New Conversations About Climate Change Make Waves on Earth Day

April 23, 2015

Board member Sarah Buie made the news on Earth Day, in a fascinating article in Huffington Post by Wellesley College President Emerita Diana Chapman Walsh. Walsh captured her experience of participating in the Clark University Council on an Uncertain Future, a sustained conversation among twelve scholars and artists on the future of the planet and humanity in relationship to climate change and environmental degradation. Of the gathering, Walsh reflected, “In the affection and connection of the circle, in the depths we discovered in ourselves and one another, we began to emerge, each of us, with a clearer picture of who it is we can be in this emergency, and how we can bring ourselves most skillfully to it.”

In response to the question of “what’s working in climate change?” Walsh pointed to interdisciplinary and multigenerational leadership, from activism on college campuses to grassroots grandparents to spiritual inquiries into how we must invest in our own inner development, as much as our material world. The Council created the space for a new kind of conversation and a new kind of leadership: “Leadership of a particular kind: grounded in empathy, compassion and ethics, intent on building collective intelligence and webs of interconnection that will be dense, durable and diverse enough for the long haul.”

Committed to grappling with these critical questions with all members of the campus community, Sarah also organized a campus-wide “teach-in” on climate change at Clark on March 26. The teach-in aimed at increasing awareness of what is taking place in the unfolding climate crisis, and deepening honest conversations about and creative responses to it. A guide to creating a teach-in, including a Council component, is available on the website.

Sarah and John Sarrouf plan to facilitate a group of Public Conversations practitioners and associates in a UHF Council over the summer and fall, as Public Conversations looks to further its own capacities in this critical conversation. Other universities are planning to convene Councils; a guide to doing so is available on the Council website.