Climate Futures Fellows Update

Michaela Mast and Harrison Horst, two of this years Climate Futures Fellows.

Three weeks down, 44 left to go.

The first few weeks of our Fellowship at the Center for Sustainable Climate Solutions (CSCS) have flown by. As it turns out, there are quite a few things to think about when creating a podcast, and we’ve been kept busy drawing on whiteboards and scribbling in notebooks during these initial planning stages of our podcast, Shifting Climates. (For more background on our project, see this article). Amidst much logistical planning, we have also found time for reading and some head-spinning conversations. To share with you a little about what our work looks like day-to-day, I’ll be offering this month’s reflection in the form of our daily schedule.

We begin each day with a time for guided reflection, sometimes reading aloud to one another, listening to sections of a podcast we like, or even just reflecting through writing in quiet meditation. One of the nice things about working as a CSCS Fellow is the flexibility and ownership of schedule that it provides. Starting our workday with an intentional space to clear our heads and re-ground ourselves has proved to be important, even on days where we cut the reflection time just a little short in order to get started on our pile of tasks.

Some of our favorite reflection pieces so far have included Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass, Krista Tippet’s memoir Becoming Wise and her podcast, On Being. Kimmerer and Tippet do not shy away from the hard questions, and have been both inspiring and challenging for us as we begin to grapple with several hard questions of our own. So far, two primary big questions stand out, and seem to weave themselves through most of our conversations: 1) Is action enough, or does intent matter? Similarly, is the “what” of our climate change conversation enough, or are we searching more for the “how” and the “why”? 2) What does the appropriate incorporation of the living world with the human world look like? Or, perhaps more to the point, how do we respect and learn from the living world without idealizing or exploiting it? These are not questions to be answered in a day, or even in a year, but I have the feeling that they will provide an important backdrop for all of our conversations this year.

A significant part of our morning is spent networking, which at this point takes the form of many, many emails – with a few Facebook messages and phone calls interspersed. Even though the actual act of writing emails is somewhat tedious, we’ve been pleasantly surprised at how agreeable people have been. Even contacts who have declined to connect with us, for any reason, have been overwhelmingly supportive, typically sending us five additional names of people whose voices they think would be better suited for our project. These types of connections have already led to a rich variety of conversations.

Our early afternoon is often when we find ourselves meeting with our advisors, interview leads, and otherwise knowledgeable people who have been kind enough to chat with us. Then, we usually reserve the final part of our day for research – of which there is plenty. When making a podcast, the number of items to research sometimes adds up faster than you can write them down. As a podcaster, not only do you have to know a great deal about the topics that you are attempting to speak on – in our case, climate change and Mennonite theology – but you also have to do research on your interviewees and the organizations they work for, on climate change communication strategies, on how to use audio-editing software, on color palettes for logo development, on how to conduct engaging interviews…well, you get the idea. It’s a long list.

In a way, this is somewhat comforting, even while it’s intimidating: there is always more to learn. And, actually, this may turn out to be one of my favorite parts of the Fellowship. When I was in college, I knew I was learning stuff, because I had physical representations of that knowledge in the form of essays, reading responses, or question sets. I guess I didn’t expect that I would stop learning after college graduation, but I also didn’t expect to find my head so stuffed with new ideas and swirling thoughts after every single day of work. So far, the Fellowship has proven to be an excitingly unique way to continue learning and engaging with the world around me – and we haven’t even begun our interviews yet!

Stay tuned for updates as we hit the road this weekend, heading to Nashville and southern West Virginia, before we go to the Rooted and Grounded Conference in Goshen later this month. Follow our travels on Instagram at shiftingclimates, and feel free to reach out to us at shiftingclimates@gmail.com.

Article By Harrison Horst

Climate Futures Fellow, CSCS

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