Elevate a Climate Change Exhibit

Two weeks ago, ProjectARCC challenged archivists to elevate their collections related to climate change using #PreserveClimate. There’s also a survey archivists can fill out for collections to go into a larger project.

One example of an archive that has recently elevated their materials related to climate change is the American Archive of Public Broadcasting. In late October, the American Archive of Public Broadcasting (AAPB) launched its Online Reading Room, providing the public with access to thousands of historic public television and radio programming dating back to the 1950s. As part of the inauguration of the Online Reading Room, AAPB staff launched three curated exhibits featuring content that is topically and historically significant. AAPB Project Manager Casey Davis curated one of the three exhibits, the title of which is “Climate Change Conversations: Causes, Impacts, Solutions.

The exhibit highlights television and radio conversations with climate scientists, activists, journalists, historians, and students who used the venue of public broadcasting to discuss climate change for more than a quarter of a century. In these recordings, they have repeatedly communicated the science of human-driven climate change and its impacts in interviews, call-in radio shows, debates, public lectures, news programs, and documentaries.

While scientists and activists have consistently used public broadcasting to disseminate information about climate change, the conversation has changed over time. In the 1980s, focus was primarily on communicating the potential threats of global warming. Since then, programming has increasingly examined the actual impacts, and in addition, struggled to keep the American public informed and engaged.

Organized into six sections, the exhibit highlights public broadcasting recordings of conversations on climate change—its causes, impacts, and proposed solutions—from 1970, the first year that Earth Day was celebrated, to the present. Among the recordings include conversations with Gus Speth, former Dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, James Hansen, the first scientist to testify before Congress on the threat of global warming, former Vice President Al Gore, three recordings with Bill McKibben, writer and activist who founded the international organization 350.org, Katharine Hayhoe, climate scientist who has become well-known for communicating climate change to fellow evangelical Christians, and David Brower, founder of Friends of the Earth.

What’s in your collections?

ProjectARCC challenges archives to #preserveclimate during COP21

From November 30 to December 11, world leaders and scientists will meet in Paris in the hopes of negotiating an international accord to reduce carbon emissions and respond to the imminent threats of climate change. As we move closer to this United National Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21) in the coming week, I believe that we are on the precipice of changing the conversation about climate change. Archivists can play a role in elevating the conversation and increasing climate literacy by using our collections to improve public awareness of climate change through exhibits and social media. We’re making commitments now a future for our planet. As the guardians of cultural heritage, let’s not only work to ensure the preservation of our collections from the impacts of climate change, but let’s take that responsibility further by providing better access and discoverability to our collections that could be used to educate our communities on the urgency for action on climate change.

ProjectARCC would like to challenge archives to use the hashtag #PreserveClimate during COP21, which is taking place from November 30 – December 11, and promote your collections that are relevant to the conversation about climate change.

In addition, we ask that you help us identify archival collections related to climate change by filling out this survey: https://projectarcc.org/elevate/survey-elevate/.

Once we have compiled this survey, we will use the information to create a database and visualizations that identify these collections and where they exist, which can be used as a resource for scholars, researchers, scientists, journalists, and the general public. 

We encourage you to take the challenge and #preserveclimate during COP21. If you’re wondering what types of materials are relevant to the issue of climate change, here are a few suggestions:

  • materials documenting natural disasters
  • dated historic photographs of landscapes and agriculture
  • records of climate change or environmental activist groups
  • scientific data sets for climate change research
  • government records about local, regional, or national response to climate change
  • manuscript collections documenting how people feel or felt about climate change
  • papers of climate scientists
  • recorded lectures, interviews, and debates about climate change

— Casey Davis

Our Conversation to #SustainLIS with ALA SustainRT

On Monday, October 19, 2015, ProjectARCC and ALA SustainRT co-hosted a tweet-up to discuss the actions we can take as archivists and librarians to reduce our professional carbon footprint, implement sustainable practices in our institutions to prepare for and mitigate the effects of climate change, and engage the public in environmental awareness and sustainability education. Each group posed three questions pertaining to these topics, totaling six distinct questions. Tweet-up participants offered great solutions, posed further questions and concerns, and shared resources.

The content of the tweet-up can be found in a curated Storify.

Stay tuned for more information on the joint ProjectARCC-SustainRT event we are planning for ALA Midwinter 2016 in Boston! Also, please tag #SustainLIS in your future tweets about anything pertaining to sustainability in LIS, including new research, trends, events, success stories, areas for improvement, thoughts, and actions.

— Carey MacDonald

Disaster Planning: Do Something

A month or so back, the ProjectARCC blog featured a blog post titled “Doomsday Preppers,” about the fact that preparing for disaster is one of the most important functions of an archivist. Most of the standard functions that we practice as archivists — creating backup copies of digital files, storing physical items in safe and protective containers, making sure that we track when and where our collections are at all times — serve as a form of protection against disaster.

But how do you actually go about planning for the kinds of major disasters that climate change scientists have been warning us to expect? What happens when you really do get the flood or the earthquake that you always knew was a possibility, but never really thought was going to happen at your institution?

Many archives and cultural heritage organizations have disaster plans, which provide solid, practical instructions on how to cope with an emergency — what precautions to take, who to contact, and what the first steps should be to protect the collections when a disaster hits. If your institution doesn’t have a disaster plan yet, the Society of American Archivists has a great Annotated Resources page full of disaster plan templates, examples, tutorials and bibliographies to help make the process of developing one a little easier.

However, even if your institution already has the best disaster plan imaginable, archivists are busy people; with deadlines for grants and projects and fiscal years looming over our heads, preparing for some kind of abstract catastrophe can often take a back burner. If your institution does have a disaster plan, when was the last time you actually looked it up and read it? How often does someone take a look at it to make sure it’s up to date — and how long does it take to push changes through the bureaucracy to approve it? Are new employees aware of it, and what information it contains, and how to find it if the emergency actually does take place?

One of the best resources for improving ongoing disaster preparedness in archives in cultural heritage institutions is COSTEP, the Coordinated Statewide Emergency Preparedness Framework, developed by the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC). COSTEP encourages cultural institutions to work together on a statewide level with emergency management agencies and first responders. The state of Massachusetts currently has a thriving official COSTEP program, which hosts regular meetings and trainings, and hopefully other states will follow suit.

However, even if you’re not ready to spearhead an official statewide COSTEP initiative, the COSTEP Framework document has a number of fantastic recommendations about how to build relationships and prepare for disaster within a community before disaster occurs.

Speaking of workshops, taking any kind of disaster preparedness workshop — either cultural institution-specific ones, such as those offered by the NEDCC, or more general ones like those offered by the Red Cross — is a good way to become aware of hazards and disaster resources in your area.

Still, no matter how prepared you and your institution are, there’s always going to be some disasters that can’t be prevented by any amount of planning. The archival community has generated resources to help cultural institutions post-disaster, too. The National Disaster Recovery Fund for Archives was originally created to assist archives recovering from Hurricane Katrina; it’s since expanded its mandate to support the recovery of archives from any major disaster, and can provide up to $2,000 in initial emergency funding.

While I’m sure all of us hope that we’ll never need to apply for that funding, I know, for one, I’m glad to know now that it’s there and available — staying aware of these kind of resources, just in case, is one more way of being prepared.

— Rebecca Fraimow

Do you have more ideas for archivists to improve their disaster planning? Consider joining the Protect Committee as part of ProjectARCC. Our next meeting is Wednesday, October 21st. We’ll be discussing developing relationships with similar projects and mapping archival disasters.

A multitude of problems needs a multitude of voices

Perhaps one of the biggest climate change stories of 2015 has been Pope Francis’s encyclical, titled Laudato Si. It is a powerful document, tracing the moral and biblical roots of environmental stewardship,  recognizing the devastating effects of climate change on the poorest among us, and calling for a radical shift in how we relate to the Earth. That this encyclical came from a leader who chose to adopt the name of Saint Francis — the same saint who talked to birds — should not come as a surprise to anyone who is familiar with religious teachings about caring for God’s creation. Yet many politicians and business leaders vocally doubted the role of a religious leader entering the climate change discussion. Former Florida governor and GOP presidential contender Jeb Bush said, “I think religion ought to be about making us better as people and less about things that end up getting in the political realm.” Oklahoma senator James Inhofe stated, “The pope ought to stay with his job.” Former Pennsylvania senator and GOP presidential contender Rick Santorum remarked, “The church has gotten it wrong a few times on science, and I think we probably are better off leaving science to the scientists and focusing on what we’re good at, which is theology and morality.”

What all these statements imply is that climate change is purely a science issue, and therefore non-scientists are getting out of their lane when they comment on it. This could not be any more wrong.

Climate change has never been purely a science issue. We know climate change will affect every single one of us on Earth, and every person that follows us. It has grave consequences for marginalized communities living in geographically vulnerable areas threatened by severe hurricanes and rising sea levels, for ecosystems that have been stressed to the point of extinction due to extraction and pollution, and for human rights as droughts and environmental degradation devastate resources and stoke the fires of armed conflict and refugee crises.

Scientists can tell us how and why climate change is happening. But they cannot — nor should they be expected to — come up with the answers for shifting to a world powered by an alternative to the current toxic approach of extraction that exhausts human and environmental resources to the breaking point. And that’s where the rest of us come in.

The Pope took a bold stance by issuing a clarion call rooted in Catholic theology to demonstrate why Catholics cannot avert their eyes to this issue any longer. In doing this, Pope Francis showed us how we must each find ways to speak with our own communities, using our own communities’ language, cultural knowledge, rituals and practices to address a global issue with ramifications for every person on Earth. Climate change is a multitude of problems, and it requires a multitude of responses. While people might not listen to a scientist talk about carbon emissions scenarios, they might begin to engage with climate change when a friend at work, house of worship, school, or neighborhood group speaks about how climate change affects that community and what can be done about it.

Across the world, people are leading these conversations within their own communities. Students at American historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are holding HBCU Climate Change conferences. In the UK, Muslim Climate Action is a coalition of Muslim organizations working on climate change issues. Gulf South Rising is a coalition of Gulf Coast coast communities organizing grassroots responses to environmental injustices wrought on the Gulf South region. A growing number of medical professionals are signing on to campaigns against carbon emissions. And happily, archivists have joined the group of people working within their own communities with the creation of ProjectARCC.

– Eira Tansey

Going Big: Successes Back from SAA 2015

Members of ProjectARCC converged upon Cleveland, Ohio last week with fellow archivists from across the United States and beyond, sharing ideas, new projects, and best practices on the preservation and access of historical materials for current and future generations.

This was ProjectARCC’s first national opportunity to share news about our work, our concerns about the impact of climate change on the archival profession, and ways we think archivists can make a positive climate impact.

Prior to the conference, ProjectARCC published a blog post sharing tips on reducing our carbon footprint while at the conference, in addition to recommending some sessions that were relevant to archivists concerned about climate change.

On Wednesday, Eira Tansey, Chair of the Protect Committee, spoke about ProjectARCC to the SAA Human Rights Roundtable. We received suggestions about possibly establishing partnerships with the Human Rights Archives Roundtable, the International Archival Affairs Roundtable, and the Latin American and Caribbean Cultural Heritage Archives Roundtable (LACCHA). Eira will follow up on these suggestions in the next few weeks and reach out to them.

At the Forum on Archival and Special Collections Facilities led by Michele Pacifico, ProjectARCC members raised questions about how archives can prepare and build facilities understanding that climate change will impact different regions across the country in a variety of ways.

The Regional Archival Associations Consortium’s Disaster Planning Committee, led by Daria Labrinsky, decided to focus this year’s efforts on climate change impacts.

Casey Davis, Chair of the Preserve Committee, attended a session on Thursday to learn about how the SAA Council makes decisions on advocacy and policy issues, including which issues SAA is willing and interested in taking a position on. From this meeting, Casey had the idea to develop an issue brief for SAA to review and hopefully make an official statement on climate change on behalf of the Society’s membership. Later during the conference, this idea was further discussed with members of the Committee on Advocacy and Public Policy. Over the next couple of months, ProjectARCC members will work on an issue brief for review by CAPP and the SAA Council.

A few ProjectARCC members gathered on Thursday at Lola Bistro in Cleveland. At the meeting, member Genna Duplisea shared her idea about the need for a ProjectARCC records retention schedule and implementation of records management best practices. Everyone agreed!

On Friday, ProjectARCC members were honored to be selected by the membership to host a PopUp Session titled “Somewhere to Run to: Acting on Climate Change within the Archival Profession.” Panelists included Genna Duplisea, Eira Tansey, and Casey Davis. Frances Harrell reported from the Reduce Committee. Many suggestions from the audience focused on assessing the climate impact of archival facilities and programs as well as researcher carbon footprints. Attended by equally concerned archivists ranging from early career to seasoned professionals, the most valuable takeaways from the sessions were contributed by the people in the audience, all of whom gave extremely helpful advice and recommendations on how ProjectARCC should move forward with its goals and how those goals could be refined. Tweets from our pop-up panel were tagged with #s509.

Following the session, Casey gave a presentation on climate change and ProjectARCC to the Issues and Advocacy Roundtable. She shared a few ideas about possible opportunities for collaboration, including co-authoring or endorsing the SAA issue brief on climate change; collaborating on a template letter or conversation with legislators, which archivists could then use to urge their elected officials to take action on climate change; and collaborating on a carbon incentive program for SAA 2016 in Atlanta.

Overall, the conference was hugely successful. ProjectARCC members made new contacts and advocates across the country. Archivists are understanding that the issue of climate change affects everything that we do, as professionals, as individuals, as communities and across the world. We’re honored to be part of this movement to better understand climate impacts on our profession, and equally as importantly, what efforts we can take to act on climate change within and beyond it.

A Storify of our time at SAA15, with tweets from the Human Rights Roundtable, our Pop Up Session, and the Issues & Advocacy Roundtable can be found here!

— Casey Davis, Eira Tansey, and Genna Duplisea

ProjectARCC Attends #SAA15!

The Annual Meeting of the Society of American Archivists rolls into Cleveland, Ohio this week. Thousands of archivists will come together for tours of all kinds, a huge expo of archival products and services, meetings with colleagues, networking events, workshops, and educational sessions. ProjectARCC will also be there in full force! To keep your time green and obtain new insight into why archivists should be concerned about climate change, we’ve created this little guide for you.

Want to add something? Contact Dana Gerber-Margie, outreach coordinator, to add more events and tips.

Tips for Reducing Your Carbon Footprint at the Conference

  • Offset your carbon footprint from your flight by purchasing carbon credits
  • If your home will be empty, turn your water heater to low/vacation settings, turn off your thermostat, turn off or maybe unplug lights and electronics, lower your refrigerator coldness
  • Walk, bike trails, use your hotel’s van, or take public transportation across town
  • If you drive: rent a car that has a high MPG, accelerate slowly, maintain a steady speed, and go into stops smoothly (and think about carpooling!)
  • Turn off your lights and unplug electronics when leaving your hotel room
  • Ask for extra blankets if you get cold at night, instead of using the heater
  • Minimize air conditioner use, especially when not in the hotel room. If you want to keep the room cool while you’re gone, close your drapes to keep the room dark.
  • Turn off the water while brushing your teeth
  • Flush your toilet less (it may sound gross but it helps reduce gallons of water! “If it’s yellow, let it mellow.”)
  • Bring a thermos or tumbler for your coffee or tea instead of using paper/plastic cups
  • Avoid styrofoam
  • Bring your own reusable water bottle instead of buying plastic ones
  • Use the conference app instead of a print program
  • Use the recycling bins. If you don’t see any at the conference hotel, save your recyclables until you find one
  • Don’t ask for a change of sheets during your hotel stay
  • Don’t ask for new towels if they’ve only been used once
  • Unplug your cell phone charger when not in use
  • Eat less meat
  • Eat locally and seasonally
  • Talk to SAA and anyone who will listen about making next year’s event more sustainable!

ProjectARCC Events

Wednesday, August 19th at 3:00pm
Eira Tansey will be doing a brief presentation on ProjectARCC at the Human Rights Archives Roundtable

Thursday, August 20th at 5:15pm
ProjectARCC Happy Hour at Lola Bistro (2058 East 4th Street)

Friday, August 21st at 4:30pm
Casey Davis doing a brief presentation on ProjectARCC at the Issues and Advocacy Roundtable

Friday, August 21st and Saturday, August 22nd
Vote for a ProjectARCC Pop-Up proposal!

Thursday, August 20th and Friday, August 21st
The Preservation Section is hosting a Silent Auction to benefit National Disaster Recovery Fund for Archives.

Relevant Sessions

Thursday, August 20 • 12:15pm – 1:30pm
Forum: Archival and Special Collections Facilities: Guidelines for Archivists, Librarians, Architects, and Engineers
The Standards Committee’s Technical Subcommittee on Archival Facilities Guidelines hosts an open meeting for colleagues to learn more about the facility guidelines and offer comments and suggestions. While the revisions are still in development, an early draft of the proposed revised guidelines will be available for review here. Contact Michele Pacifico or Tom Wilsted with questions.

Thursday, August 20 • 12:15pm – 1:30pm
Join us for a presentation and discussion of the Guidelines for Reappraisal and Deaccessioning. Members of the Standards Committee’s Technical Subcommittee on Guidelines for Reappraisal and Deaccessioning present an overview of this important SAA standard, which undergoes review starting this year. Q&A and comment period to follow.

Thursday, August 20 • 1:45pm – 2:45pm
As we digitize audiovisual collections for preservation, the questions arise: How long do I keep the original? Do obsolescence and decay override the urge/need to retain it? What do we make of the toll on resources, storage, facilities, etc., that results from storage of duplicate content or unrecoverable materials? The panelists address varying opinions based on institution size, digital infrastructure, and collection types to spark critical discussion of this growing challenge.

Friday, August 21 • 10:00am – 11:15am
Archivists, librarians, and community historians know that local residents often distrust repositories. This creates hidden collections—and hidden histories—in the community, especially from groups that are more socially remote from institutions with archives.  As professionals, we have a responsibility to challenge the notion of the “repository as archives” and serve the community better by decentralizing appraisal and custody, coordinating resource deployment, and collaborating in providing description and access.

Friday, August 21 • 10:00am – 11:15am
Is there a place for archives in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education?  A panel of archivists and special collections librarians tackle this question and offer four examples of creative and instructive approaches in archival outreach to STEM students and educators.  The panelists share their experiences in K-12, university, and museum settings, and encourage a conversation among archivists, special collections librarians, and educators who are actively working to better serve STEM communities.

Saturday, August 22 • 8:30am – 9:45am
Research data management has become one of the principal concerns of research libraries. To date, however, few archivists have been actively involved in this sphere. Attendees of this session, which features three institutions with archivists at the forefront, learn about the imperative to manage and preserve research data and the central role that archivists should play as repositories are designed and implemented.

Saturday, August 22 • 8:30am – 9:45am
Advocacy is a driving force in the minds of archivists—an engine to move the archival enterprise forward—but advocacy is defined and used in different ways and must be performed differently in the varied environments in which archives exist. The speakers explore what advocacy means in the government, educational, and business worlds and demonstrate how the meaning and means of advocacy change depending on the circumstances that different archives and archives associations face.

Saturday, August 22 • 10:00am – 11:00am
Primary resources often reveal information related to collections in museums, but lack of expertise and archival staff often relegate the archives to a second tier. This session, organized by the newly formed Natural Science Archives Association, includes archivists and a museum collection manager who discuss how archives are as essential for the study of natural science as the specimen collections themselves. This broad discussion emphasizes surveying, cataloging, digitizing, and transcribing field books and illustrating how, using data standards for records (EAD) and for their associated entities (e.g., the names of the persons and expeditions, EAC-CPF), it is possible to link publications, specimens, and archives within and across libraries, archives, and museums as a model for archives across all subject areas.

Thanks to member Frances Harrell for mining the huge SAA15 schedule for relevant sessions.

Nothing to Fear but Inaction and Division

Last month, John H. Richardson published an article in Esquire titled “When the End of Human Civilization is your Day Job.” Through an interview with climate scientist Jason Box, who studies glacier ice melt in Greenland, Richardson’s article focuses on how climate scientists have begun to deal with forms of depression after years of disturbing research findings and warnings about impending global catastrophe, which in many cases have gone unheeded by policy makers and the American public. I have only been involved in climate activism for about a year; this year it has been very difficult to not become afraid or overcome with a feeling of dread when reading the literature. I can’t imagine carrying this burden around for the last few decades.

A few weeks ago, the Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics open-access journal published a study titled “Ice melt, sea level rise and superstorms: evidence from paleoclimate data, climate modeling, and modern observations that 2 degrees global warming is highly dangerous.” If you don’t want to read the whole article, the Washington Post does a nice job summarizing it.

The research was led by Dr. James Hansen and 16 other scientists. Hansen is former Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and now professor at the Columbia University Earth Institute. Hansen was also the first to testify before Congress in 1988 about global warming, which brought the issue to the public eye.

This research reports that the two degree Celsius limit of global warming that scientists and policy makers have for years claimed as the “safe upper limit” is actually highly dangerous. Hansen reports that we will likely see several meters of sea level rise by the end of this century. A century isn’t a long time for archivists. For the earth, it means we could possibly see one meter of sea level rise in the next 20-30 years. Even an inch of sea level rise can have a huge impact on floodplains. How far are your collections above sea level?

The sea level rise is caused by melting glaciers and sea ice in the Arctic, Greenland, and Antarctic. With more fresh water pouring into the oceans, Hansen also claims that this will power superstorms unlike anything that we have ever seen.

I’ll remind everyone why this is happening: Continued carbon emissions into our atmosphere are causing a greenhouse effect — heat and energy from the sun cannot escape the atmosphere. Prior to industrialization, Earth had about 280 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere; this lasted for around 800,000 years. Last year we reached 400 ppm. According to Dr. Hansen, the safe upper limit of C02 in the atmosphere is 350ppm. Beyond 350ppm carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, we run the risk of causing positive feedback loops and runaway climate change, which cannot be reversed or stopped. The continued burning of fossil fuels causes carbon dioxide emissions.

After I read the Esquire article, I thought to myself, “How are archivists dealing with knowing about climate change when the history of civilization is our day job?”

Archivists are responsible for preserving history for future generations. I believe that it should be a professional and moral obligation for the archival community to come together and take action to ensure the preservation of a safe and habitable planet for future generations. I hate to put it bluntly, but sometimes I wonder: what’s the point in doing what we do if the future of humanity is in question?

I’ve been working on a digital exhibition that features conversations about climate change documented by public broadcasting from 1970 to the present. In 1970, only three days before the first celebration of Earth Day, renowned environmentalist David Brower visited Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. He gave a talk, which was broadcast over the campus radio station WYSO-FM and posed the question “What will it cost the Earth?” He urged the students and listeners to educate and inform themselves on the environmental problems facing the world. “You can make a difference,” he told them.

ProjectARCC, a task force of archivists working to affect climate change, is working to make a difference. We want to ensure that archivists are aware of the risks of climate change on their collections. We want to find ways to collectively reduce our professional carbon footprint. We want to elevate relevant collections to improve public awareness and understanding of climate change. And we want to make sure that this moment in history is preserved for future research. But what is needed is collective action and contribution among our entire profession.

In 2014, Yale University and George Mason University published a report that categorized Americans on how they perceive the threat of global warming. The segments included Alarmed (13%), Concerned (31%), Cautious (23%), Disengaged (7%), Doubtful (13%), and Dismissive (13%). Only 13% of Americans are alarmed about climate change. These people are the most concerned of all of the groups and are the most motivated to take action. Where do you fall on the spectrum?

I’ve become really interested in how people are dealing with knowing about climate change. I’ve been reading a book called “Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains are Wired to Ignore Climate Change,” by George Marshall, which looks into the psychology of how people understand and deal with (or not deal with) climate change. According to Marshall, the evolution of our brains makes it difficult for us to comprehend or act on risks that are not immediate. I understand. There was a time when I didn’t care about climate change. I attribute that complacency to my former belief that change wouldn’t happen until after I was gone. It is hard to grasp the risk of something not happening right now — something too subtle and unclear whether and when it would affect me. But then I started reading the literature and I tuned in to the changes that are already happening. And then? I thought about how as an archivist, the purpose of approximately third of my life for hopefully the next half century is to preserve history for the future. I entered into sort of an existential crisis. Twenty, fifty, one hundred years from now, our world will be completely transformed. Will our collections survive? Will our efforts to preserve collections for future generations be in vain? And then I think about the children that I want to eventually have. By the time they are forty years old, Boston’s sea level may have risen more than a meter. Where I currently call home, we’re about 4 meters above sea level. Will my kids be able to call this place home? Will it be too hot for them to live in Mississippi, where I grew up?

I think that in order to overcome the evolutionary problem of not reacting to the long-term risks of climate change, we need to find ways to keep climate change on our minds, even when it is scary to think about. This may seem silly, but I have decided that I need to read at least one relevant article every day so that I do not lose my drive to act on climate. If I don’t, I can easily get caught up in other things. Yes, a lot of what we read can be quite scary, but I really like how Naomi Klein puts it in her book “This Changes Everything: Capitalism versus the Climate“:  “fear makes us run, it makes us leap… but we need somewhere to run to. Without that, fear is only paralyzing.” I co-founded and continue to participate in ProjectARCC because it gives me a place to run to. ProjectARCC gives our entire profession a place to leap into action.

I recently read Columbia University’s Connecting on Climate guidebook, which gives 10 recommendations on how to communicate climate change to audiences. It says people are motivated the most to act on climate within existing networks and social groups, and that people are more likely to become engaged on an issue when a group that they are part of cares about it. The guidelines recommend local groups (like churches or neighborhood associations), but I think that mobilizing with one’s profession is equally as constructive. Maybe I’m biased, and I think this would be a great research topic, but I think that this is especially true for the archival profession, because I believe archivists are some of the most passionate professionals of all professions.

I look forward to talking with many of you at this year’s Society of American Archivists conference. Together, I know that we can collectively make a difference. It is the preservation of the history of human civilization that is our day job, and uniting together to take action will stave off the fear and paralysis.

– Casey E. Davis

This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) license.

Scope & Content: Recognizing the Many Climate Change Narratives

Climate change intersects with the archives profession in multiple ways, and these intersections challenge ProjectARCC to define our scope.

This project is not just about fighting climate change, but recognizing that the world is already changing. Regardless of how an individual or an institution feels about the existence of climate change or whether it is anthropogenic, the phenomena of hurricane and blizzard superstorms underscore the need for better disaster planning in our repositories. Furthermore, climate change research, debate, and activism are relevant to our time, and we have a responsibility to preserve this period in history. ProjectARCC seeks to collaborate with repositories and creators of climate change materials to assist in preservation of the intellectual and community labor produced around this topic.

Climate change activism is often connected to other environmental causes, and as these affect social and political landscapes worldwide, they are important to document. After Pope Francis’s recent encyclical, Laudato Si’, took a firm stance on environmental stewardship, and advocate Neeshad Vs published “How Islamic Faith Supports Pope Francis’ Climate Change Encyclical,” it is clear that climate change activism is now part of religious landscapes as well. Archivists need to acknowledge movements like these — not only their existence but the specific arguments and goals they espouse. This includes opposite or differing perspectives on climate change or environmental matters, but as we have found, there are more than two sides to recognize.

We realized that thinking of anthropogenic climate change as debate is too simple a way of looking at this concept. It speaks to a particular perspective in which climate change is just an argument between news pundits rather than something people experience. Our work will facilitate archives to better understand and collect climate change-related materials.

Climate change and environmental justice activism, scientific research, changes in biodiversity, and experiences of communities already witnessing the impacts of extreme weather all tell part of the climate change story. For people in South Pacific island nations, for example, there are not two sides to the climate change issue; there isn’t even one issue. Even within activist groups or the renewable energy industry, there are debates about how best to address climate change from scientific, policy, and human perspectives. We seek to use our professional skills to raise awareness of as many facets of this web of thought and action as possible so that repositories can preserve them.
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To some, this may seem like too political a mission for a profession tasked with keeping humanity’s history. However, part of being an archivist is recognizing the significance of historical events and making sure they are preserved. That act is one of archival power, much like the recognition of civil rights, the discovery of holes in the ozone layer, political upheaval, or any period of great change as important to preserve. The work of archivists is inherently political in that our actions all take place within and have impact on the communities of which we are citizens, and ProjectARCC operates on the belief that climate change is significant to those communities.

ProjectARCC is the culmination of strong beliefs channeled through professional endeavors. Our project missions call on us to use outreach, appraisal, description, and myriad other aspects of our professional training to encourage the documentation and permanent preservation of this issue at the intersection of science, politics, and culture. The first step in our work is acknowledging the complex scope of materials and experiences related to climate change to be preserved for a rapidly-changing future.

– Genna Duplisea

Doomsday Preppers

At heart, archiving is an apocalyptic profession.

Archivists are professional harbingers of doom. The job of an archivist, boiled down to its essence, is to preserve things that we believe the future will care about – a statement which implies an inherent from, but doesn’t specify it. So what are we preserving things from?  Everything and anything: obsolescence, decay, human error, catastrophe, random acts of God, anything else we can think of, and maybe some things we can’t. Our job is to assume the worst.

Most people figure their books, tapes, files and records are going to be there again when they want them (if they want them) without thinking too hard about it – and in a lot of cases, for the short term, that may well be true. Not every hard drive is going to fail in two years. But, as archivists, the question for us is not if the drive is going to fail. We know the drive’s going to fail eventually. Everything fails eventually; that’s entropy, and it’s a fact of the universe. The big question for an archivist is: when the drive fails, how do we make sure that doesn’t destroy the things we care about?

A lot of the discussion around climate change should feel familiar to archivists. Global warming, natural disasters, earthquakes, floods, volcanic eruptions (decay, human error, catastrophe): there’s definitely a sense of apocalypse to it. And just like digital preservation catastrophes don’t hit every institution, there are places in the world that won’t directly feel the effects of climate change – at least not right away, not for a while. Not every hard drive fails in two years. A lot of ten-year-old drives are still whirring happily away while I write this.

All the same, we know that there’s a risk the drive is going to fail. And for archivists, where there’s a risk, there’s a certainty: eventually, the drive will fail. We plan around it. We back it up, and back it up again.  We expend enormous amounts of time and resources on prevention and protection, because we know that while the short term might not validate us in that expenditure, the long term definitely will.

As archivists, we need to take the same attitude towards climate change. There’s a risk, and that means that there’s a certainty. Climate change is happening. Stuff is going to fail.

So how do we try and make sure this doesn’t destroy the things we care about?

It’s a pretty good question for an archivist.  It’s an even better one for a climate change activist.

— Rebecca Fraimow