We’re really excited to share with you that ProjectARCC was just nominated in the Community/Capacity Awards (or Comm/Cap for short) by the Digital Library Foundation membership. We’re so honored to be a part of an amazing group of projects, and we thank membership for their nomination. It means a lot to be recognized for the community-driven, collaborative projects we’ve taken on in the past year.

“These are not awards for pure innovation, individualism, or disruption. Instead, they honor constructive, community-minded capacity-building in digital libraries and allied fields: efforts that contribute to our ability to collaborate across institutional lines and/or work toward something larger, together. The Comm/Caps are about community spirit, generosity, openness, and care for fellow digital library, archives, and museum practitioners and for the various publics and missions we serve.”

Winners will receive a thousand dollar prize, a free Forum registration, and assistance towards travel expenses to the 2016 DLF Forum, which will be held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin this November.

Thank you, DLF!

 

 

 

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

ProjectARCC members Blake Relle and Danielle Cordovez set out to highlight an organization that took steps to positively impact the climate. Through Twitter, we learned that the City of Toronto Archives won the “Race to Reduce” challenge by lowering energy consumption by a staggering 59%. They were able to achieve this through C40 Climate Leadership Group initiatives instituted by the city. Relle and Cordovez spoke with the City Archivist at the Toronto City Archives, Carol Radford-Grant , and Project Manager, Prashant Bhalja, to learn more about this impressive accomplishment.

The C40 Climate Leadership Group consists of different government bodies and agencies within major cities whose focus is to make a positive impact on the global climate. In an effort to show leadership, Canadian officials announced plans to encourage the development and use of energy efficient solutions to take action against the effects of Greenhouse Gas emissions.  Being the largest city in Canada, Toronto took the lead in implementing C40 initiatives to show that they were actively doing their part, and not just talking about what should happen.

The city of Toronto approached the staff at the Archive to see if they would participate, and lower their energy consumption. The staff was thrilled to be part of this project for three reasons. First, the building that houses the archive was over twenty years old, and in need of upgrades. Secondly, the building’s energy consumption was higher than comparable constructions in the city, and throughout the Province of Ontario.  Finally, the staff had a hard time keeping the temperature, and relative humidity at safe levels due to the city’s extreme weather conditions.  In the winter the temperature, factoring in the wind chill,  temperatures can may fall to -40 degrees Celsius.  In contrast, the relative humidity in the summer ranges from 80% to 90%.

Making improvements to the building was necessary, and would allow safe, long term storage for the collections.  Improvements  included the installation of a new HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning)  system, and energy efficient boilers to to properly regulate temperature, relative humidity, and the air flow in the building. The new boilers require little energy to function. The  HVAC system is automated, and lowers consumption in practical ways such as shutting  off when the loading doors are open.  Radford-Grant reported that very little problems arose during the installment of the HVAC system, and boilers as the archival staff worked well with Bhalja, and discussed concerns in advance to ensure low risk of damage to the collections.

With the new HVAC system and boilers,  the Archive lowered electricity use from 200 -250 to 130 kilowatts monthly,  resulting in a 59% reduction in energy use. The reduction was so severe,  that the meter was checked and replaced by the gas and electric companies to make sure it hadn’t been tampered with.  To maintain the low monthly number, Radford-Grant and Bhalja agree that daily monitoring of consumption, in addition to staff training on how best to utilize the equipment is necessary.

Radford-Grant and Bhalja’s  advice to archivists planning to implement energy reduction practices are:

  1. Every building has room for improvement to minimize energy use. Look for it.
  2. There does not have to be a choice between lowering energy and climate control. Comfort should not be sacrificed for conservation. There is a balance that optimizes both goals.
  3. Collaborate with your area, and research municipal initiatives for Greenhouse Gas Emission reduction.

To continue their efforts, the City of Toronto Archives hopes to install a new air conditioner and improved insulated windows in the coming years.

For us at ProjectARCC, two important lessons came out of the interview with Radford-Grant and Bhalja. First, people tend to believe that they, as one person, cannot do anything to affect climate change. That is not so: each person can do their part to make a positive impact on the climate. One can install solar panels, install new windows, or install lights the automatically turn on and off. Each small thing adds up. A lot of things over the course of history have changed because one person stood up and said, “Enough is enough.” In other words, there are things that everyone can do.

Secondly, we need to work together. We are global citizens and have a duty to leave the planet in better shape than we found it. There is a lot of talk in the archival profession about working together. If we do not start working together now, when will we? We need to ask ourselves — in the style of President Kennedy — “Ask not what your planet can do for you, but what you can do for your planet.”

— Blake Relle and Danielle Cordovez

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