Chesapeake Bay Forum 2020

The Chesapeake Bay Forum, an annual event attended by individuals with a like-interest in protecting and improving the health of our watershed, took a unique spin this year to cater to pandemic safety precautions, and was entirely virtual. Instead of travelling to West Virginia to the beautiful National Conservation Training Center, attendees participated from the comfort of their own homes to experience some of the vast variety of sessions made available.

Phoebe: Although I was initially disappointed that being virtual may lessen the opportunities for participation and engagement, this did not at all present itself as a problem in the five sessions I had the opportunity to attend. Even more surprisingly, two of these events catered to communicating science and promoting activism through art, a topic that I could not be more excited to see being taught at an event with as far of reach as the Bay forum. Science, although essential, is often only as good as the audience it is able to reach, especially when activism is the desired result. For those who shy away from data, using art, music, or other more interactive methods are an important tool to increase engagement. Art, Awareness, Activism: Engaging with Climate Change” featuring Linda Cheung (from Before It’s Too Late) and Hosey Corona (independent artist) focussed on the unique work of both artists. Linda Cheung using murals and virtual reality technology, allows viewers to hold their phone up to the murals to become immersed in an informative experience. Two such examples include seeing what the future may look like in Miami after sea level rise, or learning about animals at risk due to climate change. Hosey Corona spoke about activism through performative art where performers wear elaborate costumes that tell a story, each wearing a mask to hide their identity and to allow the viewer to place themselves in the situation presented. The contrast between both of their work shows the diverse media that may be used to communicate science.

Shante: I was able to attend this session too. Another aspect of Linda’s and Hosey’s presentations that has stuck with me is the climate change and social justice issues they are bringing attention to through their work. These artists are based in Miami and they shared about the current climate change issues marginalized groups are facing there right now. Linda told us about the displacement of lower income residents occuring, because beachfront properties are at a higher risk of being flooded, and wealthier residents are seeking property that is further away from the ocean and above sea-level i.e. lower income neighborhoods. I also want to bring up the thought provoking points Hosey posed as well. His performers wear climate ponchos and this piece focused on climate immigration and its ongoing effects. He said that we all will be affected by climate change, but we will be affected at varying degrees. In relation to this he questioned what the future will look like for us. Will there be biodomes only those who can afford it can live in? Who will be maintaining the biodome? People who know agriculture and have plant knowledge. Will they be able to live in the biodome? How these artists tied their art to such important issues is so inspiring and it was great to have seen their session.

Phoebe: “The Art of Social Resiliency Engagement” presented by Michael Steen was the second of the two sessions that focussed on alternative engagement methods. Different smaller groups were tasked with rewording a song, writing a poem, or creating a drawing to express a climate change concern that may affect the Bay.  As an artist, and an environmental science major, these sessions were particularly impactful and I am so glad to have the opportunity through ALLARM to attend the Bay Forum once again.

Shante: As a senior graduating next semester, this was my last time to attend the Chesapeake Bay forum as a Watershed Coordinator at ALLARM. I was able to attend two sessions this year, “Art Awareness, Activism: Engaging with Climate Change” and “Herding Cats and Bringing Rockstars Together: Creating Effective Collaboration.”, they taught me a lot about how to address environmental issues in a variety of ways and the importance of working with local communities in this work.