Climate | Change
Fall 2023 to Spring 2024
Robert Morrissey, History
Roderick Wilson, History and East Asian Languages & Cultures
Jamie L. Jones, English
Climate | Change is a multi-year initiative that examines creative interventions in, interpretations of, and solutions to the climate crisis in which all of academic work is currently embedded. It also pushes us to re-think how the “climate” of our institution currently facilitates and limits those interventions and solutions. The initiative envisions new possibilities and fosters new relationships, bringing scholars, researchers, artists, and knowledge-makers together at the Center for Advanced Study for interdisciplinary conversations and action.
At the Climate | Change initiative, we are committed to environmental justice. In our conversations about climate change, we will work to name and address the disproportionate unjust experience of environmental harm born by certain communities. We are, in particular, committed to addressing the legacies of settler colonialism and systemic racism. As researchers in land-grant institution, we are interested in particular in acknowledging Indigenous people and centering Indigenous thought in our conversations.
Thoughtful, critical listening is another one of our core values. Our conversations within the Climate | Change initiative will be responsive to the needs of our campus research community; that is why we are launching the initiative with a lightning talk event, featuring climate researchers from across campus—and across disciplinary divisions—who do not always have the opportunity to share research in the same rooms.
2023-2024 | INFRASTRUCTURE
“Infrastructure” will be the organizing theme of this year’s Climate | Change initiative. The initiative is organized around infrastructure, because so many of us here on campus work on infrastructures large and small, material and ideological. Also, it will be our task this year to begin imagining an infrastructure for ongoing cross-disciplinary research on climate change. According to Brian Larkin, “Infrastructures are built networks that facilitate the flow of goods, people, or ideas and allow for their exchange over space.” The Climate | Change initiative intends to discuss infrastructures that might impeded and remediate the violence of climate change. Fossil fuel infrastructures are, without doubt, implicated in global warming and its attendant crises. But as Winona LaDuke and Deborah Cowen have written: “infrastructure is not inherently colonial—it is also essential for transformation; a pipe can carry fresh water as well as toxic sludge.” The CAS Climate | Change initiative plans to follow their suggestion “that effective initiatives for justice, decolonization, and planetary survival must center infrastructure in their efforts, and we highlight alimentary infrastructure— infrastructure that is life-giving in its design, finance, and effects.”
For the 2023-24 academic year, the Climate | Change initiative will consist of: a launch event intended to begin constituting a community of researchers from across divisions and disciplines who commit to engaging in conversation with each other; a series of speaker events; and a graduate seminar (CAS 587) intended to help graduate students think about how to make their own research on climate change sensitive to the work of researchers in other disciplines. The organizers welcome contact from researchers within the UIUC community, and we look forward to being in conversation.
Note about the artwork
The paired images by an artist colleague here at the University of Illinois, Bloom and Remediator, speak to some of the concerns and commitments of the CAS Climate | Change Initiative: the violence of climate change, the interconnectedness of human and nonhuman systems, and resilience and the practical hope needed in the face of crisis. Jellyfish “blooms” are one of the consequences of warming oceans: the increase in jellyfish populations is a concrete sign of the way climate change is changing the ocean. And at the same time, the resilience of jellyfish to warming waters illustrates a form of climate resilience. Mushrooms—Lingscheidt’s Remediators—are living organisms used to remediate polluted soil by breaking down plastics, heavy metals, and chemical contamination. Mushrooms, too, signal climate violence and at the same time, model climate resilience. The mushroom’s hemispheric caps echo the jellyfish’s form, suggesting the interconnection of species across land and sea.