I-House to host climate change forum, ceremony, film

By Maya Ruíz
Global Voices Fellow

On Wednesday, Oct. 26, from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., and on Thursday, Oct. 27, from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., the University of Chicago’s International House will host two events to explore how North American governments, the City of Chicago and local institutions can fight climate change.

The first event, “Climate Change Forum: A North American Perspective” will run from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Wednesday. In the first panel,  government leaders from Mexico, the United States, and Canada will discuss how North America is meeting its shared objective to fight climate change, a goal laid out at the 2015 Paris Climate Conference and the June 2016 North American Leaders’ Conference. Scott McCook, Consul of Foreign Policy and Diplomatic Service for the Consulate General of Canada in Chicago, has coordinated the forum’s international panelists. He explains, “You can do your part for the environment, but if your neighbor is not and you’re not doing anything to work with your neighbor to meet goals, it doesn’t lead to major results.” For this reason, Consul McCook states that Mexico, the U.S., and Canada are working closely to combat climate change.

To discuss this international cooperation, the first panel will feature Enrique Lendo Fuentes, Head of the International Affairs Unit of the Mexican Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources; Jane Nishida, Acting Assistant Administrator of the Office of International and Tribal Affairs in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; and Daniel Wolfish, Director General of the Multilateral and Bilateral Affairs Directorate of Environment and Climate Change Canada. These three guests will discuss their respective countries’ unique roles in North American action on climate change. Howard Learner, President and Executive Director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center, will moderate the discussion.

The second panel will narrow the conversation to how national environmental plans are implemented locally by presenting input from representatives from the Chicago Mayor’s Office and University of Chicago-affiliated organizations. Chris Wheat, Chief Sustainability Officer and Senior Policy Advisor in the Office of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, will speak about Chicago’s sustainability efforts. He will be joined by Rachel Bronson, Director of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists; Charlie Catlett, director of the Urban Center for Computation and Data and Senior Fellow at Argonne National Laboratory; and Sumit Ray, Director of Engineering and Utilities in the University of Chicago Office of Sustainability.

The panel discussions begin at 6 p.m. Immediately before the forum discussions begin, at 5:30 p.m., all are invited to a Sustainability Community Fair and Reception which will be an opportunity for attendees to learn about sustainability initiatives right at home in Chicago. Participants will include the the Phoenix Sustainability Initiative, Blacks in Green, University of Chicago’s Office of Sustainability, the Chicago Booth Energy Group, Stop Funding Climate Change University of Chicago, and the Green Economics Group.

In the spirit of the forum’s goal of connecting environmental goals with community action on Thursday the Inuit Art Society, the Government of Canada, and the International House Global Voices Program will present a screening of Arctic Defenders. The film tells the story of the 1968 Inuit movement against the Canadian government for sovereignty of their own land and creation of the Nunavut territory. The Inuit people are often mentioned as the first people impacted by the effects of climate change, and this event will be a rare opportunity for Chicago community members to engage with Inuit culture and history. Ms. Aaju Peter, a designer, translator, and Inuit rights activist who is featured in Arctic Defenders, will join attendees for a post-screening discussion.

Before the screening, Ms. Peter will perform a Kudlik, or traditional Inuit lamp-lighting ceremony, for the community. The ceremony is often performed in daily Inuit life but is also used to mark the opening of ceremonial events, community gatherings, or other occasions. All are welcome to witness the quiet, lovely ceremony, which will begin at 5:30 p.m. in the International House courtyard. The film screening will begin at 6:15 p.m. in the Assembly Hall.

The sustainability fair, forum, Kudlik ceremony, and film screening all aim to give community members a chance to engage in the governmental discussion’s impact on daily life while keeping the global scope in mind. Colleen Duke, Public Affairs Officer of Foreign Policy and Diplomacy Service at the Consulate General of Canada, makes a powerful case for the event’s potential when she explains, “Climate change knows no borders. We’re hoping that by putting together this program we’re giving many different sides of climate change and action not only in Chicago, the United States, or North America, but globally on trying to reverse what we’ve done.” She hopes that this event will help people to “think globally and act locally.”

The Climate Policy Forum will run from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Wednesday and is co-sponsored by the International House Global Voices Lecture Series, the Government of Canada, el Consulado General de México en Chicago, Argonne National Laboratory, the Program on Global Environment, the Environmental Law and Policy Center, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the Chicago Booth Energy Group, Blacks in Green, the UChicago Collegiate Scholars Program, the Phoenix Sustainability Initiative, Stop Funding Climate Change UChicago, and the Green Economics Group. The Kudlik ceremony and film screening will run from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday and is co-sponsored by the Inuit Art Society, the Government of Canada, and the International House Global Voices Program.

Admission to both events is free and open to the public; refreshments will be available during the reception with the panelists. For more information about these events other Global Voices programs and co-sponsorship opportunities, or for persons with disabilities who may need assistance, please contact Mary Beth DeStefano at (773)753-2274 or mdestefa@uchicago.edu.  

This article was originally published in the Hyde Park Herald.