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Vanishing Ice Speaker Series

Conversations on climate change

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The new “Vanishing Ice” exhibit at the Whatcom Museum in Bellingham is remarkable not just for the highly engaging, internationally sourced collection of art hanging on the walls of the Lightcatcher, but also for the ways in which it braids together art, science, natural history and cultural perspectives.

It’s an impressive feat, synthesizing 200 years of observations and interpretations of alpine and polar landscapes into a cohesive and thought-provoking presentation. And just as impressive is the museum’s community networking around “Vanishing Ice,” helping to facilitate more than 80 different events and activities with 24 different partner organizations over the next four months.

A small sampling of ways in which this exhibit is extending into our community includes screenings of Chasing Ice, The Summit, and Antarctica: A Year on Ice at the Pickford Film Center, a poetry writing workshop with local bard Jim Bertolino, “climate change action discussions” with RE Sources, and the selection of Nancy Lords’ Early Warming: Crisis and Response in the Climate-Changed North as the WWU Reads book of the year.

Another way the topic of icy landscapes and the changes they are undergoing on our watch will be explored is via the “Vanishing Ice” Speaker Series. Hosted by North Cascades Institute and the Whatcom Museum, with support from Humanities Washington, these four free presentations at Old City Hall are designed to explore the places where disciplines overlap and inform each other.

The series kicks off Sat., Nov. 9 with Kathleen Dean Moore, a celebrated essayist and teacher who bridges environmental ethics, moral reasoning and a passionate sense of citizen activism. Moore’s academic background (she was, until recently, a Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Oregon State University) lends an intellectual rigor to her work as a nature writer. In her essay collections Riverwalking, Holdfast, The Pine Island Paradox, and Wild Mercy, Moore has earned acclaim for clear thinking, compassionate encouragement and a down-to-earth, humanist approach to improving our relationship to the natural world.

“Although climate change is an economic and scientific issue, it is fundamentally a moral issue, and it calls for a moral response,” she writes in Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril, her groundbreaking 2010 anthology that uncovers the many varied reasons why we have an obligation to the future to “leave a world as rich in possibilities as our own.”

“Clearly, information is not enough,” she writes. “A piece is largely missing from the public discourse about climate change: namely an affirmation of our moral responsibilities in the world that the scientists describe. No amount of factual information will tell us what we ought to do. For that, we need moral convictions.”

Later presentations in the series will bring together visual artists and scientists in an attempt to come to a more comprehensive understanding of our changing climate. Nobel Laureate geophysicist Henry Pollack, marine biologist Kristin Laidre, glaciologist Eric Steig, and artists Anna McKee and Maria Coryell-Martin will present their work in conversations at Old City Hall.

These multi-disciplinary collaborations hold the promise of broadening our perspectives on the past, present and future of alpine and polar regions here on Planet Earth. Perhaps they will even stimulate new ideas for ways out of our self-inflicted predicament.

Read more about “Vanishing Ice” in the Visual Arts section on p.18

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