By: Denali Selent
As a great way to wrap-up Sustainability Week 2019, the Oxford Interfaith Center and Miami’s Green Oxford, with the support of other organizations, hosted a “Paris to Pittsburgh” documentary screening on Sunday, Oct. 20. The screening was followed by a faculty discussion panel on climate change. “Paris to Pittsburgh” is a 2018 National Geographic documentary, available for free on Youtube, about climate change with a primary focus on leadership and local action in clean energy affairs.
The documentary’s title references President Donald Trump’s remark when he announced that he wanted to terminate US involvement in the Paris Agreement, stating that “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.” The film touched on personal stories and interviews ranging from areas that suffered wildfires in California, a dairy farm in Iowa, the beach in Southern Florida and more. By focusing on all of these communities that had faced incredible trials revolving around climate change, the film was able to emphasize the idea that climate change is very real and very relevant. The film also spoke about the lack of national leadership revolving around environmental issues and how this tough reality shouldn’t discourage us from initiating change at the personal and local levels.
The event was attended by a mix of students, Oxford community members and Miami University faculty. There was also a large diversity of ages, religions and majors in attendance. This served as a powerful statement and reminder that environmental awareness and activism isn’t limited to a certain type of person or stereotype.
After watching the documentary, a panel of four people were brought to the front to discuss their experiences and opinions on a variety of different climate topics. Among the panelists were Dr. John-Charles Duffy, a Comparative Religion professor, Dr. Jonathan Levy, the director of Miami’s Institute for the Environment and Sustainability and Geology and Environmental Earth-Science professor, Carla Blackmar, a Hefner Museum of Natural History designer and local environmental activist, and Dr. Ryan Gunderson, a Sociology and Social Justice professor. Each panelist had a different background, which was part of what made the event so unique. As said by Geneva Blackmer, the program director at the The Interfaith Center, the motivation behind bringing in such a diverse panel was that “this issue [climate change] is complex and intersectional,” and “while it is important to talk about the science, we believe it is also necessary to discuss the moral implications of climate change.” Each panelist was able to bring to life a new perspective in the multifaceted, intricate discussion on climate change.
As the event neared its end, each panelist was given the opportunity to share one final takeaway for the attendees. These takeaways are included below, some with context of the ideas that each panelist focused on.
“Just developing renewables is not going to displace fossil fuels by itself,” said Dr. Ryan Gunderson whilst emphasizing the need for policy surrounding the use of fossil fuels alongside the advancement of clean energy.
“What we should focus on is not how do we make things better, how do we make things less bad. We’re in a lot of trouble,” said Dr. John-Charles Duffy, touching on the severity and intensity of the climate change issue we have before us.
“There is no point at which we should stop trying to improve things,” said Dr. Jonathan Levy. He was speaking on the popularized media idea that we need to fix things “before 2050” or a certain cutoff or else there will be no turning back. Instead, Dr. Levy pushed that while we should act as quickly as possible, we should focus on improvement and progress, not a time limit.
“Talk about climate change. You can do this in whatever you already do,” said Carla Blackmar as she tried to emphasize that climate change threatens and influences everything, and we can incorporate environmental justice into everything we already do.
The Interfaith Center is an incredibly welcoming place just Uptown that holds programs throughout the year. The Center was involved with running this awesome program with the help of Green Oxford, Oxford Citizens for Peace and Justice, Interfaith Power & Light and the META Collective.
Cover photo courtesy of Denali Selent