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Climate Change Across The City: Boston Civic Media’s Fourth Annual Summer Conference

August 09, 2018

To confront the wicked problem of climate change, we must work together.

This sentiment propelled the “Climate Change Across the City” event on June 13th at Emerson College’s Paramount Theatre, which brought together 70 of Boston’s academics, public servants, artists, and community leaders to share projects, gather inspiration, and discuss how best to collaborate across sectors in taking climate action.

Boston Civic Media (BCM) is a network of Boston’s organizational and thought leaders formed to tackle wicked problems on the scale of the city. The network aims to effectively tap into the extraordinary power of the area’s universities by coordinating academic studios on particular topics, improving research and partnership practices, and strengthening connections between practitioners, students and academics. Every year, BCM organizes convenings throughout the year, with a large conference in late spring. This event was the fourth annual spring conference, following last year’s “Civic Imagination: Designing and Building a Better Future.”

Tufts University’s Penn Loh delivered the keynote presentation — “Climate Change is NOT ONLY an Environmental Issue” — exploring how native communities and communities of color have effectively broadened public understanding of the impact of climate change by communicating beyond the frames of science and ecology, mobilizing support through a focus on solidarity, equality, and climate justice.

Throughout the day, there were fifteen three-minute lightning talks about ongoing or completed projects related to climate change. Talks focused on everything from artistic installations to grassroots campaigns to legislation passed by the Boston City Council. You can view all of the lightning talks and keynote presentation here.

The main activity of the day was to workshop solutions and collaborations. The workshop was anchored by a near-future scenario, to which we asked people to respond:

“It’s the year 2025, and sea-level rise is contributing to regular flooding of Boston’s low lying neighborhoods, including East Boston and much of the Back Bay. Sarah, an elementary school teacher, leaves home in Brighton for work in East Boston at 7am on a rainy July morning. After driving for 30 minutes in traffic, the rain becomes extremely heavy and the streets begin to fill with water.”

The objective was to utilize the diverse skills and abilities at the table to dream up a wild climate action idea that responds to the near future scenario and intentionally casts aside practical constraints like time, budget, and even physics. One table focused on teacher housing near the school, and another concluded that slowly raising the city is a possibility. Later on, participants were asked to contemplate practical limitations and discuss how it would be possible to transform their big ideas into reality.

The event also included a showcase of students’ final projects from BCM’s 2018 faculty cohort, including Jane Marsching’s Art & Ecology class from MassART, Rahul Bhargava’s Data Storytelling class from MIT, Wyatt Oswald’s Climate Change class from Emerson, Eric Gordon’s Games for Social Change class from Emerson, and Gustavo Faleiros’s Data Visualization class from Emerson.

To learn more about BCM, visit the website and join the mailing list. BCM will be holding another faculty cohort in Spring 2019, so contact us if you would like to get involved!

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