Claire Napawan expanded her collaborative work using social media to bring climate change awareness. With #OurChangingClimate she is encouraging diverse communities to critique their every day environment through the lens of climate change.
Claire Napawan is an Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture in the Department of Human Ecology at UC Davis. She is trained as an architect, landscape architect and urban designer, and has designed and studied urban environments throughout the world more than ten years. Her research focuses on urban public spaces and their contribution to urban resilience—a term that defines the capability of a community to prepare, respond, and recover from multiple threats, including climate change. She believes urban resilience requires community participation, and that designers and decision-makers need to explore new techniques for integrating urban communities with the processes that determine the future of their built environments. This includes a particular focus on under-represented and vulnerable communities, such as urban youth and youth of color.
To learn more about her collaborative design work: click here.
#OurChangingClimate is a participatory design project that encourages diverse communities to observe and critique their everyday environment through the lens of climate change, and to share those experiences through social media. It represents an effort to re-focus the conversation on climate change from a global scale environmental impact perspective to one that recognizes the importance of the personal and everyday ways in which community members experience these impacts. This is a collaborative project with fellow UC Davis faculty members Brett Snyder (Department of Design) and Sheryl-Ann Simpson (Department of Human Ecology).
Claire has expanded her collaborative work on #OurChangingClimate.
#OurChangingClimate began in 2014 as a pilot project supported by the University of California Humanities Research Institute (UCHRI) and in collaboration with the Oakland-based community organization, Institute for Sustainable Economic, Education, and Environmental Design (I-SEEED).
In the pilot phase, researchers conducted two workshops with San Francisco Bay Area youth groups affiliated with I-SEEED in spring of 2015. The first workshop introduced participants to environmental science perspectives on climate change, the methods for reading and interpreting urban landscapes in light of climate change, and brainstormed ideas for additional indicators relevant to their experiences of their communities. During the six week period between workshops, participants and researchers contributed representations of climate change through their own social media accounts. Contributions were aggregated through the use of the “#OurChangingClimate”. In the second workshop participants and researchers reconvened to analyze themes and meaning in the content they had created and to reflect on the impact of the project on participants. Some of the predominant themes included environmental justice, race, public health, and food security. In their reflections, participants described a greater awareness of their surroundings, and a greater sense of awareness around climate change.
With support of the Climate Action Champion Award, the project team has launched a beta website aggregating community contributions to the network; held staff, faculty, and student workshops on UC Davis campus; and planned community-based workshops for the Sacramento and Coachella Valleys for the 2016-17 academic year.
Check out the beta website for #OurChangingClimate below. This website aggregates posts from most major social media outlets to create a digital resource for community members, designers, and decision-makers for gaining local and personal perspectives on climate change.
Claire’s dynamic team discusses how social media can bring about climate solutions. #OurChangingClimate encourages self awareness and critical thinking regarding our everyday environment.
Credit: Claire Napawan
Q&A WITH CLAIRE
What is a common misperception from non-scientists about climate research?
In our initial workshops, we heard from local youth that they didn’t feel they had the capacity to talk meaningfully about climate change, that it was something for people ‘smarter than them’ to address. They didn’t recognize the powerful role they could play in using their own narratives and networks to advocate for resilience. Additionally, the relationships that exist between addressing climate change and addressing issues related to public health, race, and equity were also relatively unknown to many of the students we worked with. The youth were surprised to learn that their core interests and everyday lives were intertwined with the impacts related to climate change.
What is the most rewarding part about being a UC Climate Action Champion?
Working with, learning from, and empowering local youth. #OurChangingClimate is all about understanding climate change through someone else’s eyes — it’s so wonderful and amazing to gain the perspective, particularly from youth. We’ve learned so many things; we’ve learned that you must draw linkages between people’s interests and the changing world around them. Then they can see the potential role they can play in building community resilience.
One of our most rewarding moments was hearing a student participant in our pilot workshop say, “I used to think climate change was something for people smarter than me to talk about. Now I know it’s about everything and affects everyone.”
What do you hope your project contributes to your university, the UC-system, and society?
Ultimately, I hope that the #OurChangingClimate network might serve as a resource for community members, designers, policy-makers, and others—to enable collaborations, to design equitable solutions, and to provide a voice for all in achieving resilience to climate change. I hope that it empowers youth and other non-scientists to gain capacity in discussing, planning, and advocating for community resilience, and broadens the scope of scientists and policy-makers to include the under-represented in the decision-making process.
What is one thing you want to tell non-scientists about climate change?
Everyone must get involved to address climate change. Not just the scientists. To quote Gus Speth, National Resources Defense Council co-founder and the US advisor on climate change: “I used to think that top environmental problems were biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse and climate change. I thought that thirty years of good science could address these problems. I was wrong. The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed and apathy, and to deal with these we need a cultural and spiritual transformation. And we scientists don’t know how to do that.”
To put it more positively, in 2005 environmentalist and journalist Bill McKibben declared the need for an infusion of art in discussions of climate change, to help us “know about it,” to have climate change “[register] in out gut”, become “part of our culture,” and to help sort out what climate change means. #OurChangingClimate aims to do that.