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How the Climate Imaginations Network is Dreaming Up a Better World

Joshua Nodiff
|December 1, 2022

The international community has finished convening at COP27, but the climate crisis continues to loom. What would our world look like if we got it right?

A few weeks ago, I joined a group of students, alumni, and friends of Columbia University seeking to answer this burning question. It can be daunting to imagine a future without scorching wildfires and rampant hurricanes. But dreaming of a better future gives us a blueprint to build the world we want to live in.

That’s the vision of the Climate Imaginations Network — a collective of researchers, artists, and storytellers supporting interdisciplinary collaboration at the Columbia Climate School.

“To meet the challenges of the climate crisis, we have to envision how we’ll move and relate in a radically different way,” said Hailey Basiouny, a student in the Climate School’s MA in Climate and Society program and a facilitator for the network. “This is where the arts and storytelling are not only useful, but absolutely essential. Human beings are moved by stories.”

shapes made of colored clay

In one meeting, the Climate Imaginations Network invited attendees to were invited to use clay to express their emotions for places that are disappearing with the changing climate. Photo: Joshua Nodiff

The Climate Imaginations Network meets twice a month to address the most existential threat in history using a creative arsenal. In one session, collaborators were invited to use clay to express emotions of anxiety, grief, and nostalgia for places that are disappearing with the changing climate. In another session, collaborators wrote a series of poetic manifestos describing a more equitable future. The network also provides funding and logistical support for productions, exhibitions, and events on campus.

Columbia is not the only institution to believe that storytelling is indispensable to climate action. The Climate Imaginations Network recently hosted the Natural Resources Defense Council to speak about “Rewrite the Future,” a campaign that puts pressure on Hollywood to develop powerful climate narratives. Throughout history, films have transformed society — and they can shape attitudes about the climate crisis as well.

Imagination is limitless, and a better future is possible if we dare to dream. The group meets biweekly on Thursdays. All are welcome.

Joshua Nodiff is a climate justice writer and graduate student in the Climate and Society program at the Columbia Climate School.

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