Remembrance of Climate Futures

Open Air Celebration: SUNDAY OCTOBER 31, 1 TO 2

Join the Arlington Commission for Arts & Culture for an open-air celebration of the achievements of 12 Arlington High School interns this SUNDAY, OCT 31 FROM 1 TO 2 PM (rescheduled for rain).  They spent the summer working with public artist and graphic designer Tom Starr on Remembrance of Climate Futures/Arlington on a series of markers – inspired by historic trail markers – calling attention to climate change. More info about the event.
DATE: We’ve changed to our rain date of Sunday, October 31, 1 – 2pm.
LOCATION: outside the Edith M. Fox Library (175 Massachusetts Avenue, East Arlington)

New Perspective on Climate Change: Remembrance of Climate Futures/Arlington

This youth-led public art and environmental education project builds on Northeastern professor Tom Starr’s ongoing project calling attention to the impacts of climate change on human neighborhoods and natural areas in New England. For his regional public art project, Starr typically works with local governments, stakeholders, and nonprofits to develop the content for simple circular markers for public spaces. For our Arlington version, we are working with Starr to reimagine his project as intergenerational, youth led, and inspired by the work of Arlington’s engaged volunteers – including town commissions, activist groups and nonprofits focused on environmental and social justice issues.
Starr’s markers use the visual language of interpretive signs – commonly made for parks, trails and historic sites – designed to bring history into the present day. On this date and this spot: a wagon train left to head west; a fire destroyed a mill; a protest won better conditions. But the markers of Remembrance of Climate Futures commemorate things that have not yet happened. They are deliberately designed to look ordinary and to infiltrate local streets with possible future scenarios and decisive moments in the climate crisis which will unfold in the next 50 years. A high flood mark, a new bird migrating through, a mitigation engineering feat, a lost species. They are speculative; they invite us to imagine what our future may look like when it is seen from the vantage point of the 22nd century, by generations looking back at this pivotal time.
Our process
Students recruited from Arlington High School have explored how civic and activist groups envision the impacts of climate change, and what ideas they have for increasing resiliency. Based on attending meetings, zoom conversations, and hearing from guest speakers combined with research, the students have developed 18 markers which will be wheatpasted to the exterior walls of the Fox Library in October as a temporary project. In the spring, our hope is to complete a longer term version of the project in the form of aluminum markers sited around town at locations related to the events “commemorated” in the markers.
Project blogs and website
The interns are finalizing climatefuturesarlington.org. This project website includes their weekly blogs – some of which are below – the text of all their markers, and written descriptions for each marker with more information and links
Resiliency
Student interns learned about the impacts of climate change – flooding, extreme storms and heat, species extinctions – but they also researched strategies to combat climate change. In addition to addressing the crisis by reducing carbon footprint, they learned about resiliency strategies such as white roofs, cooling centers, wetlands preservation, tree planting, and green infrastructure. Implementation of some of these resiliency strategies appear in the markers as future actions.
Project Organizers and Funders
Climate Futures/Arlington is organized by ACAC in collaboration with Arlington Public Schools Sustainability Initiatives and Arlington Planning and Community Development. Cecily Miller, ACAC’s Public Art Curator, and Rachel Oliveri, Arlington Public Schools Sustainability Coordinator, served as project coordinators and mentors. Climate Futures/Arlington is generously funded by a grant from MAPC (Metropolitan Area Planning Council) and contributions from Arlington DPW, Sustainable Arlington, and individual supporters.

Many thanks to our partners

In addition to our primary partners – the Arlington Department of Planning and Community Development and the Arlington Public Schools Sustainability Initiatives – we are grateful to the many community groups, town commissions and town personnel who generously participated in making this project a success, and to the Fox Library for hosting our wheatpaste installation! In particular we would like to thank the project partners who took the time to meet with our interns:

Arlington Department of Planning & Community Development
Arlington Tree Committee
Arlington Open Space Committee
Arlington Conservation Committee
Everywhere Arlington Livable Streets (formerly East Arlington Livable Streets)
Emergency Arlington
Extinction Rebellion
Food Link
Friends of Spy Pond Park
Green Cambridge (incorporates Friends of Alewife Brook)
Mothers Out Front/Arlington Chapter
Mystic Charles Pollinator Pathways
Mystic River Watershed Association
Sustainable Arlington
Unitarian Universalist Climate Working Group
Zero Waste Arlington


Student Blogs

Student Conversations on Climate Change: Promoting Resilience
by Lily Fox-Jurkowitz and Daisy Takang.
Conversations on Climate Change
MAPC (Metropolitan Area Planning Council) Senior Environmental Planner, Van Du, came to speak with the Climate Futures Intern group about all things climate change. She explained the importance of climate resilience and the closely related ideas of mitigating and adapting to climate change. As a community, we can improve our climate resilience, or our ability to manage climate issues, by collaboratively taking adaptation and mitigation actions. Some meaningful climate-related actions that Van highlighted were implementing floating wetlands in bodies of water (Arlington already has some but the more the better!), working to make our landscaping more sustainable, and educating communities on climate change. Floating wetlands are a natural solution to filtering polluted water, which is an example of biomimicry. It is truly incredible that we can use the power of nature to help protect it. In terms of making our landscapes more sustainable, we can plant native species, manage stormwater runoff, and do so much more! The possibilities are endless. Climate change education is also essential. It allows all community members to be a part of the solution, and this is a key focus of our work in this project. When discussing climate change education as a group, we came to the conclusion that educating Arlington residents on climate change concepts could be one of the most powerful ways to take action. While many people in Arlington are well-versed on handling a Nor’easter, dealing with tornadoes may be much more frightening. Educating individuals on how to manage these new natural disasters caused by climate change will allow our entire community to feel safe and protected.
Van further explained that while climate resilience will be at the forefront of our work when creating Climate Futures markers, we must consider the idea of Environmental Justice. Environmental Justice conceptualizes the inequities that different individuals and communities face from the impacts of climate change. Instead of simply moving forward with our first ideas, Van noted that a process of considering equity concerns is essential to protecting those who most need support. We will continue to reflect and analyze each of our ideas in the program as it pertains to who is benefited by certain actions. As we continue to meet new guest speakers and interview local climate groups, we will keep in mind the concept of Environmental Justice, and we will elevate voices from communities vulnerable to climate change. Van Du gave us amazing insight into how we can create a resilient community in an equitable, intersectional way.
Remembrance of Climate Futures/Arlington is organized by the Arlington Commission for Arts and Culture, the Arlington Public Schools Green Teams, and the Arlington Department of Planning and Community Development with grant support from the Metropolitan Area Planning Council.

Student Conversations on Climate Change: Communicating Effectively
by Juliette Bennett and Margo Awad
Meeting with writer and poet Charles Coe
The guest speaker that met with us this past Tuesday was Charles Coe, an accomplished teacher and author of several books of poetry, who came to provide us with tips on how to communicate effectively and to write more efficiently. After some introductions around the group, he brought up the topic of climate change by starting off with two prompts for us to answer. Mr. Coe asked us to write for 3 minutes with the prompt, “What is one aspect of climate change that particularly concerns you?” He got a different answer from each of us:  rising sea levels and flooding; poor air quality that makes it tough to “find a breath of fresh air”; more violent and dangerous storms; people not being able to accept that climate change is happening and it WILL affect them; and the urgent sense that “time is running out.”
The second prompt Mr. Coe gave us was, “What’s going on right now in the field of environmental activism right now, that makes you the most hopeful?” After giving us time to write he opened it up to a discussion. Many people brought up how schools are willing to teach kids the basic ideas to reduce their own carbon footprint, like walking to school instead of using a car or composting when you’re done at lunch. Some people said that it’s inspiring that so many younger people were involved in any form of environmental activism, and how there are so many leaders in this field to look up to. With the example of someone selling a car, Mr. Coe said that trying to get someone to buy something with details they have no interest in will never work. Another relevant example was with a politician– trying to get them to be interested in a policy will be difficult if you attempt to tug on heartstrings– that’s typically not how they work. To know your audience is to know how to make them understand whatever you wish to broadcast.
Mr. Coe did bring up the ideas of environmental activism across the world after some of us shared our own stories of our own families. Some examples of countries across the world included the struggle in India with carbon emissions, the dangers of living on the coast in Japan, and the toxic chemicals in the air in Lebanon. He then went on to work with us to review a previously written blog post– for us to understand the tone of the piece, and what messages it conveys to the audience. Through that, he told us that to communicate effectively, we have to know our audience.
Mr. Coe then concluded his presentation in a rather unexpected manner, though relevant and a unique finishing touch for our discussion– with a particularly apt poem about change, and the reluctance we have to accept it. The message of the poem was very fitting for the topics we all discussed in the meeting, and it reminded us that we need to step out of our comfort zone to experience a change.
Here, the final poem in his book, Memento Mori, titled “Every New Thing”
Every new thing is an act of treason,
a betrayal of the comfortable, the familiar.
An animal that has known only the cage
will cringe in a corner if the door opens suddenly
squealing on ancient, rusted hinges.
If I have but one wish for you, for me,
for us all, it’s to remember that our own cages
are locked only by the fear of change
that we have the power to shove the doors open
and take one step, then another,
into a new world.

Student Conversations on Climate Change: Meet and Greet
by Clara Schneider, Rachel Barglow, Tamaki Sugihara
Meet and Greet
On July 19, 2021, we met with 15 diverse Arlington organizations in a meet and greet via Zoom. This meet and greet allowed us to interact and learn from members of these organizations about their various goals and achievements. Organizations in attendance included groups focused on eliminating waste, groups with a focus on organized activism, organizations with an emphasis on environmental equity, groups that protect open spaces, and many more.
Food Links and Zero Waste Arlington both share a theme of waste reduction. Food Links is a nonprofit organization that tackles the environmental consequences of wasting food; food waste generates seven percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Food Links redistributes food to low-income individuals and vulnerable populations. On the other hand, Zero Waste Arlington, colloquially known as the ZWA, is a volunteer committee appointed to advise the town by advocating for Massachusetts’ goal of municipal solid waste reduction; recycling is their major focus, but they have other campaigns to reduce plastic, promote repair and reuse, and raise awareness.
Several groups talked about their campaigns to raise awareness on the urgency of the climate crisis. The world-wide organization Extinction Rebellion practices non-violent civil disobedience and uses art and theater during protests organized by local chapters, including one based in Boston. In Arlington, a combination of volunteers from Extinction Rebellion and other activists joined together to convince the Town Meeting Members and Select Board to declare a Climate Emergency in Arlington. The Arlington chapter of Mothers Out Front organizes protests, but also focuses on passing legislation at a local level. Sustainable Arlington focuses on local policies and regulations as well, but uses public events to bring attention to climate issues. They recently campaigned for rules banning new gas hookups in larger developments.
Thoughts from the Arlington Human Rights Commission and the Arlington Tree Committee presented the relationship between equity and climate change. Representatives from both groups expressed concerns about the connection between tree canopy density and hot zones in Arlington. Trees reduce urban heat island effect and keep areas cooler by providing shade. Hot zones often appear in lower-income communities where fewer trees are planted, illustrating the exacerbated effects climate change often has on marginalized groups.
Coming from a different perspective, a number of groups have focused on the preservation of local open spaces and nature sanctuaries. Attendees with this focus included the Friends of Spy Pond, Mystic Charles Pollinator Pathways, Mystic River Watershed Association, and the Arlington Open Space Committee. The groups listed work on tasks such as improving water quality, protecting wildlife, and restoring parks. Many other groups from the surrounding area interested in collaborating with us and concerned about the climate crisis also attended, such as East Arlington Livable Streets, Green Cambridge, and the Unitarian Universalist Church Climate Working Group.
Even in such a short meeting with a tightly packed agenda, we had the opportunity for interesting discussions in breakout rooms and in the chat. Several attendees gave us ideas for trail markers for our project, and others provided insight on effective ways to design them. We cannot even begin to imagine the amazing content we would think up together if we had more time!
While many organizations had overlapping memberships and a history of collaboration, some had never even heard of each other. This meet and greet event helped strengthen existing ties and assisted in the formation of new ones. We were impressed to hear about so many different organizations, and the gathering reiterated that there is a place in the environmental movement for everyone. Arlington has groups that do everything from sit-ins to street cleaning, all working together to make Arlington, and our future, as sustainable as possible.
Remembrance of Climate Futures/Arlington is organized by the Arlington Commission for Arts and Culture, the Arlington Public Schools Green Teams, and the Arlington Department of Planning and Community Development with grant support from the Metropolitan Area Planning Council.