Events of Symposium Week

*Photo is a mushroom from the olympic Peninsula

This week was the ENVS symposium. This year, the these was “Engaging Across Difference”. The week kicked off with Keynote address from Sunnita Narain, an acclaimed and very well spoken climate activist from Deli, India. Her talk covered the vitality of prioritizing equality in discussions about climate change. She referenced a variety of different examples from DEli of successes or problems to be solved. One of the most interesting she mentioned addressed a problem of waste. A wealthy neighborhood had been dumping their trash in a poorer village, until that village decided they wouldn’t take any more garbage. The wealthy community couldn;t find anywhere else to take their trash so they had to stop using single use things completely. They eventually phased out waste. 

Another interesting point that she made was in context of the transportation systems in Deli. Most of the cars in Deli burn diesel which is very polluting. Only 20% of people drive cars, but that makes up a large percentage of the pollution. Sunita discussed what would have to be done to encourage the wealthy to stop driving their cars. She argues that Deli would have to build a transportation system both accessible to the very poor, and convenient and attractive enough for the rich. This proposal sounds very difficult to design and implement, but also able to improve life in Deli significantly. 

A thread that stretches throughout Sunita’s ideas is an emphasis on finding creative solutions and opportunities in response to dire social and environmental conditions. This kind of ingenuity and proactive thought is what many of the artists that I have been interested in considering for my thesis hope to inspire in their viewers. I think there is a lot of value in imaginative/idealistic thinking, especially in the way Sunita goes about it. They way of thinking she proposes often leaves one without any concrete fixes, but it does inspire a thought process that does not leave room for cycles of paralyzing fear or old, overused, improvement processes that get minimal results. Her ideals and attitude sparked my enthusiasm as I continue to research how artists are playing with new creative solutions. 


  1. Sophie, I love reading your reflections on Sunita’s keynote. You give good examples of her environmentalism of the poor in the first two paragraphs, and rightly note that her inspiration leaves one wondering how actually to go about doing what needs to be creatively re-done.

  2. Sunita was really amazing and one thing that she brought up outside of her keynote when she came to my classroom, was the need for more radical change. A revolution as she phrased. But, I too enjoyed her creative solutions towards trying to develop in more inclusive manners. It was shocking as you say in your last paragraph, but she was inspiring in this sense. She really had a way of making people motivated towards this common goal.

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