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Ogmius Newsletter

Young Womxn’s Voices for Climate Contributes To Boulder’s Climate Action Plan

by Beth Osnes

Young Womxn’s Voices for Climate at a Climate Strike on the CU Boulder campus on September 20, 2019.

“If a dove is the symbol of peace, then a butterfly is the symbol of change,” declared sixteen-year-old Finny Guy through a megaphone at the Climate Strike on the CU Boulder campus on September 20. As shown in the photo, Ting Lester stood by embodying the beauty of the butterfly, making present her commitment to transformational change needed in our policies and choices to reverse global warming. Finny and Ting are a part of Young Womxn’s Voices for Climate (YWVC), a group of ten young womxn from Boulder middle and high schools along with several CU students, including Sarah Fahmy (PhD Theatre), Lianna Nixon (PhD Education), Jeneé LeBlanc (BS Environmental Studies), and Elise Collins (MBA Business). It is brought together by a partnership between Inside the Greenhouse, which resides within CSTPR and is focused on creative climate communication, and SPEAK, an initiative for young womxn’s vocal empowerment for civic engagement. Facilitators for YWVC include CU Associate Professor of Theatre & Environmental Studies, Beth Osnes, co-founder of Inside the Greenhouse and SPEAK, and Chelsea Hackett, recent PhD graduate of New York University and co-founder of SPEAK.

These young womxn use creative communication to advocate for policies that support Boulder’s efforts to mobilize our community for stabilizing our climate. They were invited to perform for a Boulder City Council meeting by Boulder’s senior environmental planners on July 9 to convey their perspective on why the council should approve the request to revise our city’s climate action plan. Set to the Lion King’s song, “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” they performed their own version of “Wind Turbines are Beautiful” costumed as wind turbines. YWVC is guided by the work of Project Drawdown that researched and ordered the impact of the top one hundred climate solutions. The young womxn of YWVC meet weekly at CU to plan and rehearse their actions. On September 26th they were invited by Boulder environmental planners to perform at the Boulder City sponsored Climate Mobilization Action Plan Launch event. With over two hundred people in attendance, they performed their run down of the top five Drawdown solutions. To dramatize Drawdown solution number five, Tropical Forests, they enacted a skit and a song, featuring an old-growth tree and two costumed rolls of recycled toilet paper, to convey how reduction in use of paper products can help preserve tropical forests. Their next project will be on November 20 at Climate Change Theatre Action, at which they will perform two short plays focused on gender and climate change. They will then lead attendees in a creative process of their own expression on various climate-related issues. Visit Inside the Greenhouse to get the full details on this event.

Actively involving adolescents while they are still relatively young is important regarding climate-related issues, since research reveals that pessimism about addressing climate change increases with age, particularly from early to late adolescence (Ojala 2012; Stevenson and Peterson 2016). Our approach addresses the need to develop appropriate methods for supporting youth in maintaining their feelings of hope for sustained action. Arts-based methods are uniquely well-suited to this need since they give a context for exploring emotions and are rooted in action. In the book Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Goodauthor Adrienne Maree Brown introduces something she calls “pleasure activism,” a politics of healing and happiness that explodes the dour myth that changing the world is just another form of work. Our approach with YWVC is certainly in line with this sentiment. By taking on this issue with humor, creativity and expression, these young womxn do not make light of the importance of the issue; they bring light to it.

*Womxn is a term used to intentionally include transgender women and women of color.

Beth OsnesBeth Osnes
Associate Professor of Theatre and Environmental Studies, University of Colorado Boulder