Excerpt from Franke James keynote “Who are you going to be?”
Artist and author Franke James speaks at Bates College Sept 5, 2009
So, thinking that one of the best ways to inspire the Bates students is to show other students making a difference… I started by showing photographs from the 2007 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali. The first photo shows students asking for hard caps on emissions. They did a great job of finding a symbol (hard hats) to tell their story, visually. (My thanks to environmental activist and speaker David Noble for the Bali photos.)
The “Act Now” photo shows people creating an image of the world, with half of it submerged in water due to rising sea levels from climate change.
Students at the 2007 conference were frustrated that they did not have a voice at the negotiating table. And they found a memorable way to communicate that message to the cameras.
During my talk, I also pointed students to 350.org for ideas on what they can do and how they can organize an action for October 24th. The Great Barrier Reef, Chinese Universities, the Swiss Alps — these are just three of the many actions planned for October 24th, in over 100 countries.
Brainstorming 350 actions
So, do you remember at the beginning when I said I’d been inspired at the dinner the night before my talk? During dinner we brainstormed ideas for worldwide actions on October 24th, which included using performance art techniques.
Bates College French professor, Kirk Read told me about Frozen Grand Central, an improvisational acting piece that took place in New York City. It is a brilliant example of live street theater at one of the busiest stations in the world, Grand Central. Over two hundred people suddenly stopped — frozen — caught in the middle of various ordinary activities (picking up papers, eating a banana, looking at a map, kissing) as if in suspended animation. The on-lookers didn’t know what to make of it. Why were the people not moving? What was wrong? You can watch the YouTube video below to see their stunned reactions. After 5 minutes, all 200 actors snapped out of it, as though nothing had happened.
So how does this relate to climate change?
Getting the world’s attention on climate change is tough. You need a strong hook. Frozen Grand Central offers that hook in a fun, easy way. I can see the opportunity to use this dramatic “Frozen” act for a Flash mob 350 demonstration on October 24th. And so I wove it into my talk at Bates the next day… Now I don’t know if anyone will use the idea — but if you do — please let me know!
Freeze to Protest Inaction on Climate Change
Stage a Freeze Flash Mob: Gather a team of 350 people. Have all of them wear t-shirts, buttons, or hand-made labels, with the 350 message. Gather in a busy (and safe) public area. Take video as your team freezes for 350 seconds (about 5 minutes). Watch the stunned reactions of passersby… When they snap out of it explain the meaning of it: To protest the glacial pace of action on climate change. Of course, don’t forget to upload the video to YouTube and send it to the news media, with a press release.
Curious what Bates is doing for October 24th?
Bates Buzz on 350
Bates is buzzing with activity… The 350.org group (which includes on campus and local people) has multiple arts and sports projects planned for October 24th. While I was on campus, I met with Julie Rosenbach, Environmental Coordinator at Bates and Emily Grady, a Senior student. Emily is developing an environmental leadership program and is involved in organizing 350 students to cycle in support of 350.org.
“The Bird’s Eye View is a network of recycled art installations, constructed on rooftops, in collaboration and support of 350, an international grass-roots organization for the reduction of carbon emissions. Images of the installations will be taken to be spread by use of the media to the general public, raising awareness about global warming. The images send a message of green peace, global solidarity, and a broadened human perspective.” Ryan E. Dean
I think of the Bird’s Eye project like horizontal billboards on rooftops — but shouting their message to air traffic, satellites flying overhead — and of course, the all-seeing eye, the news media. With Google Maps, and a little Photoshop artistry, we can imagine what Ryan has in mind…
Excerpt from: Who are you going to be? © 2009 Franke James, MFA
My thanks to Bates College and Holly Gurney, Associate Dean of Students, for the opportunity to address the incoming class on September 5th!
Writing, illustrations and photographs © Franke James except as noted:
Frozen Grand Central video by ImprovEverywhere.com
350 Angel: Photo by John Quigley / Spectral Q;
Hand-written “Who are you going to be?” illustration by Franke James.
Press photo of Franke James for billboard art show, by Ken Villeneuve.
James Lovelock © Sandy Lovelock.
My thanks to environmental activist and speaker David Noble for the Bali photographs:
Media Scrum and Hard Caps © Robert vanWaarden
Act Now © Avaaz
Silent Youths © Maia Green
The Great Barrier Reef, Chinese student, Swiss Alps, cookie cutter: All istockphotos.com (blublaf, wrangel, tradigi, juniorbeep)
Bird’s Eye 350 concept illustration by Franke James. Google Map © Google Inc.
Bates Bobcat logo © Bates College: used with permission.
Ryan Dean’s 350 project: The Bird’s Eye View
INSURANCE INDUSTRY SOURCES:
Cool-Planet Goal Shared by Large Polluters, Insurers
by Jim Efstathiou Jr., Bloomberg News, July 10, 2009
Co-operators Becomes 1st Insurance Company to Join Ceres
“The insurance sector, the largest industry in the world, has been hit hard by climate change impacts, and is a critical part of the climate change solution,” said Ceres president Mindy Lubber.