Chautauqua Climate Change Initiative Winter 2022 Update
Welcome to the second quarterly update of the Chautauqua Climate Change Initiative. There have been some exciting developments since the Fall 2021 update, including new climate and environment-themed programming and progress in our lake conservation and restoration efforts.
We now have a dedicated landing page on Chautauqua’s website, climate.chq.org, where you can get updates on current programs and events as well as links to past programs on CHQ Assembly.
Thanks to the Institution’s generous donors, we will have an excellent resource available to on-grounds visitors during the summer, free copies of a special Chautauqua edition of The World’s Littlest Book on Climate: 10 Facts in 10 Minutes About CO2. This book provides a baseline understanding of Earth’s climate and how we are affecting it. Even knowledgeable readers will learn something new about the human emissions reshaping our planet. The book was well received by renowned climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe (“Climate change sounds complicated — but what you need to know about it isn’t. Clearly and succinctly, this book explains how climate change is real and human-caused; and while its impacts are serious, our choices matter today more than ever”) and by author and educator Bill McKibben, a 2019 Chautauqua lecturer (“Here’s an owner’s manual for the one planet we’ve got—or, at least the section that explains its current malfunction, and what to do about it.”)
We are happy to report the successful launch of our new Chautauquans for Sustainability group on Facebook, now with 108 members! For those who are not on Facebook, know that we will continue to send quarterly updates by email, so you won’t miss any important news.
Finally, a reminder that we have some wonderful opportunities to engage with the Institution’s climate programming. Join us in September for the first ever Chautauqua “Green Fondo” bike weekend, two days of bike rides suitable for all ages, supporting organizations working to protect Chautauqua Lake. Join us in November for the Chautauqua Travels program, Responding to a Changing Climate: Resilience and Adaptation in New Orleans, where we will take in the scenic and historic beauty of the region while learning about their strategies to confront climate change.
I’m grateful for your continued enthusiasm and support for the Chautauqua Climate Change Initiative!
1. Chautauqua Lecture Series
As noted in our Fall 2021 update, Chautauqua has some exciting lecturers lined up for the 2022 season who will explore climate and environmental themes, including Sally Jewell, Terry Tempest Williams and Robin Wall Kimmerer. We’ve recently added others, including:
- Week Two. “The Wild: Reconnecting with Our Natural World.” Bob Inglis, former U.S. Representative (R-SC) and Executive Director of RepublicEn.org which calls itself “the home of the eco-right,” a place for conservatives who care about climate change. Bob will be speaking to how his faith led him from climate skeptic to climate champion.
- Week Six. “After Dark: The World of Nighttime.” Jim Richardson, a renowned photographer who has produced more than 50 stories for National Geographic and National Geographic Traveler magazines. His work on environmental issues has covered topics ranging from feeding the planet to protecting our night skies from light pollution.
- Week Seven. “More Than Shelter: Redefining the American Home.” Rahwa Ghirmatzion, Executive Director, PUSH Buffalo, an organization that works to create strong neighborhoods with quality, affordable housing, expand local hiring opportunities, and advance economic and environmental justice in Buffalo.
2. Chautauqua Heritage Lecture: “Climate Change and Landscape Design: What Would Olmsted Do?” July 5, 2022.
The year 2022 marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. Beginning in 1857 with the design for Central Park in New York City, Olmsted, his sons and successor firm created designs for more than 6,000 landscapes across North America, including many of the world’s most important parks. Close to home, we benefit from an extensive Olmsted park network in Buffalo. Within the Chautauqua Institution Archives you can discover Olmsted’s plan for Chautauqua Institution that was never implemented and his plan for Point Chautauqua that was.
Part of Chautauqua Institution’s Heritage Lecture Series, and in coordination with Olmsted 200, this program will focus on the relevance of Olmsted ideals to the modern need for landscapes that contribute to climate sustainability goals. Scheduled for the Institution’s “Buffalo Day” organized by Dennis Galucki, this program will feature local experts from the Buffalo region, including: Adam Rome, Professor of Environment and Sustainability, University at Buffalo; Robert Shibley, Dean and Distinguished Professor, School of Architecture and Planning, University at Buffalo; and Stephanie Crockatt, Executive Director of Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy.
3. CHQ Assembly: “Climate Stories: From Empathy to Action,” April 2022
This series of three virtual forums will explore how empathy-based tools like storytelling can help unite people across difference and inspire action on climate change. It builds on Chautauqua’s 2021 weeklong exploration on Building a Culture of Empathy. The series will be introduced by Elif M. Gokcigdem, Ph.D., founder of One—Organization of Networks for Empathy who led a 2021 Empathy class at Chautauqua.
Each forum will bring together an expert studying empathy-based approaches to climate communication with an individual using storytelling in their community to advance climate justice. A conversation between the speakers will be moderated by Sony Ton-Aime, Michael I. Rudell Director of Literary Arts. Director of Chautauqua Literary Arts Program, and Mark Wenzler, Director of Chautauqua Climate Change Initiative. During online broadcast of the forums, set for the weeks around Earth Day, Chautauqua will solicit audience members to record and submit their own brief climate empathy story that we will include in a follow-on video.
- Forum 1: Climate storytelling through literary arts-based education. Featuring Derek Gladwin, Professor in Language & Literacy Education and sustainability fellow at University of British Columbia, author of the 2021 book, Rewiring Our Stories: Education, Empowerment and Well-Being and the 2021 blog, Why climate change education needs more empathy; and Cristina Bendek, a journalist, novelist and poet from San Andrés, Columbia and author of Los Cristales de la Sal.
- Forum 2: Climate storytelling through visual and performing arts. Featuring Luisa Cortesi, Assistant Professor of Water, Disasters, and Environmental Justice at the International Institute of Social Studies, The Netherlands, member of Water Justice and Adaptation Lab, and creator of museum exhibit, The Flood Room: Empathy, Environmental Justice and Climate Change Preparation; and Jason Davis, musician and environmental educator based in Boston, Massachusetts, and founder and director of the Climate Stories Project.
- Forum 3: Climate storytelling through personal narrative. Featuring Abel Gustafson, Assistant Professor, University of Cincinnati, Department of Communication, lead author of the 2020 research paper “Personal Stories Can Shift Climate Change Beliefs and Risk Perceptions: The Mediating Role of Emotion“; and co-author of the 2020 research study, “Leveraging Social Science to Generate Lasting Engagement with Climate Change Solutions“; and Chautauquan Thaddeus Popovich, co-founder of Allegheny County Clean Air Now and creator of publication Living Downwind: Personal Stories of Those Harmed by Air Pollution from Neville Island.
4. Sustainable Landscapes: BTG Brown Bag and panel discussion, Aug. 23, 2022
This program, in collaboration with Chautauqua’s Bird, Tree & Garden Club (BTG), will feature Paul Tukey, a nationally renowned expert on organic landscaping, former journalist, author and host of HGTV’s show “People, Places & Plants.” Paul currently serves as chief sustainability officer at Glenstone, the largest and most acclaimed private art museum in the United States.
Sustainability is a core value for Glenstone, and they’ve prioritized reforestation, stream restoration, green roofs, permeable surfaces, invasive species eradication, and sustainable business operations (see their pages on Nature and the Environmental Center). Like Chautauqua, Glenstone manages an integrated natural and cultural landscape and has an education mission, so there is much to learn from their example.
Following Paul’s talk there will be a panel discussion including Jennifer Francois, vice president of BTG, and Betsy Burgeson, Chautauqua Institution’s supervisor of gardens and landscapes.
1. Chautauqua Lake Project Manager
It is our pleasure to introduce you to Chautauqua’s Lake Project Manager, Toby Shepherd! In this new role, created with the support of Chautauqua’s board and the generosity of our donors, Toby will help the Institution implement a comprehensive, science-based approach to improving the health and sustainability of Chautauqua Lake and elevate its conservation as the centerpiece of the region’s economic prosperity, a key objective of our 150 Forward Strategic Plan.
Toby’s work will be closely coordinated with the Chautauqua Climate Change Initiative given the highly integrated nature of climate and environmental issues facing the lake. Toby will play a strong role in our youth education work and will work closely with VP of Campus Planning and Operations John Shedd who had taken the lead on advancing the Institution’s strategic objectives with respect to lake management (thank you John!), a role that Toby will begin to assume.
Toby’s duties will include nurturing watershed-wide alliances that result in a coordinated approach among local stakeholders to tackling the issues facing the lake; harnessing science-based solutions to ensure a lake ecosystem that benefits people and sustains wildlife for generations to come; and creating a comprehensive public affairs/government relations program to encourage local, state, and national partners—both public and private—to act on the issues impacting the lake.
A native of Chautauqua County, Toby has a wealth of professional experience that will set him up for success. Following graduation from the University of Richmond, Toby entered the US Army where he served in Afghanistan as a Captain, Military Intelligence. Toby’s love of the outdoors, working with youth, and interest in environmental issues then led him to Outward Bound Canada where he served as a lead instructor and then later as a program director. Toby completed a Master of Public Administration in Environmental Science and Policy at Columbia University and put his degree to work as a Presidential Management Fellow at the US Bureau of Land Management in Washington, DC, helping to develop a strategic plan for BLM’s National Landscape Conservation System. For the past six years Toby has worked at Bell Canada leading outreach, negotiation, and partnerships with municipalities in the Toronto region, experience that will no doubt help him in working with the many municipalities and government agencies connected to Chautauqua Lake management.
2. Harmful Algal Blooms — Help is on the way!
Throughout the fall, Chautauqua Institution President Michael Hill, along with our partners at the Jefferson Project, engaged with the staff of New York’s governor, Buffalo native Kathy Hochul, on issues concerning Chautauqua Lake health, including reducing harmful algal blooms (HABs). That work paid off when the Governor announced the following new program to combat HABs in the State of the State book, released in January following her State of the State address:
Combat Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) and Support Localities: Wastewater runoff contains large amounts of nitrogen, which is a major contributor to the formation of HABs. To address this issue, the Governor will dedicate grants for septic system replacements, since replacing inadequate septic systems can greatly reduce the amount of wastewater-related nutrients that end up in a stream or lake. Rather than just treating HABs once they have formed, these grants will enable a proactive approach to mitigating these environmental hazards before they start.
The Governor is proposing to put substantial resources behind this HABs strategy and other water conservation initiatives. Her Executive Budget Briefing Book, also released in January, commits major financial support to water protection, specifically a proposed $400 million in New York State’s Environmental Protection Fund (EPF), a source of funding for capital projects that protect the environment and enhance communities, and an additional proposed $500 million in clean water infrastructure funding. As The New York Times reported on Jan. 18, “New York Is Awash in Money,” with state officials projecting balanced budgets through 2027, which is a hopeful sign that these critical water infrastructure funds will be fully appropriated.
3. Lake Science Partnership — SUNY Fredonia
Chautauqua Institution is deepening our engagement with the State University of New York at Fredonia in connection with our lake science and education programming. Some areas they will assist include:
- Advise on scientific aspects of lake ecology and management implications;
- Engage with other academic entities, including the Jefferson Project, on research at Chautauqua Lake, facilitating data collection and data sharing as appropriate; and
- Help build out a vision for maximizing existing Institution assets to advance lake science education, and how we can enhance our lake science resources in the future.
We are excited to grow our partnership with SUNY Fredonia!
Chautauqua VP of Campus Planning and Operations John Shedd and his team are busy working on multiple sustainable operations initiatives, including additional EV charging stations (dependent on approval of pending funding requests); building efficiency upgrades (including LED lighting, building controls that reduce energy use, and insulation projects to reduce heat loss); supporting efforts by property owners to make sustainability upgrades, including working to clarify the approval process for solar panels on residential projects; solar energy opportunities, including community solar; and a comprehensive carbon and energy management plan. Each of these initiatives is in progress, and details will be forthcoming in future updates.
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