UI Environmental Coalition hosts Pipeline Poetry


Students discuss environmental justice at the University of Iowa Environmental Coalition's Pipeline Poetry event on Sunday, April 15th. The event interwined environmental ideas with art: including poetry, music, prose, and videos. (Sid Peterson/The Daily Iowan)

UI students gathered to challenge environmental injustice through the use of spoken word Sunday evening at the UI Environmental Coalition’s Pipeline Poetry event.

The event was held at Pappajohn Business Building for people to share readings and performances addressing environmental justice and injustice. Participants were invited to perform original pieces or well-known works.

UI junior Denise Cheeseman hosted the event in hopes of shining a light on what she called the current environmental corruption occurring in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

“We’re raising money for a group of water protectors up in Minnesota and Wisconsin who are currently peacefully protesting the construction of a pipeline from the tar sands in Canada to refineries in Superior, Wisconsin,” Cheeseman said.

The water protectors are the Makwa Initiative. The Camp Makwa organization is an indigenous group in Minnesota working to stop the forming of Enbridge Line 3 Pipeline.

The idea for the Pipeline Poetry event came from a need to address the current injustices happening across Canada to Wisconsin in addition to past events the coalition has held.

Cheeseman is from Minnesota, so the current pipeline issue hit “close to home,” she said.

Participants at the event read from works of poetry and essays, and one person even wrote a song about his thoughts on environmental injustice.

After the spoken-word performances concluded, event coordinators invited participants to partake in a discussion on climate change and how it relates to the young-adult generation. The discussion delved into social media’s role in social change and how it can spread a movement but also how it can hinder change.

UI freshman Vance Davis, who took part in the discussion, spoke of the importance of change no matter the magnitude.

“Anything is a good thing … it’s better than nothing,” he said. “That’s the way change is made; it starts with little changes.”

The discussion also discussed the power of art in relation to conversations on important issues, such as climate change. Art can build the conversation beyond the basic facts and figures that can scare people away from a movement, some participants said.

The discussion concluded with the challenge to bring climate change into day-to-day life. Personal sacrifices can lead to a larger change and the vast variety of ways to make a difference means the issue of climate sustainability is attainable, participants said.

Despite individual sacrifices, people also noted that changes in corporations and big players will lead to a bigger difference. Because the destruction of the natural world is already so large, Cheeseman said, a change in corporate values is necessary,.

The Environmental Coalition also featured numerous videos at the event. The first highlighted the efforts of the Makwa Initiative and its effort to stop the pipeline being built in Canada, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Additional videos included slam poetry about around climate change.

UI freshman Julie Krist, who attended Sunday’s event, said the event highlighted the importance of her generation’s role in changing the destruction of the environment.

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