MIDDLEBURY, Vt. - What can any of us, especially college students, do to make an impact on climate change—a worldwide issue that grows more intense with every new hurricane and fire? “Radical Implications: Facing a Planetary Emergency,” the 2021 Clifford Symposium at Middlebury College from September 23 to 25, will bring together a host of climate experts, as well as faculty and students, who will offer their perspectives on what roles we can take in the crisis that makes our planet increasingly turbulent. Events will include talks, panel discussions, a 350.org reunion, and other activities.
Symposium co-organizer Minna Brown, director of the College’s Climate Action Capacity Project and a 2007 Middlebury graduate, has noted a change in attitude toward the climate crisis as it has grown more severe. “Ten or 15 years ago, the question was, ‘Why aren’t people talking about this?,’” she said, “and now it’s ‘What can I do in my work or in my studies—regardless of the field I’m in—to address this issue?’”
The speakers will highlight the enormity of the challenges as well as the actions people can take, said Dan Suarez, symposium co-organizer and assistant professor of environmental studies. “We’re very excited about this group of speakers as they include some really dynamic and vital voices in the climate justice movement,” he said.
Bill McKibben will kick off the symposium on Thursday, September 23, when he joins the other cofounders—all Middlebury alumni—of international climate organization 350.org to share their reflections on the past decade of successes and failures in climate activism. They will also discuss what has changed and what must change if the climate movement is to be successful in the future.
Sarah Jaquette Ray, author of “A Field Guide to Climate Anxiety” and cocreator of the Existential Toolkit for Climate Justice Educators, will then give a talk on the powerful emotions inherent in facing the climate crisis and how to navigate them.
Thursday’s events will continue when an interdisciplinary group of Middlebury faculty discuss how they are grappling—successfully or not—with the sweeping implications of what is now unfolding on the planet. Panelists include Scholar in Residence Carolyn Finney, author of “Black Faces, White Spaces”; Associate Professor of Education Jonathan Miller Lane; Associate Professor of Political Science Kemi Fuentes-George; Professor of Food Studies Molly Anderson; Visiting Assistant Professor of History Lana Povitz; and Assistant Professor of Economics Julia Berazneva.
The first day will conclude with a talk by keynote speaker adrienne maree brown, author of “Emergent Strategy” and “Pleasure Activism,” and cohost of the podcast How to Survive the End of the World. Brown will address themes of activism, climate movement strategy, and social change and transformation.
On Friday, September 24, there will be talks by labor organizer and author Jane McAlevey; climate justice activist, writer, and host of the Hot Take podcast Mary Annaïse Heglar; and writer, journalist, and activist Julian Brave NoiseCat, member of the Canim Lake Band Tsq’escen and a descendant of the Lil’Wat Nation of Mount Currie.
A group of Middlebury arts and humanities faculty will also discuss the importance of creative expression in making sense of the many interconnected and urgent components of the climate crisis.
Due to continued caution with COVID-19, only Middlebury College faculty, staff, and students may attend symposium events in person. All events—with noted exceptions—will be livestreamed and open to the general public. For more information and to register for an event, visit the Clifford Symposium web page.