The university is not an official sponsor of the secular webinar, but the school’s Christian roots are still a good match, Sohn said during an interview by Meades Quarry at Ijams Nature Center.
“We know that the climate crisis is already affecting the poorest and most dispossessed. Therefore as Christians we have an obligation to try and do something about it,” said Sohn, a Catholic.
The event is modeled on a template provided by Bard College, which helps organize annual such “Climate Teach-ins” for educators around the world. The local installment will feature five speakers who will address the importance of environmental justice, and the roles of community, art and business in tackling climate change, global warming and other environmental concerns.
They are listed here in order of their appearance during the webinar:
— Tierney Bradley, Cherokee youth activist.
— Laura Sohn, former director of sustainability for Bonnaroo.
— Cy Keener, climate artist.
— Response panel featuring Beth Vanlandingham, historian, and student activists.
— Steve Smith, executive director of Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.
The university’s Bonner scholars will also have a role in the event. These are students especially interested in living their faith, Sohn said.
“For some of them, this idea that we have irreparably damaged God’s creation is something that weighs on them and motivates them to try and do something.”
The teach-in will provide opportunities for networking and highlight successful sustainability strategies, said Sohn, whose environmental ethic was born in his East Kentucky hometown. The economic, social and environmental consequences of coal extraction are still evident there today.
Sohn wants to make the teach-in an annual event. “I hope people come away with (the belief) we can have an ethos of care and ecological thinking and bring it to our lives right now.
“The task ahead of us is so difficult,” in terms of stemming ecological meltdown, he said. “We make difficult changes now… or the difficulty will be thrust upon us.”