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Boston Civic Media cohort takes on climate change

November 16, 2017

For the 2017–2018 school year, the Boston Civic Media consortium cohort is exploring the intersection between the “wicked problem” of climate change and the civic media approaches that can be developed to confront it. A “wicked problem” is one that doesn’t have a clear solution and requires interdisciplinary strategies and systems thinking.

The BCM consortium of Boston institutions work together to enhance undergraduate education by facilitating curriculum design, improving research and partnership practices, and strengthening connections within the local civic media ecosystem. This semester, BCM faculty from five area colleges and universities are teaching courses that acclimate students to civic media concepts and research methods by working with local nonprofit organizations who directly deal with climate change:

  • Emerson’s Catherine D’Ignazio is teaching a course on data visualization, where students adopt a “data-mindset” and reflect on how telling stories with data can help advance public understanding. The class is partnering with GreenRoots, an environmental justice advocacy organization.

  • Emerson’s Jon Honea is teaching a “Science in Translation” course, where students explore how to communicate scientific language and concepts to the broader public. The class is partnering with the Mystic River Watershed Association, which sponsors scientific research, outreach and conversation for the Mystic River watershed. As final projects, students are meeting needs identified by the Association, which includes creating an app that presents volunteer opportunities for improving the watershed.

  • Harvard’s Doris Sommer is delivering an “Arts for Global Health” lecture series that explores how to confront global health challenges through aesthetic approaches.

  • Boston Architectural College’s Ben Peterson is teaching a course in “Community Practice,” which provides students with an introduction into design-thinking approaches, the role of design in the public realm and design partnership with communities. The class is partnering with Mass in Motion, which promotes healthy living and active living, and the town of Salem, Massachusetts.

  • Wheelock’s Susan Jane is teaching a course on “Media as a Tool for Social Change,” where students use critical media literacy approaches to understand the effects of media consumption on youth and communities. The class is partnering with LivableStreets Alliance, which advocates for equitable and sustainable transportation solutions.

  • Northeastern’s Sharon Harlan is teaching an interdisciplinary course on “Climate Change and Society,” where students explore the relationships between human drivers, impacts and responses to changes in weather and climate. The class is partnering with Emmanuel Gospel Center and Vibrant Boston, to promote practical dialogue on climate change and resilience in Boston communities

  • Northeastern’s Sara Wylie is teaching a course on “Community Research Methods,” where students explore contemporary research methods like community-based participatory research. The class is also partnering with GreenRoots.

At the end-of-semester culminating event on December 7th — titled Climate Change and Design in Boston — students and faculty from the six courses will gather at the Bill Bordy Theater at Emerson to showcase student projects from the semester, hear from a panel on design and climate change, and engage in small group discussions about the future of climate action. An RSVP is required, so save your spot here:

Panelists will participate in a moderated discussion on design approaches to climate change.

The previous week, on December 1st from 12–1 p.m., Boston Civic Media is hosting a Twitter chat, “Cities Our Front on Climate Action and Adaptation,” which will explore how cities like Boston can respond to the declining role of federal government in addressing climate change by taking action on a local level. In the Twitter chat, we’ll bring together designers, researchers, and activists to explore this question and share ideas, resources and tools for marching forward together on climate action. Featured participants include:

  • Michelle Wu, president of the Boston City Council

  • Andy Bean, campaign organizer for the Boston Climate Action Network, which works to broaden the constituency for a green economy and frame climate concerns to resonate with Boston residents’ daily lives.

  • Rev. Mariama White-Hammond, Minister for Ecological Justice at Bethel AME Church in Boston and fellow with the Green Justice Coalition

  • Joel Wool, campaign organizer for Clean Water Action focusing on energy efficiency, renewable energy and gas infrastructure issues

Join the Twitter chat by using #bostoncivicmedia and stay tuned for reflections from these events and updates for next semester!

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