Harrisonburg is our home base for the year. Shifting Climates is sponsored by The Center for Sustainable Climate Solutions, an organization based in Harrisonburg.
We started our journey in Nashville where we talked about theology and food justice. Our main stops were Vanderbilt Divinity School and The Nashville Food Project.
The next stop on our trip was Elkhorn, West Virginia. We talked to a handful of community members here about economics and lack of resources, community response to food insecurity, natural disaster, and the effects of extraction. While in Elkhorn, we stayed at the MCC SWAP house with Peg and Lee Martin.
We traveled to Elkhart to attend the Rooted and Grounded conference at the Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary. Topics at the conference ranged from indigenous history and teachings to climate science. We interviewed several of the speakers and learned more about moral and theological frameworks for climate response.
In Goshen we met and interviewed three international guests with the Center for Sustainable Climate Solutions. We talked to Sibo from Zimbabwe, Durga from Nepal, and Zacharias from El Salvador. All three had stories to share with us of the impacts of climate change in their own countries. We also spent some time at Merry Lea, Goshen College’s campus for environmental education, where we participated in an student ambassador training through CSCS.
In Bluffton, a town with Mennonite roots, we spoke with farmers, pastors, and other visionaries. In just two short days, we gathered eight interviews, tasted a variety of local treats, and participated in a community garden harvest night.
From Bluffton we drove to Camp Friedenswald where we interviewed several staff members about their new sustainability plan and toured the grounds. We renewed our spirits by swimming in the lake and playing dutch blitz for hours (as good Mennonites do).
We stopped in the Windy City on our train’s layover from Kalamazoo to Pittsburgh. In our six hours there, we were lucky enough to fit in an interview at Faith in Place. We talked about the unique environmental issues that people face in urban areas, and how these issues overlap with race, class, and gender. In our remaining hour we attempted to hit as many landmarks as possible before catching our overnight train.
Pittsburgh was our final stop, and it didn’t disappoint. We talked to a wide variety of people including the director of a waste cleanup organization, the director of an advocacy group called UrbanKind, a filmmaker whose work centers around environmental health, and a woman who works for a bike advocacy group. Time spent with friends and spontaneous interviews made this another chaotic but energizing stop.
To kick off our Season Two travels we drove down to Buckingham County, Virgina where we visited a yoga retreat center and interfaith community in the path of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP). We also visited Union Hill, a historically Black neighborhood that has been chosen to house one of three compressor stations along the pipeline. Compressor stations release toxic gases into the air and significantly increase the risk of gas explosions, depreciating the value of surrounding properties. We traveled to Buckingham to talk with homeowners about these issues, and along the way we met some unlikely activists fighting to protect the health of their community and their land.
New Haven, CT
Next we traveled to New Haven, Connecticut to visit the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. For the past decade, Yale University has been a leader in climate change psychology and communication. On our visit to the school we interviewed professors, graduate students, undergrads, a Fulbright scholar, and a postdoctoral associate. We talked to both baby boomers and fellow millennials, and our conversations touched on everything from hurricanes in the Caribbean to the downfalls of institutionalized education. All in all, it was an enlightening, (intimidating), and energizing week.
In early April we traveled to Albuquerque, New Mexico to learn more about the border crisis and investigate the connections between migration and environmental concerns. However, in the short week we spent in the city we learned about much more than immigration. We talked to a wide variety of people on topics of environmental justice and water access, issues that are exacerbated by New Mexico’s relative poverty. We quickly learned that Albuquerque is a vibrant and complex city–and that we still had a lot to learn.
From Albuquerque we drove to Flagstaff, Arizona, a college town with a tourist-y twist just outside of Navajo Nation–the largest Native American reservation in the United States. In our time spent in Flagstaff we learned about the many ways Navajo people are still being harmed and their rights violated by white Americans, both individually and societally. We talked about the healthcare system, government seizure of land, extraction, and exposure to toxic chemicals on the reservation. Leaving Flagstaff we felt that we had only just scratched the surface in understanding the centuries-long, ever-evolving realities of colonization.
From Flagstaff we traveled out to Leupp, a town in Navajo Nation. We toured a collective farm out in the desert and visited an elementary charter school that teaches sustainable farming and indigenous philosophy. We even had the opportunity to spent a night in a traditional hogan. Though our time in Leupp was short lived, it was enlightening and challenging.