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Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Climate Panel Talks Art, Health, Activism

Three panelists from George Mason University and Johns Hopkins University discussed the escalating effects of global climate change Wednesday, bringing to light the impending danger of weather changes and reactions to its growing impact on daily life.

Sponsored by the Georgetown University Environmental Initiative the event focused on the public perception and health risks of global climate change and the ways in which art can act as a progressive force to bridge the gap between public health, activism and energy corporations.

Ashley Anderson, a postdoctoral research fellow at George Mason University and assistant professor of science and technology communication at Colorado State University, began the discussion with a presentation on global warming and public perception of the “Six Americas” — the term she uses to categorize the ways in which people react to climate change.

To Anderson, each person is “alarmed,” “concerned,” “cautious, “disengaged,” “doubtful” or “dismissive.”

Although Anderson claimed that most people understand global climate change, two categories of individuals — the “doubtful” and “dismissive” ones — remain adamantly opposed to accepting the reality of climate change.

“The audience is as important as the information [scientists] put out there,” Anderson said.

Anderson said she believes, therefore, that the way that educators should teach climate change depends on their intended audience. For Anderson, the best way to approach those who do not understand global warming is through healthcare professionals, who tend to be trusted individuals in a community.

Another panelist, Cindy Parker, co-director of the program on global sustainability and health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, claimed that she falls into one of the categories that Anderson described in her “Six Americas,” — an “alarmist.”

“I need to be part of a 12-step program. ‘Hi, I’m Cindy Parker. I’m an alarmist,’” Parker joked.

Parker’s presentation focused on how climate change will lead to more health-related illness, rising sea levels, more cases of infectious diseases, worsening water quality and ecosystem collapse. She also encouraged medical professionals to stress a more plant-centric diet in order to reduce global greenhouse emissions and improve public health.

“Those involved in global health tend to be concerned with climate change because they tend to be ethically minded people and climate change is a huge ethical issue,” Parker said.

The third panelist, Mark Cooley, discussed the ways in which art and activism are dealing with corporations, protest movements and the energy industry.

“[Art, design and industry] are forces that can join together to help fight global climate change,” he said.

Cooley’s focus then shifted to the state of activism in the United States today. According to Cooley, activists are learning how to use the media — which traditionally opposes activism — in order to further their agenda.

“A lot of activists use the media, because that’s how the message gets out. … Rosa Parks wasn’t just a little old lady who inspired the famous boycott. It was an orchestrated event,” he said.

Cooley explained how new activist phenomenon The Yes Men — an activist duo and network of supporters founded by Jacques Servin and Igor Vamos in 2003 — is an example of activism using media.

The team impersonates professionals, like energy officials, on national television in order to raise awareness about problematic issues such as climate change.

“The Yes Men get threats every time they do activism,” Cooley said, “but they’ve never actually been sued. … They’re not identity thieves, they’re ‘Identity Correctors.’ What they’re doing is no different than ‘Saturday Night Live’ or ‘South Park.’”

With an audience of around 50 students, faculty and professionals, the panel frequently stressed that legislative and corporate changes to the energy consumption in the United States is just as important as the daily actions that people can take to reduce the carbon footprint.

“I would like to thank The Corp for catering. There are no water bottles,” Wellbery noted.

“But there are plastic cups.”

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