Monthly Archives: November 2016

Climate Narrative Project

screen-shot-2016-11-30-at-9-50-28-am The Climate Narrative Project is a special media arts initiative in the Office of Sustainability at the University of Iowa, designed to reach across academic disciplines, shape a new narrative on climate change, and chronicle regenerative approaches to energy, food, agriculture, water and waste management, community planning and transportation. Selected Fellows work with Writer-in-Residence Jeff Biggers on semester-long investigative projects, using visual arts, film, radio, theatre, dance, spoken word and creative writing mediums. The Climate Narrative Project is an investigative initiative: What accounts for the gap between science and action on climate change, and what can we do more effectively to communicate informed stories and galvanize action?

Check out Climate Narrative Projects over the past three years.

Mayors Climate Summit in Mexico

screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-10-42-52-am Mayors from around the world will be converging on Mexico City this week for the C40 Cities Climate Leadership summit, seeking ways for cities to continue climate action initiatives. Over 70% of our energy-related carbon footprint comes from urban areas.

Here’s a note from the host, Mexico City mayor Miguel Ángel Mancera:

“We look forward to welcoming C40 cities and invited guests to the 2016 C40 Mayors Summit, the world’s foremost global gathering of political, business and intellectual leaders focused on forging a low carbon and resilient urban future.

The Summit will take place one year after the historic COP21 climate negotiations, and will provide a global forum to highlight the progress that cities are continuing to make on climate change through local action and global collaboration. The mayors of the world’s greatest cities will once again demonstrate their leadership in building a broad coalition to act on this most pressing issue of our times. The event will showcase the plans and commitments of C40 mayors and cities ahead of 2020, when global emissions must peak. Indeed, mayors and cities are essential to achieving the ambition of the Paris Agreement, and C40 cities – representing more than 600 million people and 25% of global GDP – have a particularly important role to play.

The pace and scale of action needs to increase dramatically, particularly in sectors most critical to mitigation and adaptation: buildings, transport, energy, land use and waste. The Summit will serve as an opportunity for cities across the global C40 network to exchange best practices and agree solutions across a range of sectors and thematic areas. We are especially pleased that this year’s Summit will feature the fourth annual C40 Cities Awards, showcasing the world’s most innovative and successful sustainability projects, which will inspire and empower other cities to act.

Mexican Migration and Climate Change

Theme : 

– Mexico is a country that is vulnerable to the many effects of climate change including things like prolonged droughts, soil degradation, devastating rainstorms, lack of water and rising sea levels. These changes eventually cause for an increase in Mexican migration.

– Understanding that not all immigrants are the same, but instead each of their stories is different and unique. Learning to empathize by listening to other’s stories and life experiences, even if you’ve never lived through them before.

General storyline :

-The stories of three Mexican immigrants will follow this main story line: Their former lives in Mexico-> What changed? What lead them to make the decision to migrate?-> What the process of migrating was like? -> What their lives in the United States now look like?

Main characters : 

-My grandfather Jose Luis Castellanos from Michoacan, my friends father Luis Cervantes from Chiapas, and Lourdes Gutierrez the daughter of a farmer from Guanajuato.

Interviews : 

  • Jose Luis Castellanos, immigrant and former fisherman from Michoacan.
  • Luis Cervantes, immigrant and former corn farmer from Chiapas.
  • Lourdes Gutierrez, immigrant and daughter of a farmer from Guanajuato.

Arts Medium : 

-Their different interviews will be turned into vignettes. Each of these vignettes will be read out loud by three different actors. The audience will not know where these immigrants are from until the end of the presentation where it will be announced that all of them are Mexican immigrants. This will be to illustrate that we can’t generalize an entire group of people, instead we have toeach of their stories is different.

One Poem, Two Translations and One and a Half Poets

Chen Ko Hua is a poet, essayist, and ophthalmologist with a degree from Taipei Medical University and Harvard Medical School. He has written more than twenty books of poetry in Mandarin, and this fall he was a resident writer with the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa.

Every year, the program invites about 35 writers to live in Iowa City for a few months and attend readings, panels, classes, with the chance to interact with writers from around the globe. This year’s group included a surrealist fiction writer from Bulgaria, a flash fiction writer from the Philippines, a spoken-word poet from Botswana…

After my International Literature Today class, in which he presented his work, I asked him if he might provide some insight on my project. He followed up by sending me an entire signed book of his poetry, along with tens of essays and poetry he had written about the environment, climate change, weather patterns, etc.

My parents and I sat down, going line-by-line through each stanza and together we translated this poem. I brought the newly birthed “Call to El Nino” to him, then I sat down to see what he thought.

El Nino refers to a weather phenomenon where abnormally high or low sea temperatures and ocean current changes create unstable rain patterns in the east Pacific region, causing extreme rainfall or droughts at times.

“I wrote this poem maybe last year,” Chen said, “Maybe I’m paranoid, but also I’m a Buddhist. In the Buddhist manuscript, they also describe the end of the human world that’s pretty similar. It’s called “huo” which is a fire, “huo da” means the fire will be destroy everything. So that’s pretty similar with the temperatures getting higher and higher. And as a poet we can imagine that it’s a warming of nature, or telling people that we really have changed too many things, we twist or we are just too greedy so we change nature. Nature will change us and change the world. Sometimes I will worry about this.”

I would not call myself a poet, perhaps just a partial poet. But the value of any actual person as a translator is especially noteworthy when you compare their work to the results from a “Google Translator.”

Google chugged:

We already call the baby

The baby ‘s ghost has arrived. Rainstorm

The morning sunset

We live in high places

You can see a brilliant purple gold edge of the evil cloud

UFO-like passing

My Translation: As you read through the rest, pay close attention to the line rhythm, the word choice, and the punctuation/word capitalization in the poem.

Call to El Niño

We beckon to El Niño.

Its spirit has already arrived

with the morning sunset’s downpour.

We live safely, high above the ground

watching the brilliant purple golden clouds

its ominous edges

soaring across the sky

like a UFO.

By the window, a pot of withering plant —



within the skyscraper made

of steel and iron bones,


flu-proof masks

the humans are locked inside doors,


by air-conditioners.

Though it wants to travel, it wants to visit from thousands of miles away

together, we keep El Nino outside —

We wait for the sun to once again kiss the earth,

when the breeze is soft and sunshine is tender.

We poke our heads out

only to discover El Niño

at every door

has left a perfumed


























COP22: Cities and Climate Action

screen-shot-2016-11-11-at-12-49-39-pm As global representatives meet in Morocco for the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP22), cities are emerging as the key for climate action leadership.

Here’s a UN report clip from COP22:

“Urban areas are at the center of converging global frameworks, not only the Paris Agreement on climate change, but also the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted in September 2015, and the New Urban Agenda, adopted last month in Quito, Ecuador, at the UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development – or Habitat III.

Urban areas represent an estimated 70 per cent of energy-related global emissions. Many actions to adapt urban areas to climate change also have positive mitigation impacts, including renovation of old and construction of new low-energy and energy-efficient buildings.

“It is important to see development in cities in a totally different manner,” said ‘Climate Champion’ Laurence Tubiana, at the press conference. “We have to cut the building energy consumption by 50 percent by 2050. It’s a big challenge.”

“Cities can help government implement their NDC (nationally determined contribution) much better and really aim much higher,” she added.

Ms. Tubiana, the French Ambassador on climate change, and Hakima El Haité, the Moroccan Minister in charge of Environment, were appointed Climate Champions by COP 21.

Speaking to the UN News Centre, Jacqueline McGlade, said that “every new building, if it was essentially designed around passive heating, could reduce the load on the power supply by 30 to 40 per cent. The problem with some of those is that they cost more in the first stages.”

Developing efficient transportation networks in cities is also important, she said. “We see that young people today view cities in a very different way than we did in the last 20 [or] 30 years. They see them as small villages, where their social networks actually imply that they can walk everywhere, they can meet and they can do their daily business without a need for actual heavy duty fossil-fueled cars and transport,” she added.

The Importance of Direct Action


When it finally hit me that Donald Trump was going to be our next president, a cascade of emotion came over me. Disbelief turned to anger, and anger turned to tears. The gravity of the situation has not hit any of us yet, but be assured that our job just went from an uphill climb to ascending Mt. Everest. The new president is going to be one of isolation and exploitation and our duty to mother nature along with our obligation to all humankind has become even more imperative. Now is the time to act directly and proportionally to those who threaten our future and our present. As Americans, we truly believe that we are exceptional and able to accomplish anything in the face of any obstacle; this was the case last night as a ‘hidden’ vote manifested itself. Racism has only been hidden to those who have not been paying attention and can no longer be swept under the rug. Action that will affect those outside of the government is now the most promising avenue for change, as we need change immediately, not four or eight years from now. When we make choices that support our world view and purchase products or do without in order to manifest change from the inside out, we can accomplish much in a short time. This election is the last stand of an America that promotes colonialism and exploitation of minorities all over the world as well as in our back yard. We must unite as this schism expands for those who know and understand the world and those who choose to remain ignorant and expect to be great just for being an American. I have never been more ashamed of my fellow Americans but I have also never been more sure that in order to make America great, we need to defend our liberties as well as our resources by strong means and measures. The threat looms large and we need to be diligent in our preparedness to take direct response to that which we deem threatened. The police cannot arrest all of us if we are united. This is not a call to violence, rather a call to preemptive occupation. We lose elections like this because the educated and empathetic are concentrated into pockets of states; I say, venture out and interact with the rural voter in order to either correct a misconception or incite an unreasonable response that will be deemed hateful and serve to galvanize the effort. Whether we stand in front of bulldozers or chain ourselves together or any other type of preemption, we will be doing a service to all, even those who think they don’t agree with our morals.

This rhetoric sounds extreme because we are in extreme times. We can stand on our principles or we can stand on our feet to rise up and defeat this scourge of hatred that is sweeping the globe. We must align with our fellow men and women and eagles and bears and fish and trees and say NO! WE WILL NOT ALLOW THIS ANYMORE, WE WILL BE THE AGGRESSORS, WE WILL FIGHT FOR OUR LIBERTIES AND OUR GREATNESS SINCE THIS COUNTRY HAS YET TO BE TRULY GREAT FROM TOP TO BOTTOM. AMEND THE CONSTITUTION SO THAT ALL MEN, ALL WOMEN OF ANY COLOR OR CREED ALONG WITH ALL LIFE AND LIFE GIVING ENTITY ARE CREATED EQUAL AND HAVE THE RIGHT TO LIFE, LIBERTY, AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS.


E Pluribus Unum

Naomi Klein at Great Barrier Reef: Climate change is intergenerational theft

Read Naomi Klein’s piece about her decision to bring her son along with her on her trip to the Great Barrier Reef: “Climate change is intergenerational theft. That’s why my son is part of this story.”

“The short film I’ve made with the Guardian stars my son, Toma, aged four years and five months. That’s a little scary for me to write, since, up until this moment, my husband, Avi, and I have been pretty careful about protecting him from public exposure. No matter how damn cute we think he’s being, absolutely no tweeting is allowed.

So I want to explain how I decided to introduce him to you in this very public way.

For the past eight years, I have been writing and speaking about climate change pretty much around the clock. I use all the communication tools I can — books, articles, feature documentary, photographs, lectures.

Yet I still struggle with a nagging feeling that I’m not doing justice to the enormous stakes of this threat. The safety and habitability of our shared home is intensely emotional terrain, triggering perfectly rational feelings of loss, fear and grief. Yet climate discourse is usually pretty clinical, weighed down with statistics and policy jargon.

All that information is important, of course. But I have started to worry that, by being so calm and clinical, we may be tacitly sending the message that this isn’t really an existential emergency after all. If it were, wouldn’t the people raising the alarm sound more … alarmed? Wouldn’t we share more of our own emotions?

UN Report: Are Paris Climate Accords Too Little, Too Late?

screen-shot-2016-11-06-at-4-04-28-pm As the Paris climate accords go into effect, a new study by the United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) says that “pledges put forward to cut emissions would see temperatures rise by 3C above pre-industrial levels, far above the the 2C of the Paris climate agreement.”

The Bloomberg business news outlet gave this headline to the UNEP study: “Climate Headed for Catastrophic Change Despite Paris Accord.”

“We will grieve over the avoidable human tragedy,” said the head of UNEP, Erik Solheim, in a statement. “The growing numbers of climate refugees hit by hunger, poverty, illness and conflict will be a constant reminder of our failure to deliver.”

Here’s a direct link to the UNEP study: The Emissions Gap Report 2016: A UNEP Synthesis Report.

The Outline Outside My Mind

Theme : Have you ever wondered how great nature can be? Doesn’t matter your answer to that question because either way, this project will entice you to form a more perfect union with trees.

General storyline: I, along with a good friend of mine, will be walking through a forest and talking about the intricacies, the beauty, the majesty, the drama, the romance, the war, the famine, the peace, the pieces, and the nature of what we see. We will, of course, supplement all the factual information with statements that may not be facts to the general public, but they are to us.

Main characters: Those featured in this work will be, as of today, will be Raud, yours truly, and my main man Creek may sneak on camera.

Interviews: I have interviewed Creek, the caretaker of the particular forest I will be filming in, and Andy, the university’s urban forester. I am currently working with three other folks to get interviews. Some more viable than others, so we shall see who else will join in.

Arts Medium: I will be working with film. I do not think it will be on an old-timey crank-and-shoot, but the world has many surprises and that is always an option.

P.S.: I plan on reaching out to Leonardo DiCaprio, so, ya know…the film should be pretty cool.




Leo lovingly pointing at...

Leo lovingly pointing at…