Interdisciplinary Scope

Dr. Olaf Kuhlke explains the Our People, Our Climate art initiative during meetings at the Niizhwaaso Collaborative Research Centre at Qaumajuq and the Winnipeg Art Gallery in April 2022.

This project is a true STEAM project in that it engages the traditional STEM disciplines with the arts, in this case, the arts of photography and digital skills development to support cultural entrepreneurship for the arts and cultural sectors.

Part One of the course engages students with key elements and evidence of climate science, from discussion about rises in global average temperatures to CO2 levels to regionally specific evidence of climate change from the Arctic, the Canadian Great Lakes, Mexico, Honduras and Colombia.

Part Two of the program then highlights the principles of the visualization of climate change as propagated through the Climate Visuals framework (https://climatevisuals.org/) and other visualization principles developed by climate communication scholars, specifically the work of Canadian scholar Stephen Sheppard at the University of British Columbia. Specifically, students work on the seven key principles of visualizing climate change, and learn how to produce visual evidence:

  1. Show ‘real people; not staged photo-ops’;
  2. Tell new stories;
  3. Show climate causes at scale;
  4. Show climate impacts that are emotionally powerful;
  5. Show local (but serious) climate impacts;
  6. Be very careful with protest imagery;
  7. Understand and produce evidence for your specific audience.

https://climatevisuals.org/evidence/

Part Three of the course is an introduction to professional photography and video production, co-developed by Dr. Olaf Kuhlke and Dr. Alec Johnson at the University of St. Thomas. This third part of the course involves the production of a series of photographs, photo stories and videos that will be evaluated and critiqued by the instructors and students together, in synchronous online work, through Zoom.

Students will use cell phones and cameras to create visual evidence of climate change, focusing on the impacts on people and the environment, and also capture climate change activism and protest imagery, when accessible and appropriate.

Students will share their local experiences with climate change, how they learn about it, and how it has impacted the lives of their families, through generations.

The results of the project will be collected and shared in a virtual gallery using artsteps.com, and also distributed to the United Nations Framework Conference on Climate Change and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development as visual documentation of student work for their respective policy conversations in the last quarter of 2021.

Dr. Kuhlke has built extensive relationships with UNCTAD and participated in the 2019 Ad-Hoc Meeting on the Creative Economy in Geneva, Switzerland, and has since worked with UN Creative Economy Program Director Marisa Henderson on developing arts-based creative economy curriculum for UN future platforms.

Thus, this project not only engages students with the arts of photography and videography, but does so in a climate-science context that can potentially inform the policy work of two UN bodies.