Event seeks to bring attention to climate change

The Anthropocene emerged as a new geological time period believed to have been during or after the Holocene, the current era. The identifiable trait of the period relates to human interaction with the ecological state and future of the world. 

Today and Friday, USF will be hosting “A New Ecology of Education: Teaching in the Anthropocene,” an event focusing on community involvement and awareness in response to issues associated with human influence on the environment. 

Catherine Wilkins, Arts and Humanities instructor in the USF Honors College, began planning for the event during summer with aid from Megan Voeller, art historian and curator for the Extracted exhibition at the USF Contemporary Art Museum.

“It started as a personal crisis,” Wilkins said. “How can I, as an art historian, engage the relevance of art on climate change and the environment?” 

Both Wilkins and Voeller contacted additional USF faculty members who are actively working on various issues regarding the Anthropocene.

“We were coming from the perspective of being academics who were not at all trained or equipped to deal with these issues,” Wilkins said. “So we were thinking about other instructors of our generation who likewise were not taught to think outside the bounds of their disciplinary focus.”

Today, the USF School of Music will host an evening workshop series with an interactive performance to open the event. 

Visiting artist Claire Pentecost, will introduce the event with participatory and interactive performance: “A Benediction in Dirt.” 

Attendees are invited to participate by bringing an item that “represents a manifestation of the Anthropocene in daily life (e.g., a plastic water bottle, an animal bone, a newspaper article, etc.),” according to the event release. During the event, the objects will be collected and combined to create a piece of art. 

Students have been able to contribute original compositions and coats of arms for imagined species meant to represent new life in the Anthropocene, as well as poetry and prose in the segment “Dear Climate.” 

“We hope students can see themselves as creative contributors to new solutions,” Wilkins said. 

The workshop series Friday will be held in the School of Music and feature keynote speaker Juliet Pinto, an FIU film director who will speak about her latest work, “South Florida’s Rising Seas” and the changes Florida may face in the Anthropocene. 

A panel led by Pinto, visiting artists Pentecost and Brian Holmes, and USF scholars, will present their personal manifesto, briefly state their perspective regarding the Anthropocene and then facilitate an open discussion on the issue. 

Additionally, faculty members will have the opportunity to participate in a separate break out session for education in teaching the Anthropocene to develop creative solutions to implement in the classroom. 

“We want to empower not only participants but critical thinkers on the Anthropocene,” Wilkins said. 

Registration is requested in the afternoon for the public gaming session. Participants will question how storytelling will have to adapt in the Anthropocene. 

“We challenged what are some ways to bring life and energy to engaging to this topic in a playful way; we tried to think of creative solutions through game play,” Wilkins said. 

At the end of Friday’s event, a reception and tour of the “Extracted” exhibition at the USF Contemporary Art Museum will be led by the exhibit’s curator, Voeller. 

“Our goal is to try to create a greater engagement campus-wide, across the disciplines, with the topic of the Anthropocene,” Wilkins said. “I don’t want students of the future to experience the same narrow focus the faculty of my generation provided. I want us to work together to hopefully create a better world.”