’t want people to hear your stories and say, ‘Oh, that’s nice.’ You want them to say, ‘Wow, I have to go do something,’ ” Biggers said. “Really, it’s all about making us think in an entirely different way, it’s the power of storytelling and how it can really get us to imagine a different world and inform us on how to create it.”

The project is all about bringing together people from different backgrounds and areas of study, Biggers said.

One of the fellows is Anthony Lucio, a fourth-year Ph.D. student in chemistry whose research relates to carbon dioxide’s role in causing global climate change.

He said he joined the project to find better ways to communicate issues about sustainability and climate change to the public.

“It’s really fun, and I’m happy to have the opportunity to learn more,” Lucio said.

Another fellow, UI freshman and pre-medicine student Gina Mostafa, said she’s focusing her project on how food production can lead to climate change.

“People don’t know how eating a burger a week contributes to climate change,” Mostafa said. “I want the goal to be to encourage people to cut down to a point that’s good for their health and good for the environment.”

Lucio said he plans to focus his project on national parks through a film, despite having no experience in filmmaking.

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