DearTomorrow, A Conversation with the Future About Climate Change

Thanks to NEMMC (New England Memory & Media Coalition) for this original post from our founder Casey Davis.

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Since May 2015, I have been working with a team to develop a new online space where people can post letters, photos and videos to their children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, future children and future generations about climate change.

As a professional archivist, I was drawn to this project because the collection will become a long-term archive, a record of how people are currently thinking about and taking action on climate change. These messages will be collected over the next five or so years and then re-released back to the public in the years 2030 and 2050, for the recipients and for future generations to see when they are older.

My contributions to the project include managing the letters and metadata and helping coordinate with potential long-term repositories to preserve the collection for research and understanding by future generations.

It has only been in the past several years that I have become aware of the seriousness of climate change and have spent time reflecting on how, as an archivist, I could participate in developing solutions. I want to make a contribution not only to the documentation of this important period of time, but also participate in activities that help shape this period of time. That is why I have joined the team of DearTomorrow and also founded Project ARCC, a task force of archivists striving to motivate the archival profession to effect climate change.

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DearTomorrow recognizes that one of the greatest challenges for addressing climate change is the disconnect between future climate change consequences and the need to take action now. By asking people to reflect on climate change through the eyes of someone young that they love, the project aims to make climate change a more relevant, accessible and immediate issue.

I personally experienced this shift in thinking when I wrote my own DearTomorrow message. In my first letter, I wrote about my October 2014 life-changing experience of coming to terms with the imminent threats of climate change on the future of our planet and its impacts not only on society but also on the responsibility of archivists to preserve history for future generations. For months after I had this awakening, I was paralyzed in fear. I was unable to talk about it with many of my family members who still deny climate change, and I didn’t know what to do about it to have a personal impact. In my second letter, written several months later, I wrote about how ProjectARCC was making a difference within our profession, and how the fear that I experienced was turned into action.

I’m not a parent yet, but as an archivist and as someone who thinks about the past — and a lot about the future — I understand the importance of preserving this epochal moment in history for people to one day understand what we knew, what we didn’t know, and what we did about climate change. DearTomorrow will be a resource for our loved ones to look back and see the actions we took for them. It will be a resource for scholars and researchers to gain an understanding about this moment in time. And right now, it is a bridge to action among those to take the time to think about the people to whom they are writing and for whom they are taking action on climate change.

I invite you to learn more about what I feel is a very powerful and important project, and think about ways that you can contribute to the project. Here’s how:

  1. Participate in this historic project by writing your own letter to the future. The key here is to think about someone young and important in your life who will access your message in the year 2030 or 2050. What will you say to them about the world we currently live in? Write about how you currently think about the challenge of climate change. Or perhaps reflect on a place or experience that is important to you and that you would like to preserve for them to experience in the years to come. The process is open-ended so what you say is up to you. Submit your message with a photo that is important to you.
  2. Participate in the photo promises project. Think about one new action that you could take in 2016 to reduce your environmental footprint.  This could be something in the home or in the community. Write it down, take a photo and submit it to deartomorrow.org.
  3. Participate in the crowdfunding campaign. Our team has raised over $14,000 in donations and commitments from over 150 people ranging from $10 to $1500. Contributions in all amounts are welcome.

Contribute a skill or expertise to the project. Our all-volunteer team is always looking for creative and motivated people to join in the project. Contact us if you have an idea about how you can contribute.

— Casey E. Davis

EVENT ANNOUNCEMENT: On the Brink: Archives, Climate Change, and the Future

We are thrilled to announce our SCoSAA/ProjectARCC collaborative event: On The Brink: Archives, Climate Change, and the Future!

The  Simmons College Student Chapter of the Society of American Archivists (SCoSAA) and ProjectARCC are hosting On the Brink: Archives, Climate Change, and the Future,  a panel discussion among archivists and energy policy, ethics and communications experts which will bring the topic of climate change to the forefront, as it will deeply impact the archival profession.

The event will be held at Simmons College in Boston, Massachusetts on Wednesday, November 11 at 5:30pm in the Kotzen Meeting Room. Register to attend on our Eventbrite page: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/on-the-brink-archives-climate-change-and-the-future-tickets-18737615713

While the meeting is capped at 50 attendees, we will have unlimited capability to livestream the event, which you can attend through  GoToWebinar via think link: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/7581571748555811330 and the Webinar ID: 120-664-547.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact SCoSAA Co-Chairs Betts Coup and Kristen Weischedel at scosaa@simmons.edu.

About ProjectARCC:

Founded on Earth Day in 2015, ProjectARCC is a task force of archivists striving to motivate the archival community to affect climate change. We believe that archivists, those responsible for the preservation of history for future generations, should be as passionate and concerned about preserving a habitable and safe planet for future generations.  To learn more about ProjectARCC, visit our website athttps://projectarcc.org/.

About our speakers:

Casey Davis

Casey E. Davis is an audiovisual archivist and project manager who by day is Project Manager for the American Archive of Public Broadcasting at WGBH. Alarmed about current and impending impacts of climate change on the archival profession, Casey, along with other archivists across the United States formed ProjectARCC, a task force of archivists striving to motivate the archival profession to affect climate change. Casey also serves as archivist for DearTomorrow, a campaign to collect and preserve letters from parents to their loved ones about climate change. She is the Co-Chair for the New England Archivists Roundtable for Early Professionals and Students and serves on the NEA Membership Committee.

Lisa Pearson

Lisa Pearson is the Head of the Arnold Arboretum Horticultural Library and Archives. She oversees all of the operations of the library and archives, as well as creating displays of archival materials for the library and exhibits in the Visitor Center. In addition she manages new library book acquisitions. Earlier in her time at the Arboretum she was the project cataloger for the digitization of several of their historical photograph collections. This has given her an in-depth knowledge of their holdings. Prior to coming to the Arboretum, she was employed for many years as a librarian in the insurance industry, first on the property/casualty side and later in the life/health and financial services realm. Outside of work she is an artist working in metal, leather, and textiles, who gathers her inspiration from Medieval and Renaissance art.

Trisha Shrum

Trisha is a PhD candidate in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School specializing in behavioral science and environmental economics. In her work on how moral frames and time preference affect support for climate change policy, she developed the fundamental concept that underlies DearTomorrow. She credits her own daughter, Eleanor, and Christiana Figueres for the critical inspiration. Prior to coming to the Kennedy School, she earned a Masters of Environmental Science at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. She holds a B.A. in Environmental Science and a B.S. in Biology from the University of Kansas. Trisha has been studying and analyzing climate change policy for nearly a decade.

Lucas Stanczyk

Lucas Stanczyk is Assistant Professor of Political Science and Affiliated Faculty of Philosophy at MIT. He completed his PhD at Harvard in 2012. Lucas’s primary research interests are in political philosophy and the history of political thought. He is completing a book manuscript on the economic duties of citizenship and has started research for a second book on contemporary inequality. At MIT, he teaches classes in political philosophy, the history of political thought, and the ethics of public policy.