Reporting On the Brink

ProjectARCC and the Simmons College Student Chapter of the Society of American Archivists (SCoSAA) co-hosted On The Brink: Archives, Climate Change, and the Future. The event, held on the Simmons College campus, was also live streamed; a recording of the event is forthcoming.

The two-part event featured both presentations by panel members and an open Q&A session afterward. The panel was composed of Casey Davis, project manager at the American Archive of Public Broadcasting and founder of ProjectARCC; Lisa Pearson, who is Head of the Arnold Arboretum Horticultural Library and Archives; Trisha Shrum, PhD candidate at the Harvard Kennedy School and co-founder of DearTomorrow; and Lucas Stanczyk, Assistant Professor of Political Science and Affiliated Faculty of Philosophy at MIT.

Davis presented on her personal revelation regarding the urgency of climate change and the importance of archivists to understand and respond to the challenges presented by this phenomenon. Shrum’s presentation combined an introduction to the DearTomorrow organzation with a discussion of developments in behavioral psychology that may prove useful in motivating the public to make and support environmentally conscious actions. Pearson presented a brief historical introduction to the Arnold Arboretum and provided an insightful look at how the library, archives, and grounds of the Arnold Arboretum have been (and could be!) useful to activists and researchers. Bringing the event to a somber and grounded conclusion, Stanczyk emphasized the nature of climate change as a longitudinal and international issue, and presented figures concerning emission benchmarks that must be attained in order to reduce and mitigate the impact of global climate change on the environment.

For some people, the biggest takeaway from events like these can be the revelatory understanding that climate change is a serious and imminent threat that will affect all people, everywhere (though not equally so; less-developed nations, and areas closer to sea level, are in more immediate danger). For the initiated, events like On The Brink serve to remind us of our purpose and spur us on to continued action. As a culmination of mutual cooperation between SCoSAA, ProjectARCC, and our panel presenters, the event was also a reminder of the importance of collective action to mobilize real change concerning climate change. While individual environmentally conscious actions are effective and important, our voices are strongest when unified. ProjectARCC is just one example of an organization that rallies concerned individuals who share a mutual association around the issue of climate change. Finding a way to become involved in environmental activism– be it at the community, institutional, state, or national level– is the next critical step in transforming concern over climate change into real action.

Each of these speakers brought this revelation about in different ways. Davis’ presentation on Project ARCC highlighted the potential benefits of tapping into mutual association (through a shared professional interest) to rally members of the community around an issue. The involvements and accomplishments of ProjectARCC since its founding are a testament to this. Shrum demonstrated how environmental activists can tap into social networks and insights into human psychology to better unify and inspire people to collective action. At the local level, Pearson shared information about how researchers, community members, and the interested public are making use of the Arboretum’s resources to advance scholarship and activism goals.  

— Chris Kaplan

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