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Botanic Garden field trip

Brittney Thompson, One Book Graduate Assistant

Saturday, April 30, 2022

On Saturday, April 30th One Book One Northwestern and the Division of Student Affairs sponsored a trip with about 40 students to the Chicago Botanic gardens. This trip is the second for One Book this year but on this date students had the enormous benefit of spring-like weather. Students enjoyed the outing with various birds and small mammals peppering the property, and flowers, some still waiting to fully bloom, blowing in the breeze. The Chicago Botanic Garden is now in their 50th year of existence, and celebrations for the gardens’ anniversary will go on from May 13-25 with various artist exhibits. More information about the festivities can be found here.

One Book Keynote: Bryan Stevenson in Conversation with Jennifer Lackey

Mark Berry, One Book Fellow

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Over 18 months after the original scheduled date, One Book was honored to finally host Bryan Stevenson on campus for his keynote address on May 3, 2022. Author of the 2020-2021 One Book selection, Just Mercy, Stevenson is the founder of the non-profit Equal Justice Initiative, dedicated to providing legal representation for prisoners who have been wrongly convicted, don’t have effective representation, or have been in some way denied a fair trial. After an introduction from Professor Jennifer Lackey, the Director of the Northwestern Prison Education Program, Stevenson spoke to Northwestern audiences including students, faculty, staff, and Evanston locals, with several hundred viewers attending in Pick-Staiger Concert Hall and over 200 more watching a livestream. 

Stevenson spoke specifically to his experiences with the justice system in America, emphasizing the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on incarcerated people. Stevenson identified several visceral statistics about the current state of criminal justice, such as the fact that there are certain zip codes in the United States where 80% of residents are expected to be incarcerated at some point in their lives. Instead of focusing only on negatives, however, Stevenson encouraged the audience to maintain hope, and continue to support the fight for an equitable justice system. Stevenson spoke to the impact that students and faculty continue to have in achieving justice on the micro and macro levels, and sowed passion and optimism into the community of attendees.

Following his speech, Professor Lackey joined Stevenson for a conversation about the future of equal justice efforts. Lackey shared submitted questions from audience members, as well as video questions from students in the Northwestern Prison Education Program. NPEP recently hosted their graduation ceremony, and members of the initiative recorded questions for Stevenson. Being able to hear from incarcerated individuals in this space and recognize the tangible impacts that Northwestern community members continue to have on the criminal system today was an inspirational reminder that it is our responsibility to fight for justice for all people.

Near the end of conversation, Stevenson recounted an impassioned tale of humanity and connection based on his experiences founding the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. As part of the memorial, dirt was collected from locations throughout the South where a person had been lynched throught history, and kept in jars to honor the victims’ memory. Inspired by this collection, a woman drove to a location where she knew there had been a lynching. She began to dig the dirt, until a man stopped his car near her and came over to her. Though she was justifiably uncomfortable, the man ended up offering to help her dig up the dirt. In tears, they bonded over their shared humanity and fight for justice, and together brought the jar of dirt to the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. Stevenson encouraged all audiences to seek this humanity in their community, and work together to ensure a more equitable future. Filled with hope and inspiration, Bryan Stevenson’s keynote address was an unforgettable event.


Jessamine Shortridge, One Book Fellow

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

When was the last time you took a walk without listening to music or a podcast or talking to a friend? When was the last time you just listened to your surroundings? On Tuesday, April 26 One Book and sustainNU sponsored a Soundwalk led by teaching artists Veronica Salinas and Sara Zalek of the Midwest Society for Acoustic Ecology. A group of about 30 NU students, staff, and faculty formed a "silent parade" around the Lakefill tuning in to the sounds around us.

The walk began in front of the Ryan Center for the Musical Arts with the group taking a few collective breaths in a circle and tuning in to the sounds of the environment. We walked to the bridge leading to the Lakefill and paused to notice how the sound of crashing water on one side of the bridge was replaced by placid waves on the other side. Salinas challenged the group to explore how height changes what we hear by squatting, sitting on a bench, or standing, as well as how tilting one's head affects the sounds. She also prompted a mindfulness of sounds at different distances, from the farthest sounds to be heard to the closest sounds. Sounds of crunching pinecones, creaking tree branches, rustling reeds, the calls of countless migratory birds, and the buzz of machinery populated the walk.

At the end of the event the teaching artists encouraged everyone to lead their own soundwalks or incorporate mindful listening into their daily lives. If you are interested in learning more about acoustic ecology check out the website and Facebook page of the Midwest Society for Acoustic Ecology. This summer members will be leading more soundwalks in parks across Chicago.

Composting 101

Jessamine Shortridge, One Book Fellow

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Anyone can compost! That was the big takeaway from the Composting 101 event on Thursday 4/21 featuring master gardeners Laurie Martin and Barb Harris. Despite being held on Zoom, the enthusiasm was palpable and throughout the event, notifications kept popping up from new questions in the chat.

Laurie spoke for the first half, focusing mostly on the science and reasons behind compost. A huge environmental advantage of composting is that it reduces the amount of yard and food waste ending up in landfills, where they emit methane into the atmosphere. For those with gardens or houseplants, compost is a great fertilizer and improves the health and structure of soil. Laurie described the chemical nature of the two types of waste to put in a composter: "browns" - things like dried leaves, shredded paper, and wood chip which provide carbon; and "greens" like fruit and vegetable waste, egg shells, and coffee grounds and filters which provide nitrogen. Together, these chemical compositions provide an ideal environment for micro- and macroorganisms to break down and decompose the materials. 

In the next half, Barb spoke about how to go about actually starting to compost. She discussed the various options for composting outside: a compost heap, compost bin, or rotating compost device. For apartment dwellers or those who don't want to set up an outdoor composting system, she showed composting devices you can buy such as a Bokashi device or electric countertop composters, as well as the kid-favorite worm bin (which you can set up under your kitchen sink. As long as the chemical balance remains at 1:2 or 1:3 nitrogen:carbon, there should not be an odor.

Overall the event was very informative and engaging. There's really no reason not to compost, since it is so adaptable to your situation. (Side note: there is a compost bin in the Wild Roots garden outside Norris if you want to check it out or add your food scraps!) For more details about composting, the speakers provided this resource:

Dirty Pretty Things: Air Quality and Art

Albert Wang, One Book Fellow

Thursday, April 14, 2022

On April 14, more than 30 Northwestern students, faculty, staff, and members of the Evanston community joined Professor Dan Horton for a Dittmar Dinner exploring the role of art in science and scientific communication. Titled “Pretty Dirty Things,” Professor Horton’s talk discussed how art has helped scientists both understand and present trends in air quality throughout human history. From the analysis of historic paintings to showcasing air quality data, he invited listeners to join him in seeing how art and science can go hand in hand.

Attendees were invited to discuss their own experiences related to discussing climate change with others, and the intersection of art and science in their own lives. Other relevant topics included climate skepticism and optimism vs. pessimism in climate narratives.

Movie Screening: "Don't Look Up"

Bobby Read, One Book Ambassador

Friday, April 8, 2022

[Spoiler Alert] On April 8th in the early evening, climate activists and movie fanatics alike came together for One Book One Northwestern’s screening of “Don’t Look Up,” a film that follows the journey of two astronomers as they attempt to warn the rest of society about a comet heading directly for them that will destroy Earth. One Book was joined by Professor Kyle Henry for a talk back after the film to discuss how climate change and climate activism is portrayed in present day media. The movie itself was portrayed as being a part of two genres: comedy and disaster. An interesting combination for sure however, the movie was exactly that. As we follow the journey of these two astronomers, we see how serious and disastrous the comet hitting Earth could really be (everyone dies!). On this journey, though, we also see how different people respond to such a threat. Some people believed there was a threat, others did not believe it, and some were stuck in the middle. Fighting broke out between the believers and non-believers and there was a comedic aspect to such disputes. The moment where everything shifted in the movie, was when the comet became visible to the naked eye on Earth and suddenly, everyone began to realize just how real the threat of the world-ending comet really was.

Following the move, Professor Henry asked the room of activists and fanatics a question: Is this type of media an effective way of communicating about climate change and/or climate activism? A mix of opinions was thrown out but one of the common themes throughout all of the opinions was that despite the movie having a very comedic aspect to it, the plot throughout provides viewers an opportunity to initiate conversations about the topic of climate change and events like those mentioned in the movie. After viewing the movie myself at the screening, I found myself intrigued at how similar some plotlines were to real life events that have happened in the past several years. The politicization of climate issues, officials rejecting responsibility or acting naive, and using a possible world-ending scenario to make a quick buck all resonated with me in different ways and connected to different memories of events happening here in the United States and all across the world. I walked away from this screening with a lot of questions about how our world will continue responding to climate change and climate issues and honestly became a bit frightened about the future. However, all of the doomsday talk in the movie made one thing clear in my head: we, as humans, have to be able to set aside our differences and come together as one society and one world in order to combat climate issues and ensure we have a safe planet to continue living on or else we may end up like those in “Don’t Look Up.”

Panel on Climate Change Education

Albert Wang, One Book Fellow

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

On Tuesday, April 5, One Book hosted a panel discussion on climate change education in K-12 and collegiate spaces. Twenty-two attendees listened on zoom to insights from high school teacher Patrick Baldwin, Cornell professor Cliff Kraft, and Northwestern professors Patricia Beddows, Yarrow Axford, and Neal Blair on engaging students in topics around climate change and the environment. Many panelists stressed the importance of knowing the fundamentals on how we interact with the environment, for example the core mechanisms behind climate change and where our water comes from.

Discussions ranged from teaching philosophies to how to address students who present climate-skeptic arguments. Some key takeaways included reminding students that they have agency in the future of our world, using a problem-based approach to learning rather than a textbook one, and balancing realism with optimism to encourage students to stay hopeful. During the Q&A section, panelists addressed questions regarding topics like climate anxiety and the role of art in communicating climate education.

We’re No Fools! Earth Month Kickoff Party!

Maddy Bagnall, One Book Ambassador

Friday, April 1st, 2022

On April 1st, the Evanston Rebuilding Warehouse hosted a community event to celebrate the beginning of Earth Month, “We’re No Fools! Earth Month Kickoff Party!” The event featured work by local artists, family games, food and drinks, and DIY stations, where attendants could learn how to make stickers from magazine pages or murals from bottle caps. 

The event was also an opportunity for partygoers to learn more about a plethora of sustainability related organizations, businesses, advocacy groups, artists, and events in Evanston, including Edible Evanston, Evanston Development Cooperative, Eco & The Flamingo, Citizens Climate Lobby, and Northwestern’s own upcoming student run overnight teach-in, “Generations of Environmental Justice”, as well as the WasteShed and the Rebuilding Warehouse itself. Information on each of the groups and events listed can be found below. 


The Evanston Rebuilding Warehouse accepts donations of broken appliances, furniture, windows, and tools among other items, repairs it and sells it at a fraction of retail cost, preventing commonplace materials from going into the landfill and offering a variety of necessary household commodities for their community to enjoy at an affordable price. The Rebuilding Warehouse also offers educational workshops on simple construction and repairs to the public on a regular basis. 

For more information on items available at the Rebuilding Warehouse, click here:

For more information on Workshop Dates at the Rebuilding Warehouse, click here:


The WasteShed, located next door to the Rebuilding Warehouse, accepts donated art supplies, fabrics, wallpapers, yarn, office supplies, jewelry, jars, and even bird cages among other items and sells them at a fraction of retail cost. They also offer free school and art supplies to teachers and educators. Additionally, the WasteShed hosts workshops in arts and crafts as well as a yearly “trash fashion show” competition, Discardisco.

For more information about the WasteShed, click here:

For more information on accepted donation materials, click here:


The Evanston Development Cooperative designs and builds energy-efficient housing for Evanston residents, focusing on initiatives with an emphasis in housing affordability, racial equity, and climate resiliency. 

For more information on the Evanston Development Cooperative, click here:


Edible Evanston creates community centered around places of local food production throughout Evanston. They offer gardening courses, seed swaps, and other community events to encourage individuals to learn how to grow and share food locally. 

For more information on Edible Evanston and how to get involved, click here:


Eco & The Flamingo is the first zero waste general store in Evanston. The store offers a variety of goods including bath products, beauty products, health products, and pantry goods, all screened to be sustainable and cruelty-free. Eco & The Flamingo doesn’t sell any single-use plastics, so customers can purchase reusable packaging from the store or bring in their own containers to carry their purchases.

For more information on Eco & The Flamingo, click here:


Citizens’ Climate Lobby is a grassroots organization focused on educating local communities across the US on the economic and personal consequences of climate change and empowering individuals to lobby for national policies to address climate change.

For more information on Citizens’ Climate Lobby and how to get involved, click here:


Inspired by the Project Survival ‘teach-out’ hosted by Northwestern students in 1970, “Generations of Environmental Justice” is an upcoming, student-led overnight teach-in. The event will take place on Earth Day, April 22nd, from 5pm to 7am, and will feature speakers and workshops about indigenous power, social justice art, community gardening, and more. 

For more information on “Generations of Environmental Justice” and to learn how to sign up, click here:

Windows of Hope: Reflections on the 6th IPCC Assessment Report

Brittney Thompson, Graduate Assistant, One Book One Northwestern, MSEd graduate student

Monday, March 7, 2022

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change. In the recently published IPCC Assessment Report, Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, we see the combined work of 270 authors from 67 countries.

For those who don’t want to take the 3675 page dive into the full report, the report is also divided into chapters on various ecosystems, fields of study, and geographic regions. Additionally, there are sections for specific audiences like policy makers and those interested in climate resilience and decision making. Given how large of a project this is and its availability in various forms to the public I consider this a great feat of science communication. I appreciate the dedication to science research that encompasses human ecologies and the ways that our identities and social policy and practices impact one another. Personally, this report is made more exciting for me because my previous professor and current friend Rachel Bezner-Kerr is a contributor on this report. Dr. Bezner-Kerr was a main force for my renewed belief in regenerative science research in my undergraduate years, and it is this belief in science research's ability to change everyday lives that I plan to bring with me into the classroom following the completion of my MSEd degree.

As it relates to Northwestern University and the NU community we see calls for the expansion of the ways we imagine life for ourselves in local governance and issues of environmental justice. There is a focus on resilience for cities like Evanston and Chicago whose climate impacts are felt most by urban communities with economically and socially marginalized individuals. In chapter 6: Cities, Settlements, and Key Infrastructure the executive summary states, “Intersectional, gender-responsive and inclusive action can accelerate transformative climate change adaptation. The greatest gains in wellbeing in urban areas can be achieved by prioritizing investment to reduce climate risk for low-income and marginalized residents and targeting informal settlements.”¹ Emphasis on ecosystem protection and restoration was made clear in addition to a focus on not only the planning of adaptation strategies but their subsequent and timely execution. Here’s hoping that the imaginations of scientists, teachers, and other community members will blossom into the safe and just world we deserve.

To see the full report click here.

  1. Dodman, D., B. Hayward, M. Pelling, V. Castan Broto, W. Chow, E. Chu, R. Dawson, L. Khirfan, T. McPhearson, A. Prakash, Y. Zheng, and G. Ziervogel, 2022: Cities, Settlements and Key Infrastructure. In: Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [H.-O. Pörtner, D.C. Roberts, M. Tignor, E.S. Poloczanska, K. Mintenbeck, A. Alegría, M. Craig, S. Langsdorf, S. Löschke, V. Möller, A. Okem, B. Rama (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press. In Press.

“Outside the Safe Operating Space: Planetary Limits of Plastics and Chemicals"

Bobby Read, One Book Ambassador

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

On February 23, 2022, Professor Bethanie Carney Almroth gave a fascinating talk about the pollutants in our world, the limits that our world has, and the impact of these pollutants on our future, all topics that have been the focal point of The Story of More and One Book One Northwestern’s events this year. Prof. Almroth is a Professor of Ecotoxicology from the University of Gothenburg and was giving this talk and Q&A as part of the Program on Plastics, Ecosystems, and Public Health (PEPH) Virtual Seminar Series hosted by the Institute for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern. The talk started with a comparison of our current world and society we live in as a direct comparison to The Lorax in that the greed for money and power is growing too fast and there is not enough space anymore for the birds, the fish, the trees, and nature in general. These kinds of comparisons are similar to what we've been discussing with The Story Of More all year with One Book One Northwestern and Professor Almroth brought another topic of extreme relevance to our campus this year. After making this comparison, Professor Almroth began talking about the paper their talk would focus on: “Outside the Safe Operating Space of the Planetary Boundary for Novel Entities'' published on January 18, 2022. As she continued, it became clear in the talk that we as humans are currently operating outside of the planetary boundary.

Professor Almroth began walking through the steps it took to research, analyze, and write their recently-published paper. She began by discussing the literature around the topic of plastics and novel entities. In looking at the literature, one stuck out to me and that was an article that counted how many chemicals we have done ecotoxicological research on -- aka knowing what those chemicals do in the environment -- and there is only research and understanding of 65 chemicals out of 350,000 which is a very small percentage. This lack of knowledge of that many chemicals created problems when Professor Almroth and her team were trying to put these chemicals into the planetary boundary framework.

After going over the relevant literature, Professor Almroth discussed her and her co-author’s paper and the process and findings. This included defining and talking about the application of three criteria that were used to determine the actual suitability of control variables for the planetary boundary. Those three criteria were feasibility, relevance, and comprehensiveness. Prof. Almroth discussed multiple control variables that they looked at in their research including emission quantities of hazardous chemicals and release quantities of plastics into the environment. After discussing limitations within the research, it was concluded using a weight-of-evidence approach that humanity as we know it is most definitely operating outside of the planetary boundary, and some of the boundaries we still don’t even know yet.

Professor Almroth refused to end on a negative note and pointed out all of the positive change that has been created in the world in response to the planetary boundary being discovered and published in 2009. This includes policy changes and educational sessions at the European level as well as the United Nations. This boundary has thus had, as Prof. Almroth put it, “a high level impact on the way that we’re talking about the impact of human activities on the planet” and this impact and conversations can lead to further change and policy development. Nevertheless, Professor Almroth said unless urgent action is taken to reduce the harm of operating beyond this boundary, the continued exposure of these novel entities and plastics in our world will continue to pose a threat that may become irreversible.

Climate Cafe: North Area

Madison McClellan, One Book Fellow

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Facilitated by Professor Melissa Rosenzweig and in collaboration with the North Residential Area, the first Climate Café was a space for connection and inspiration. Conversations ranged from gardening and cooking practices to on-campus environmental efforts. Participants cited Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) boxes and the Imperfect Foods program as two ways to reduce household food waste. Fossil Free NU was a key point of discussion for participants interested in campus activism.     
Information regarding the next Climate Café will be posted to the OBON calendar

Exhibit Opening Reception: What We Do, What We Know: NU Environmental Impact Survey

Maddy Bagnall, One Book Ambassador

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Over the course of the fall quarter, the One Book One Northwestern team ran a university-wide survey of the consumption habits and environmentally related knowledge of Northwestern students, faculty, and staff. The survey consisted of ten questions, asking about topics ranging from individuals' meat consumption, to their confidence in their recycling habits, to how often they used Google. The survey also featured a page with facts and statistics about each of the ten questions. 

Results from the survey were compiled and presented in “What We Do, What We Know: The NU Environmental Impact Survey Exhibit”, which opened on January 3rd, 2022 in 1South, Main Library. The opening reception of the exhibit was held on January 27th, and featured talks from One Book fellows and ambassadors offering context for the initial purpose and final results of the survey.

The exhibit is still currently available to view in 1South, Main Library. You can also access the results of the survey and sources related to each question via this link.

“Anthro-obscene: What We Choose Not to See” Installation by Stefan Petranek

Jessamine Shortridge, One Book Fellow

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

As you step into the Dittmar Gallery, cries of seagulls fill the air. 

Artist Stefan Petranek's installation, "Anthro-obscene: What We Choose Not to See", transports viewers into a world where climate change is visual and personal. Each of the images displayed has some personal connection to Petranek, and each one is overlaid with climate science data and visualizations. For example, an image entitled "10,000 years of CO2" depicts a Florida home after Hurricane Michael, with a graph of rising CO2 emissions laser etched upon it. The effect of this juxtaposition makes the well-known data feel much more real and urgent. All together, the images tell a story of rising seas, extinctions, rising CO2 levels, and natural disasters, through the lens of the places which matter the most to us. The exhibition is open to the public through December 8.

Chicago Botanic Garden: One Book Trip

Maddy Bagnall, One Book Ambassador

Saturday November 13, 2021

On November 13th, One Book One Northwestern hosted a student trip to the Chicago Botanic Garden to visit Doctor Amy Iler, a professor in the Botanic Garden and Northwestern University’s joint graduate program in Plant Biology and Conservation and a Principle Investigator with The Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory in Gothic, Colorado.  

Dr. Iler presented to students about general trends in species adaptations in the wake of climate change. Iler elaborated with an example from her research in the Rocky Mountains on how differing times of snow melt from year to year affects the phenology (flowering times) and populations of native flower species. Students also had the opportunity to visit the laboratories at The Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Plant Conservation Science Center, housing research on the molecular genetics of endangered plant species, effects of increased CO2 levels on plant growth, and The Dixon National Tallgrass Prairie Seed Bank, which can maintain up to 30 million plant seeds, protecting the future of biodiversity for various plant species native to the Midwest.

Students also had the opportunity to visit the rest of the Botanic Garden, featuring 27 gardens with a variety of horticulture, from tulips and chrysanthemums to water lilies and bonsai trees.

You can learn more about the different gardens and laboratories at the Chicago Botanical Garden, or plan a personal visit to the garden, here.

Ancient Knowledge Future Wisdom

Iliana Schmidt, One Book Fellow

Thursday, November 4, 2021

On Thursday, November 4th, One Book One Northwestern, in collaboration with the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences and the Environmental Sciences Program, welcomed Professor Isabel Rivera-Collazo via Zoom for “Ancient Knowledge, Future Wisdom,” a presentation about archaeological perspectives of Caribbean coastal food and habitat security during climate crises. Rivera-Collazo is a professor of anthropology at UC San Diego and also works with the SCRIPPS Institution of Oceanography.

As an archaeologist, Rivera-Collazo’s expertise allows her to identify examples of changes in the climate in the past and examine the state of the environment before, during, and after such changes have occurred. Rivera-Collazo highlighted her archaeological work in Puerto Rico, whose climate is modulated primarily by the equatorial portion of Hadley cells, which sets in motion the intertropical conversion zone (ITCZ), which is a low-pressure area that follows the warmest parts of the ocean to help balance the atmospheric energy between the hemispheres. The position of the ITCZ and the weather patterns that are modulated by it contribute to the pathways of hurricanes in the Atlantic. “When the overall amount of heat in the Earth changes, so does the sea surface temperature and the intensity of the Hadley circulation…all of this starts to dance, and we get climate change.”

The largest island on the Caribbean archipelago, located in the northeast corner, has many paleo-climactic archives that are useful to reconstruct and understand ancient climatic conditions. This corner of the archipelago is highly modulated by the oceanographic processes and exists at the mercy of the phenomena described above. Thus, as the climate has changed even since ancient times, the people inhabiting the island have reacted to such changes. By looking at specific times throughout history where researchers know that climate has changed, Rivera-Collazo said, we can better understand what it means to survive climate change in an oceanic region. 

Under what conditions are humans affected by climate changes? “Humans are affected and societies change,” Rivera-Collazo says, “when humans change the way they do things. We archaeologists describe separate cultures when there is a difference between specific variables in the archaeological record…climate change threatens people not because the drivers of climate change themselves intrinsically challenge us, but because they threaten our ability to continue to be who we are.” She continued by explaining the ways in which cultural aspects of ancient societies on the Caribbean archipelago, such as food and habitats, have been affected by changes in climate over time.

Rivera-Collazo concluded by reminding attendees the ways in which the evidence of the Indigenous communities and their practices are able to inform our sustainability efforts in areas, such as the Caribbean archipelago, that are facing rising sea levels and warming waters as a result of climate change. 

The talk concluded with a short Q&A with Professor Rivera-Collazo and a dinner for in-person attendees.

Seeking a Common Language to Save the Planet: CESR Symposium

Miles Lankford, One Book Ambassador

Sunday, October 31, 2021

On Friday, October 29, Northwestern’s Center for Engineering Sustainability and Resilience (CESR) hosted federal, state and local experts to discuss technology, business and policy drivers to address climate change. The daylong Symposium, titled “Technology, Policy and Individual Actions: Three approaches to address climate change” had content for every type of audience from national policy wonks to local community organizers to undergraduates. The event provided insights both practical and aspirational on how to engage in the climate sustainability field and make a difference – which was especially timely, coming on the eve of the COP26 (United Nations climate summit) in Glasgow this week where global leaders will help shape the world’s response to climate change over this decade.

NOTE: The CESR Symposium was remote and streamed live, and a replay can be viewed here.

Keynote speaker Karen Weigert, Executive Vice President, Slipstream, who is also a Sustainability Contributor for Reset, WBEZ Chicago, set the stage by framing climate challenges on both a global and local scale. She shared research on how cities like Chicago can be anchors to a lower carbon emissions future where urban residents use less energy than people who are not-urban. Weigert says that “looking at the technologies, the policies and the companies that make cities thrive helps us envision a future where we can see less carbon.”  She cited as an example the huge piece of policy that just passed in Illinois, the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA) that will set Illinois on a path to a 100 percent renewable energy future by 2050. Similar to One Book’s “The Story of More” Author Hope Jahren’s theme of feeling a sense of responsibility across sectors, Weigert’s remarks reminded us that we’re all part of climate change. 

The first panel focused on technology and how to build more resiliency and stability into our systems while accelerating decarbonization. The discussion covered a variety of green solutions including electric vehicle development, carbon capture and hydrogen development, as well as the critical roles that academic research and financial investment play in the development of these technologies of the future. 

The second panel looked at the issue of climate change through the lens of how disadvantaged communities have disproportionately experienced climate change’s effects and discussed approaches to local engagement with communities and incorporating their needs in this green energy transition. One of the panelists, an environmental scientist with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency , Region 5 in Illinois, recounted hearing from a wide variety of stakeholders from coal miners to girl scouts during past public hearings for Affordable Clean Energy Rules, saying: “we have to think about where people are and how we can help them at their level to look at climate justice at different layers.”

The final panel offered corporate decision-making perspectives and insights on climate change and how they are shaped by stakeholders including shareholders, consumers and supply chain partners. One of the most enlightening comments came from Victoria Zimmerman, Director of ESG & Sustainability Strategy Alignment with McDonald’s, who said that consumers have a lot of power and companies want to hear from consumers, and that “tactically the best way to do it for McDonald’s is engage with our Twitter as an authentic and informal way to communicate with our brand.”

Whether working at the global or local level, The CESR Symposium demonstrated the need for a common language among stakeholders invested in climate change solutions and provided incentive to collaborate together as a multidisciplinary Northwestern community to address these challenges.

One Book Keynote: Hope Jahren

Brittney Thompson, One Book Graduate Assistant

Thursday, October 28, 2021

On Thursday, October 28th from 5-6 pm we hosted our annual One Book One Northwestern Keynote event with author and professor Hope Jahren. Jahren’s book The Story of More: How We Got to Climate Change and Where to Go from Here is our chosen book this year discussing the global issue of climate change in a clear and accessible way to inspire readers of every background. Dr. Jahren gave a brief presentation in the beginning discussing 15 things everyone should know about how we arrived at climate change. She was later in conversation with Northwestern professor Bill Miller of the McCormick School of Engineering, also taking questions from the audience.

Dr. Jahren reiterated information from her book concerning the growth of the world population, growth in crop yields and global energy use. She discussed the power of individual action on local and global markets. Dr. Jahren reminds us that in 2020 we saw a big change in people’s behaviors and we should remember this when considering climate change solutions that require a change in our own behavior. This event was a reminder of the importance of climate change and environmental awareness, and reminds us of the relevance of all the events associated with this topic as the year continues.

Images in Climate Change: A Visual Storytelling Contest

Iliana Schmidt, One Book Fellow

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Beginning October 5th, Northwestern’s Dittmar Gallery hosted One Book One Northwestern’s “Images in Climate Change” photo contest entries. In line with this year’s One Book selection, The Story of More by Hope Jahren, Northwestern students had the opportunity to submit photos that reflect ideas about climate change, how we got here, consequences of climate change, and/or solutions to climate change. After all of the submissions were in, images were hung on display in the Dittmar Gallery for all to see. Located on the first floor of the Norris University Center, the Dittmar Gallery frequently hosts student work to appreciate and exhibit Northwestern’s finest works of art.

The One Book photo contest received 38 submissions, all of which are on display in the Dittmar Gallery. Of those 38 submissions, three students received awards selected by a panel of experts in photography, and one photo was recognized as the “people’s choice” winner that was voted on by the One Book community via Facebook. 

Kenneth He, who won first place, photographed a large cloud of smoke emerging from a building as two small birds fly around it. He said about his black-and-white photograph: “In the 20th century, the use of fossil fuels, pollution, and selfish greed have left our planet with poor air quality. As a result, healthy environments for animals like birds are diminishing at an alarming rate, leaving them with little resources to live. Will Earth become a place only inhabited by humans?”

You can see He’s photo and the other photo contest submissions at the Dittmar Gallery until Sunday, October 24th, 2021.

More at the Museum: Online Collection Talk

Madison McClellan, One Book Fellow

Thursday, October 14, 2021

On Thursday, October 14, The Block Museum hosted the “More at the Museum: Online Collection Talk.” Keynote presenter Corinne Granof considered selected photographs by W. Eugene Smith for the January 5, 1953 Life Magazine edition. Smith’s original photo essay consisted of 18 images captured across eleven Monsanto Chemical Company plants over the span of two months. Granof provided historical context by emphasizing the importance of scientific development and industrial expansion in post-war United States. The images feature chemists at work, crafting the magic and mystery of technological progress. 

After sharing her interpretations of Smith’s photographs, Granof underlined the importance of plastic production, and Monsanto Chemical Company specifically, in the United States following World War II. A brief clip from The Graduate, a 1967 film, highlighted the nation’s belief in the potential of plastics. Moreover, Life Magazine was itself an established source of objective and credible news, and the 1953 issue’s imagery promoted American ideals of ingenuity and innovation. Granof also directed the audience to Alissa Shapiro’s exhibition on Life Magazine's photography department

The Block Museum’s eleven piece collection on The Story of More can be viewed here.

Dittmar Dinner: Leaving and Losing New Orleans

Albert Wang, One Book Fellow

Thursday, October 7, 2021

On Thursday, October 7, Northwestern History professor Leslie Harris gave a dinner talk to an audience of over twenty attendees, ranging from first-year undergraduates to faculty to members of the greater Evanston community. Discussing the intersection of social, cultural, and environmental issues within the history and current state of her hometown of New Orleans, Professor Harris began with an introduction to the city and its evolution over time to become the New Orleans we see today. She then went on to detail the ways that Hurricane Katrina had affected the city’s economy, culture, and status within the United States, and the potential future effects of climate change on its land and infrastructure. 

Attendees were invited to discuss the effects of climate change on their own hometowns alongside larger trends in climate change. All who were present brought up the noticeable changes that had occurred, whether they be increased fires along the West Coast or loss of land to rising sea levels along the East Coast. Concerns were voiced over the lack of action being taken, but hope was also expressed for the future. Professor Harris is currently writing a book that will detail her experiences with New Orleans and climate change in greater depth.

50% in 5 Years: Bold Climate Change Actions for Northwestern

Albert Wang, One Book Fellow

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

On September 29th, 22 students from the Southwest residential area joined Professor Patricia Beddows, director of the Environmental Sciences program, at Willard Hall for dinner and a talk regarding Northwestern’s own carbon footprint and how we as a community can achieve an emissions reduction of 50% within the next 5 years. Ben Gorvine, psychology professor of instruction and Southwest Area Faculty-in-Residence, hosted this event. Beddows stressed the importance of the fact that there is no single solution to climate change; instead, true sustainability calls for the creation of multiple “wedges", each wedge an activity that will gradually increase the university’s emission reductions and combine to halve our carbon footprint. Students discussed potential wedges, such as banning single-use plastics, improved transportation planning, and replacing the compact fluorescent lights that the university currently uses with LED bulbs, which are slightly more expensive but have a longer lifespan alongside reducing energy use by a great amount. 

In the talk, students were shown that climate change is not strictly a personal responsibility, a narrative that originated with fossil fuel companies seeking to absolve themselves of responsibility for their destructive actions. In fact, over 65% of produced energy is wasted, often lost as heat, which normal citizens have no control over. Even if we were all to bring our residential footprints to zero, it would still not be enough to bring us to 50% due to the high footprints of industrial use and transportation alongside the lack of energy efficiency. 

Professor Beddows unveiled a plan to form workshops to develop climate action wedges every two to three weeks, comprising students, faculty and staff. The end goal is to have a portfolio of wedges, fully outlined with costs and returns, that will cut the university’s emissions by 50% in 5 years. This portfolio will be finished by Earth Day 2022. 

Beddows’ talk adds a layer of complexity to the introductory lesson told by Hope Jahren in The Story of More. Not only do we need to reduce our personal consumption, but more importantly we need to pursue collective action goals that will bring about the systemic change that is necessary for a emission reduction of 50%. These can include voting for political candidates with campaigns focused on climate legislation, as well as taking part in lobbying and outreach efforts to expand the public’s sense of urgency on the issue. 

At the end of the talk, despite the sense of urgency that had shadowed much of the discussion surrounding the necessity of many solutions and the current lack of political will to implement them, many students expressed hope for our future ability to achieve the necessary systemic improvements that will allow both the university and world to become truly sustainable.