• Subscribe
    Fill out the info below to sign up for our E-Newsletter.

Climate Conversations

The climate and landscapes are shifting in Arizona and around the globe. When does the environment begin to intersect with the human experience? Why are the humanities important to environmental issues? Join us for a series of conversations with scholars and community leaders exploring our environment through the lens of literature, history, art, climate justice, and much more.

Climate Conversations is made possible by funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities through the A More Perfect Union Initiative. 

Upcoming Events

How Will Arizona’s Future Be Shaped by Water? with Sarah Porter
Sep. 14, 6:00 PM AZ Time (in-person and virtual)

Water is key to Arizona’s future. Conditions on the Colorado River are worsening at an alarming rate. Water levels in Lake Powell and Lake Mead are plunging to record lows. Arizona is experiencing unprecedented drought compounded by climate change. How will water shortages change the landscape and environment across the state—today and in the future? Will the lack of water affect rural and urban communities and industries in the same way? How should water equity and access be determined? What can we do to save water? Join us for a timely conversation about water and what comes next.

Sarah Porter is Director of the Kyl Center for Water Policy at Arizona State University’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy. The Kyl Center promotes research, analysis, collaboration, and open dialogue to build consensus in support of sound water stewardship solutions for Arizona and the West. Before leading the Kyl Center, Porter served as the Arizona state director of the National Audubon Society and led the Western Rivers project, a multi-state initiative to protect and restore important river habitats in the Intermountain West. As deputy directory of Audubon Arizona, Porter was a key team member in the effort to launch the Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center, a nature education center located in a restored riparian habitat in South Phoenix. She is a member of the Governor’s Water Augmentation, Innovation and Conservation Council and Phoenix’s Environmental Quality and Sustainability Commission.

Register Here to Attend In-Person

Register Here to Attend Virtually

Atascosa Borderlands: Visual Storytelling along the Arizona-Sonora Border
Oct. 26, 6:00 PM AZ Time (in-person and virtual)

Along the US-Mexico border lies a remote expanse of the Coronado National Forest in Southern Arizona known as the Atascosa Highlands. An important biological and cultural corridor between Mexico and the United States, the Atascosas take up less than 1% of Arizona’s overall landmass, but host one-quarter of the state’s flora, including species which are found nowhere else in the United States. While conducting an ecological flora and photographic survey, documentary photographer Luke Swenson and naturalist and writer Jack Dash, observed firsthand the complex cultural, historical, and ecological significance of this notoriously rugged landscape. They examined the region’s use as a migratory and smuggling route, and witnessed recent border wall construction and ongoing environmental and social disruptions in the area.  The ecological survey and their observations inspired them to create Atascosa Borderlands, a community-based visual storytelling project combining original film photography, recorded oral history interviews, a botanical collection, and digital archive of historical photographs from community members, State and National archives.  This interactive session will explore the nuanced realities of the Arizona-Sonora Borderlands, the voices of cattle ranchers, ecologists, humanitarian aid workers, migrants, militia members, coues deer hunters, ex-border patrol agents, and indigenous community members.

Jack Dash is a naturalist and writer based in Tucson, Arizona. He works as a horticulturist with the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and is Vice President of the Tucson Native Plant Society.

Luke Swenson is a documentary photographer based in Portland, Oregon. He is a graduate of Pratt Institute’s BFA Photography program in Brooklyn, New York.

Register Here to Attend In-Person

Register Here to Attend Virtually

Watch Recordings of Past Events Now! 

Science & Storytelling: Talking with Author and Scientist Darcie Little Badger

From extreme weather disasters to shrinking wildlife habitats, climate change is impacting us now…and shaping a new future. These environmental themes appear throughout the work of Lipan Apache writer and earth scientist, Darcie Little Badger. Drawing upon her background in climate science and Lipan storytelling, Dr. Little Badger imagines alternate futures and parallel worlds with magic and monsters in her short stories and books for young adults. In her most recent, award-winning novel, A Snake Falls to Earth, the story is told through the perspective of a Lipan girl living in a futuristic Texas threatened by natural disasters and invasive monster species. How does the natural world inspire new genres in literature? How can literature influence a young generation of readers inheriting the challenges of the climate crisis? Join us for a lively conversation with Darcie Little Badger about writing fiction in a time of climate change.

Darcie Little Badger is a Lipan Apache writer with a PhD in oceanography. Her critically acclaimed debut novel, Elatsoe, was featured in Time Magazine as one of the best 100 fantasy books of all time. Elatsoe also won the Locus award for Best First Novel and is a Nebula, Ignyte, and Lodestar finalist. Her second fantasy novel, A Snake Falls to Earth, received a Newbery Honor and is on the National Book Awards longlist. Darcie is married to a veterinarian named Taran. 

“The Desertification Cookbook”: Revitalizing Desert Wasteland through Land Art

Development in desert cities has created new homes and opportunities in the Southwest, but has also stripped away parts of the natural environment and its rich history. Can urban pockets of degraded land be revitalized? Can the history and the ecological value of these places be reclaimed sustainably? The answers may lie in a 30-year land art project in Pueblo, Colorado. Matt Garcia and April Bojorquez, artists, educators, and founders of DesertArtLAB, transform “wasteland” into a productive and edible landscape in their public art initiative: “The Desertification Cookbook.”  They bring together art and place, ecology and community, in an ambitious multi-phase project set to span decades. Join us for a conversation with Garcia and Bojorquez as they discuss the development of their land art project, from its roots in Phoenix to its realization in Pueblo.

DesertArtLAB is an interdisciplinary environmental arts collaborative co-directed by April Bojorquez and Matt Garcia. Their work promotes Indigenous/Chicanx perspectives on ecological practice, food sovereignty, self-determination, and climate change. DesertArtLAB’s projects activate public space through participatory artworks and support the restoration of desert environments and their foodways through zero irrigation regrowth projects. DesertArtLAB have presented their work nationally and internationally at Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris, France; The Museum of Contemporary Native Art, Santa Fe, NM; the Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara, Galería de la Raza (San Francisco), among many others.April and Matt are recipients of the Creative Capital award and were 2021 Mellon Artists in Residence at the Colorado College Fine Arts Center Museum; they live and work in Pueblo, Colorado.

Caretakers of the Land: A Story of Farming and Community in San Xavier with Jacelle Ramon-Sauberan

Farming has always been the way of life for the Tohono O’odham community in San Xavier, located just south of Tucson. Their way of life depended on access to the land and to the water, namely the Santa Cruz River, which nourished agriculture in the area for generations. But a history of division sown through government land allotments and land development plans, coupled with the declining flow of the Santa Cruz, fractured community farming. How did the community come together to revitalize the land for future generations? What lessons can we learn from their story? Join Jacelle Ramon-Sauberan for a program about land, water, and community in San Xavier.

Jacelle Ramon-Sauberan is Tohono O’odham and from the San Xavier District. She currently teaches in the Tohono O’odham Studies Program at Tohono O’odham Community College. Ramon-Sauberan is a Doctoral Candidate in American Indian Studies with a minor in Journalism at the University of Arizona. Her research focuses on the history of land and water in the San Xavier District and she has written for news publications across the US including Indian Country Today Media Network. Ramon-Sauberan is also an information specialist for the National Science Foundation’s AURA/NOIR Lab.

Considering Climate Equity: Stories of Extreme Heat in Our Cities with Dr. Melissa Guardaro

Heat in Arizona has long impacted the way people across the state live, work, and build their communities. Perhaps one of the most noticeable effects of climate change that we feel today is the sharply rising temperature in our cities. Climate change affects everyone, but not always in equal measure. Some neighborhoods experience urban heat differently from others. What is the difference and why does it happen? Which communities are most at risk? What can we do to reduce the effects of urban heat? Join us for an interactive discussion about climate equity, urban heat, and potential solutions, told through the stories of our communities with Dr. Melissa Guardaro.

This program includes a brief video, “How America’s hottest city is trying to cool down,” by Vox. Watch the video here

Melissa Guardaro is Assistant Research Professor in the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State University. Her research focuses on adaptability, equity, vulnerability, and urban policy to mitigate and adapt to extreme heat and urban heat island effects. She has partnered with The Nature Conservancy, the Maricopa County Health Department, and community-based organizations to create neighborhood heat solutions that improve public health. In her work, Dr. Guardaro weaves together storytelling and human experiences with data-driven research. The people that live and work in urban heat zones are an important part of the conversation about community-based solutions and public health.

Hippie Modernism: Literature, Counterculture, and Transforming Our Natural World with Dr. Gioia Wood

A dramatic surge in human activity, known as the Great Acceleration, transformed our natural world beginning in the mid-twentieth century. People’s relationship with the planet fundamentally shifted. In the United States in the late 1960s and into the 1970s, literature, literary production, and literary consumption became keenly attuned to ecological consciousness. Two significant, intersecting concerns informed this trend: the social dissonance and environmental destruction created by consumer capitalism, and the changing ideas around individual consciousness. Join us as Dr. Gioia Woods explores the environmental and cultural shifts that informed this new ecological consciousness and look at the ways literature of the era came to embody these changing values.

Gioia Woods is professor of Humanities, president’s distinguished teaching fellow, and chair of the Department of Comparative Cultural Studies at Northern Arizona University. Dr. Woods’s teaching and research in the environmental humanities focuses on the ways in which humans understand and construct relationships with the non-human natural world. A recent Fulbright Teaching Fellow trained in American literature, Dr. Woods is the author of articles on environmental literature, American literature of dissent, and literature of the American West.

Cotton, Cattle, Citrus–and Climate: Will Arizona have water to grow food and fiber? with Sarah Porter

Arizona has a long history of thriving agriculture: For generations, agricultural production was the linchpin of the state’s economy, and cotton, cattle and citrus production had a significant influence on how Arizona communities grew. Today, while agriculture comprises only a small fraction of the state’s gross domestic product, it still accounts for over 70% of the consumptive use of water. As Arizona adjusts to a hotter, drier future, can farming survive? How can the state sustain agricultural production and do so more sustainably? Join us for an important conversation about farming, water and our future.

Sarah Porter is Director of the Kyl Center for Water Policy at Arizona State University’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy. The Kyl Center promotes research, analysis, collaboration, and open dialogue to build consensus in support of sound water stewardship solutions for Arizona and the West. Before leading the Kyl Center, Porter served as the Arizona state director of the National Audubon Society and led the Western Rivers project, a multi-state initiative to protect and restore important river habitats in the Intermountain West. As deputy directory of Audubon Arizona, Porter was a key team member in the effort to launch the Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center, a nature education center located in a restored riparian habitat in South Phoenix. She is a member of the Governor’s Water Augmentation, Innovation and Conservation Council and Phoenix’s Environmental Quality and Sustainability Commission.

State of Water: Looking Toward an Uncertain Future with Joanna Allhands

Does Arizona have enough water? How concerned should we be about the state’s dwindling water supply? In this 60-minute session, we’ll discuss where our water comes from, what’s threatening those supplies, and what you and the wider state can do to prepare for a hotter, drier future. Water policy is complex, but the goal is to break down the basics into understandable bites – and perhaps dispel a few myths along the way.

Joanna Allhands is digital opinions editor for The Arizona Republic, responsible for AZCentral’s online opinions content. She also writes opinions about water, education, and COVID-19 policy. Allhands has been with The Arizona Republic since 2004.

 

Bridging Law and Our Natural Resources, Yesterday and Today with Dr. Michael Brescia

Water is one of the most valuable and contested natural resources in the American West. Communities have been fighting for access to scarce water sources for quite some time. How are water rights determined in areas that were once part of Spain and Mexico? Why are these old laws, customs, and usages still in effect and still practiced throughout the Southwest? Disputes over natural resources require navigating both thorny historical and legal issues. Spanish colonialism and U.S. expansionism have played defining roles in shaping debates over access and control of natural resources, from water to land to minerals. Join us as historian Dr. Michael Brescia unpacks the complex historical and contemporary issues regarding water rights and policy with multiple historical threads.

Michael Brescia is Curator of Ethnohistory at the Arizona State Museum and affiliated Professor of History and Law at the University of Arizona. His research and numerous publications focus on the history of the transnational Southwest and the living legacies of Spanish and Mexican natural resource law and water rights. As a scholar working at the intersection of history, law, and the environment, he has served as an expert witness in water rights cases in Arizona and New Mexico. Dr. Brescia is an award-winning teacher, advocate for the public humanities, and the 2021 recipient of the Dan Shilling Humanities Public Scholar Award from Arizona Humanities.

The Humanities, the Arts, and the Climate Crisis with Sir Jonathan Bate

We think of science and public policy as the only ways to fight the climate crisis, but the humanities and the arts are vital too. They give us the narratives and the emotional engagement that we need to address the environmental challenges facing our planet and our way of life. Internationally acclaimed Shakespearean scholar and eco-critic Sir Jonathan Bate will offer a wide-ranging introduction to past and present “green thinking” in literature, film and art, history, philosophy, and religion. Join us for this keynote event followed by Q&A with the audience, as we launch our new program series, Climate Conversations.

Jonathan Bate is Foundation Professor of Environmental Humanities at Arizona State University and a Senior Research Fellow in English Literature at Oxford University, where he was formerly Provost of Worcester College. The author of twenty books, he is a world-renowned expert on Shakespeare, the Romantic movement and ecological approaches to the arts and humanities. He was knighted by the Queen for his services to literary scholarship.
Atascosa Borderlands Revisited (II): A Shifting Landscape Along the US-Mexico Border

Along a remote stretch of the US-Mexico border lies the mountainous terrain of the Atascosa Highlands in the Coronado National Forest. Abundant in biological diversity, the Atascosa Highlands are home to numerous species of flora and fauna. When documentary photographer Luke Swenson and ecologist and writer Jack Dash embarked on a botanical survey of the area in 2017, they found that the rugged landscape was defined not only by its rich ecology but also profoundly shaped by human activity. They developed a transdisciplinary storytelling project, Atascosa Borderlands, to document the complex natural and cultural history of the region. Their work is layered with original film photographs, oral history interviews, found artifacts, floral specimens, and more, creating a textured record of an environment undergoing dynamic transformation from human migration to border wall construction to climate change. Join Luke and Jack for a conversation about the evolution of their project, from its beginnings to future explorations as they prepare to return to the Atascosa Highlands.

Atascosa Borderlands (I): Social Ecology along the US-Mexico Border

The Atascosa Highlands are an area of unmatched biological and cultural diversity, located along a rugged stretch of the US-Mexico border. Over the last three years, ecologist Jack Dash and photographer Luke Swenson have been pursuing an intensive study of the area, designated by the Coronado National Forest Service as the Tumacacori Ecosystem Management Area. Their visual storytelling project, An Annotated Flora of the Atascosa Highlands documents the environmental, political, and cultural forces shaping this unique landscape. Combining social ecology, documentary photography and oral history interviews, their work confronts the diverse, and oftentimes competing perspectives of the region. 

Luke Swenson is a film-based documentary photographer and visual storyteller based in Portland, Oregon. He is a graduate of Pratt Institute’s BFA Photography program in Brooklyn, New York.

Jack Dash is an ecologist and writer based in Tucson, Arizona. He is vice president of the Arizona Native Plant Society in Tucson and works for the non-profit native plant nursery Desert Survivors.

Water/Ways

Interested in learning more about the impact of water? Visit waterwaysaz.org to explore Water/Ways, a 2018-20 Smithsonian traveling exhibit made possible by Arizona Humanities and Arizona State University. Find digital resources and educational material that explore the endless motion of the water cycle, its effect on landscape, settlement and migration, and its impact on culture and spirituality.