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~ All Riders (Short Film and Interview)

In January of 2019, Malaysia Goodson struggled to carry her baby in a stroller down the steps of a subway station in Manhattan. She fell that day and she died, though she is survived by her daughter. Goodson was just 22 at the time. Victor Dias Rodrigues, a documentary filmmaker and college student at the time of her death, was deeply affected by Goodson’s story. “It was a bit of a shock. I was 21, she was my age, and she died this way,” he says. A lifelong lover and critic of the MTA system, Dias Rodrigues set out to understand the decades-long struggle to make the subway system in New York more accessible. 

Before making All Riders, Dias Rodrigues spent months shadowing accessibility activists, speaking with government officials and piecing together the frustrating pattern of neglect in New York City subways. Beyond an x-minute film about the struggle for accessible subways, All Riders is also a movie about the fragility we are all vulnerable to. All Riders is a Vimeo Staff Pick and a recipient of the Carl Lerner Award for Social Significance.

All Riders director Victor Dias Rodrigues and STP Blog’s Shanti Escalante-de Mattei chat over the phone to discuss tenacity, disability rights, and his process as a politically engaged filmmaker.

Shanti Escalante-de Mattei : What was the research process like?

Victor Dias Rodrigues: I started researching heavily, reading all sorts of academic resources to get a lay of the land. I found activist groups and started to go to meetings and rallies, started meeting those people and building those relationships. The summer [after] I furthered these relationships, going to court, getting involved. By the time the next semester came in, I was in a production class for documentary and I had all this research prepared. That’s when I shot the film, which was fall of 2019.

SED: How did this research process affect you?

VDR: As an able-bodied person, there was definitely a switch that I had to turn on to understand this issue that I don’t personally experience. There’s one person I interviewed who said, ‘If I’m going down the street and there’s like a three inch bump, that’s like Mount Everest for me.’ That really blew my mind. It’s these little things: inaccessible bathrooms, if doors are too heavy, curb cuts. Simple things that make the world of difference for a person who’s wheelchair bound or a person who has a disability. That really changed my whole perspective of what it means to design an accessible space. 

SED: Watching you make this film over the past year also did that for me, getting on the train and realizing ‘damn, there’s like two stops that are accessible on this whole line. How did I not notice that before?’

VDR:  Yeah, and fundamentally accessibility is about universality. If you make a space accessible you’re not only benefiting those that need it [all the time].

SED: Something that I came across recently that really struck me was this girl  saying, “I just wish everybody would understand themselves as only temporarily able-bodied”. Everyone gets old, you can have an accident and your mobility changes, maybe not forever but for sometime. This isn’t a niche issue.

VDR: One of the main characters in my film, Sasha, was just walking down Central Park and a tree trunk fell on his head and now he’s paralyzed from the waist down. Another guy, Robert, in his 20s learned that he had this degenerative neurological disease passed on from his father. Life is fragile. People have this preconceived idea that people with disabilities have something wrong with them and that the default is that you’re able bodied–but that’s not the case. Now we’re shifting our mindset–[if you’re disabled] you’re just an individual and your personhood is shaped by your ability to move within spaces that are inaccessible through no fault of your own. 

This whole film started with Malaysia. She was able bodied but, you know, she had a carriage to carry.  It goes beyond the body, it’s just the circumstances that you’re in at any given moment.

SED: What was it like hanging out with these activists?

VDR: I learned that the activist community is a tight knit group, everyone knows everyone. Even folks later down the line I would want to interview in [local] government or at the MTA, they all know each other. What really struck me was their tenacity, the unrelenting activism, rain or shine, day or night. These people have to deal with a world that is still operating with urban design trends of hundreds of years ago. Some of them are in their 80s or 70s, [and] their spark was just truly eye opening. It’s all about tenacity when dealing with the same court cases for years and years. I now see my craft as a documentary filmmaker as my own personal activism. Some people may get into writing legislation, researching at a think tank, or demonstrating. This is my way.

SED: Do you have advice for people interested in doing politically engaged documentaries? 

VDR: It’s a very slow business. You’ve got to be patient and build relationships. Put yourself out there and do the work. Hold yourself accountable for understanding these issues you don’t quite grasp and people will see that you’re willing to learn and have a genuine interest in helping. The reason I was able to get so much access was through months and months of gaining people’s trust, showing that I knew what I was talking about. 

I don’t want to sound like an old person, ‘People don’t look up [from] their phones’ etc, but, there’s a lot of things that you can glean from paying attention to “ordinary” people and their day to day lives. There’s so much under the hood- it just takes a little peek.

~ Spiderpig! or, The Toxic Pigs of Fukushima

The boars, bovines, and remaining humans that make their lives in the exclusion zone of Fukushima are the subjects of Otto Bell’s new documentary, The Toxic Pigs of Fukushima,which premiered on Vice a couple weeks ago. Based on the film’s reception, it  seems to be a contender for an Oscar nom. For the most part, Bell focuses on Goru Kusano, a hunter in charge of culling the radiated boars who live in the exclusion zone. That’s right– radiation pigs, a typical 2020-21 cryptid. 

Radiation pigs make me think of the spiderpig song from the Simpsons and murder wasps. Radiation pigs make me think of the wolves who live at the Chernobyl site, at once protected from human harm and forever changed by it. More than anything though, these pigs reminded me of the “nature is healing” adage from early pandemic times, as we saw animals clip-clop on abandoned streets and swim in industrial waterways. 

I really wanted to believe the many takes I read following the #natureishealing shebang–that it isn’t humans who are the problem, it’s capitalism. I was hoping that Toxic Pigs might complicate these easy dichotomies – humans are bad, nature is good, humans are good, capitalism is bad – that feels too simplistic to represent reality. In the end, the story of radiated pigs and the people who live, hunt, and process them was as surreal and thought provoking as I thought it’d be. Unfortunately, though, Toxic Pigs doesn’t always focus on toxic pigs! A fatal flaw in any film.

Bell falls into the hubris trap of trying to represent post-Fukushima life writ-large and ends up going on generalizing tangents. He covers thyroid cancer, a woman who populates her abandoned town with dolls (a story that is too big for the confines of this short doc), a man whose daughter’s remains are missing–because of the natural disasters, the plant meltdown, the boars…? His artistic silences rarely speak for themselves. Bell has made his career making branded content in documentary form and very traditional “this is _____ exotic country” type work, so I guess this shouldn’t surprise me. Hopefully, the radiated pigs of Fukushima find more a more attentive production to champion them in the future.

~ Art in an Emergency: Guidelines for How Art Can Address Climate Change

Cover art for Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency by Olivia Laing

When Olivia Laing first came out with Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency, I was ignorant to her tastes and the scope of her career. All I knew was that she set out to answer a question at the root of my thinking, what can art do? Due to her past as an environmental activist (and some misleading promotional blurbs), I had assumed that the question, what can art do, would extend forward into specificity- what can art do in a climate emergency? Laing didn’t do much for me, seemingly stuck in that iconic, overworked era à la Warhol, Basquiat and Haring. Funny Weather spoke of AIDs a lot, though, which I’ll return to. 

For the artists out there who want to save the world, here is my primer on the potential of your impact and some notes of the kinds of work I think we need. You can scroll down to the first bolded point for the specific guide, but the following introduction is an explanation on why climate change is so difficult to address in the first place.

There is a difference between what is known in the mind and what is taken into the psyche and heart. Feelings are king, that’s who we serve. Though facts, information, and data represent reality, on their own they are not enough to make certain phenomena feel real. If we were different creatures, we would read the statistics on whatever matter, take them in and respond accordingly, but as Candis Callison points out in her book How Climate Change Comes to Matter: The Communal Life of Facts, climate change cannot “become real” to the individual without cultural mediation. For very few people, Al Gore running through a PowerPoint is enough to make climate change feel real. For most other people, it is not. Believing in climate change, thinking about it, feeling anxious about it, responding to it, and changing because of it- that takes work.

The difficulty of our environmental issues is that the reality of degradation is hardly felt. We encounter this reality through knowledge more than experience. How is it that every object I interact with is a poisonous one, gauged from a denuded and fracked earth and refined by various kinds of unjust labor? I’ve read about it. It makes sense that it is true. But it’s impossible to experience a global supply chain; commodities ricocheting like pinballs across borders. These things arrive to us innocent. We must think hard at the object in our hands to even glimmer the truth of it.

 As an anthropologist, Callison understood that the “making real” of climate change is a culturally specific process. For the religious, a trusted messenger within the faith is necessary. For journalists, the scientist’s work complemented by confirming reporting experiences could be enough. For the indigenous people who Callison worked with in the Arctic, the messenger was undeniable. The cracking ice that had led to accidents while hunting was made all the more legible by a culture ready to listen to water. These examples are predicated on those who are paying attention or ready to “believe” in climate change. Attention is a labor not many of us have the luxury to take on. As Shklovsly notes in his essay “Art as Device,” “Held accountable for nothing, life fades into nothingness. Automatization eats away at things, at clothes, at furniture, at our wives and at our fear of war.” We let the evils of the world become familiar when they should be unfamiliar, wrong, unnatural, terrifying, dissociative, disgusting. Shklovsky’s opinion is that art is the device by which we laboriously resuscitate a world that has become overly familiar.

 Callison’s work addressed that frustrating first step. The breaking of the news. This is what has been happening and this is what will happen. What kind of cultural work do we need to go beyond understanding, or acceptance? What kind of cultural work do we need to create a community ready to respond? 

 Ultimately, “climate change” is not a story we can really tell, as Kate Knibbs notes in her review of fiction, which tries to take on how the internet has changed our lives, “The internet is a place, not a plot.” (Though, I encourage you to experiment and try to make place into plot). The thing we can focus on, though, is how to be and how not to be. In a society fit to respond to the challenge of climate change, what do our villains and heroes look like? How can we prime the coming generations, and this one, for resistance, community strength, and agility? What kind of people survive without making the wrong kinds of sacrifices? What are the right kinds of sacrifices? I admit to being stupidly earnest. I don’t have many tactics for the truly cynical. Maybe one could channel their certainty into self-sacrifice. 

 I love you microbe. How fascinating, you are. 

 To again reference the likes of Bennet or Shklovsky, attention is animating. So, pay attention. Integrate an attention of the world into your art practice, and then give at least one person a new set of eyes. What is in your trash can, on the edge of entering the oxygen-less territory that will convert it from potential nutrient to sure methane? A component of leachate, that dangerous milk of inverted rot. What hormones live in the water? I would look at the work often shown at Art Laboratory Berlin for inspiration. It seems to be good fodder for the conceptual artist, especially.

Let’s be careful how our needs shape us.

 My favorite line from Parable of the Sower, Octavia Butler’s now appreciated cli-fi masterpiece, is “We must be very careful how our needs shape us now.” Butler is the rare individual to have converted the hyperobject of climate change into a story of a world that is difficult to live in. Violence and suffering strikes a people without the foundation for dealing with extreme resource stress on top of their usual social, economic, and political ills. How do we prepare people to draw together on impact instead of splitting apart? Butler helped show me how. One book series is not enough. There must be permeation of the lesson, a lesson which is necessarily in tandem with the education on ‘how to live lightly on the earth.’ How to become a resilient, agile, wise and kind people. Self-sufficiency and strength that is not isolationist or aggressive.  It is through this strength that we might be able to create communities that don’t fear desperate strangers, but are capable enough to take them in.

 It’s like when they made the cops into pigs.

 Who are these villains? It is too easy to see businessmen as innocent. Imagining someone at a desk, making calls, delegating decisions down a pipeline of bureaucracies, doesn’t feel as dangerous as someone wielding a gun, even if we know that business has risked an innumerable amount of lives by betting on oil, logging, mining, etc. We must become creative in depicting him as the corpsefucker he is. 

 People often make the point that there is no point in naming and shaming someone out of their position. No matter who is fired or otherwise deposed of, someone will take the last villain’s place. We need to make it our job to make it unlivable to take such jobs. The position must become unattractive, even with the carrot of enormous profit. To do this, we must know their faces and their names. The greatest benefit of the elite is that no one knows their names. As Parish and Hansen point out in their essay about defining the category of ‘elite’, “Through the manipulation of cultural codes, the elite can all but vanish behind the screen of institutions and images that provide privacy and security and conceals the extent of their power, influence, and holdings.” 

 Do you know the 20 most carbon polluting firms in the world? Saudi Aramco, Chevron, Gazprom, Exxonmobil, National Iranian Oil, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Pemex, Petróleos de Venezuela, PetroChina, Peabody Energy, ConocoPhillips, Abu Dhabi National Oil Co., Kuwait Petroleum Co, Iraq National Oil Co., Total SA, Sonatrach, BHP Biliton, and Petrobras. These firms are responsible for one third of the world’s carbon. 

 Do you know the names of the people behind them? Me neither. Here is an organization that will help you find them: Lil Sis

 AIDs blanket.

The AIDs epidemic sparked an incredible fount of moving and effective protest art. It feels, at least from my view on history, to be the model of what art can do in an emergency. Olivia Laing focused on this work for good reason. Of course, she focused on particular celebrities within that effort even though the majority were made by ‘regular people,’ people like Duane Kearns, who was 22 when he was diagnosed with AIDs. Perhaps the reason he is smiling but squinting in that picture of him holding his AIDs blanket, is because of the sun. Alternatively, it’s also easy to see the saddest face in the world, arms spread, offering witness to his death sentence. This work, like all other protest art made during this period, wasn’t offered as a tribute to acceptance, but made in order to change shit. I don’t want to get into the gesture of weighing whether the work ‘worked,’ but imagine, for a moment, what the government’s response to AIDs would’ve been without the enourmous push to humanize the ‘gay cancer’. Imagine the anonymity of the historical record without it. 

 We can’t compare AIDs and climate change. However, let’s think about what makes AIDs protest art such an immediate portal for grief and rage.

 Emmanuel Levinas, a philosopher and survivor of the Holocaust, has posited a somewhat simple ethical arguement. Each of us have a face which serves as a confirmation of our individual uniqueness on this Earth. When someone calls out to you for help and you see their face, you are bound to help. It is love we have to offer.  “Love without concupiscence, in which man’s right assumes meaning; the right of the beloved, that is, the dignity of the unique.” 

 AIDs art revealed the pivotal truth: a lot of people died very quickly, in large part because of government neglect. That neglect was only possible because the sufferers largely came from an ‘undesirable’ community. The art served as a face for what would have otherwise been the faceless plight of the crowd. Look at Duane. Let’s refer to another iconic piece, ‘For the Record’ by the lesbian art collective fierce pussy. The collective, though founded in the early 1990s, came out with this piece in 2013. It is a lively grief for those who dwell in the lover’s eye, a grief that comes from losing anybody and knowing anybody could have been the beloved.

Due to the fact that AIDs is held in the body, everything was doubled: here is the unique face, here is the death. Save the face, spare it from the death. 

 Knowledge of climate change came into this world from the top down. It was caught on to by scientists in the late 80’s who exposed the idea to the government and the parasitic corporations that stay close to it. From there, the science was debated and oil companies got a head start on influencing public opinion. Putting aside the expected bullshit of oil companies, there was another result. The language and visual life of climate change was dictated by scientific mode and bureaucratic standards, rendering it merely data for most people. Without any personal experience of harm or difference to confirm the concept as real, it remained unreal. It stayed nebulous, attacking everyone yet no one at all. 

 Climate change must be shown to be as personally impacting as it truly is. We must find what we are losing and what is at risk. I already fear for the climate refugee who will be forced to cross an already killer desert. Avoiding, with any luck, border guards of the nation who displaced them in the first place. We should all cry our specific cries. I read about climate change, and it is just a tidal wave. Let it be a face I want to protect. 

 Ghibli but not cottagecore. 

 I credit Miyazaki’s movies for the values I have today, even if I don’t always act on those values. The tales these movies tell reframe the quest narrative. These are typically individualist, ‘heroic’ in the sense of cutting through obstacles, craving escape from the bonds and burdens of community. In the following links, you can find an expression of this idea by thinkers much better than I, with detail to back up the claim: Rebecca SolnitUrsula Le Guin, and Anna Tsing. They all draw from Virginia Woolf’s definition of heroism as botulism, a fatal illness caused by some neurotoxic bacteria which cannot be tasted, smelled or seen. 

The typical hero drives the narrative to take this particular shape –as described by Le Guin in the afore linked piece The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction– “first, that the proper shape of the narrative is that of the arrow or spear, starting hereand going straight there and THOK! hitting its mark (which drops dead); second, that the central concern of narrative, including the novel, is conflict; and third, that the story isn’t any good if he isn’t in it.” This conflict, though feigning a concern for the “light” that exists in the dark villain, doesn’t go beyond a binary consideration of who is on the inside and the outside of the group, who are the good people who should live. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Miyazaki film concluded on the celebratory climax of the killed villain.

 Instead, the Ghibli films led by Miyazaki prioritize a love of home and the people who live within it. The joy found in the Ghibli film is often a domestic one. The careful spinning of daily life that is not bound to the home. Adventure is not predicated on the abandonment of community, but precisely in the quest to keep it together and expand the net of care. 

 The girls at the head of most of these films are not the typical hero. They are not endowed with exceptional strength, magic, or intelligence (the heroes we worship IRL are these wunderkinds, and we wish to be them, and how do so many of them end up? Trust fund managers??). Sophie from Howl’s Moving Castle is an old woman. Mei of My Neighbor Totoro, and Sosuke of Ponyo, are just five year olds. Chirhiro of Spirited Away, is also a young, plain girl. Even Kiki of Kiki’s Delivery Service, the witch of the group, can only do the bare minimum–fly. They are surrounded by the powerful, interesting, storybook characters, and yet Miyazaki tells us that isn’t where the value lies by not utilizing them as protagonists. Instead, he says watch this child who is uniquely loving- lovingness which hasn’t been fossilized by fear of weakness. 

 This touches everything. When heroism is grounded in care of community, meaning EVERYONE and EVERYTHING, where does the urge to dominate find ground?

There is no place in that behavioral system for the kind of greed, power building, and sightless ambition that validates those who choose profit over people and Earth. 

And I say not cottagecore because: How often are those pictures of cozy cabins, fields of flowers and cows populated by people? People, children and elderly working, playing, dying, cooking, doomscrolling–and asking you for things all the time. Needing you to be present and do things you don’t want to do. It’s like that feeling when you’re with your fucking family. Cottagecore is let me be away from people, let me be alone on domesticated land. So, no, not cottagecore. 

Jenny Holzer 2018
Jenny Holzer 2018

Let’s make this a living document. Should you have any suggestions for this list, please email me at shanti.esc@gmail.com. Depending on the results of my gatekeeping, it shall be added here with credit.

~ Saving the World: A Conversation with Alisa Petrosova

Saving the World : A Conversation with Alisa Petrosova

Alisa Petrosova couldn’t get out of bed. She had weathered one too many hits, between Bret Kavanaugh’s nomination and her increasing awareness of climate change’s ceaseless march. A senior at Cooper Union, Petrosova shifted her focus from art to infecting art institutions with a commitment to the most urgent crisis at hand, the climate emergency. Founder of the Cooper Climate Coalition amongst other high profile projects, Petrosova is well on her way to becoming a key change maker in the New York art scene.

Shanti Escalante is a model, entrepreneur, PhD, Hobby Lobby senior executive, and contributing editor for STP focused on culture and climate change. She was raised by a 90 year old lithium heiress in the Hamptons before being shipped off to NYC to finish school, where she has since remained. She chatted with Alisa Petrosova to discuss how Petrosova’s passion towards influencing climate change in arts communities came to be.

Shanti Escalante: Could you walk me through what you’re hoping the program “What Will You Tell Next Year?” is going to look like for the people who end up getting the fellowship?

Alisa Petrosova: We’re thinking about [hosting] intimate meetings that would happen on zoom, where people would share their projects and ideas with each other and just be able to chat. Then there’ll be four Zoom critiques that are curated based on themes. For example, if there were three projects that had to do with apocalypse we would put them together and have a mentor, an artist that is older or well-known who deals with that in their own practice, [to aid in that]. We’d also promote an open critique for people to come and see the work as it’s developing. Then there will be a final presentation in May or June. The format of what that is TBD based on COVID guidelines–whether there’ll be some kind of in-person launch or this will stay completely virtual.

SE: And the deadline?

AP: The 10th of February.

SE: Where did this project idea come from?

AP: I’m interested in taking cultural institutions, foundations, galleries, the art world, and places that just aren’t generally talking about climate as their M.O. and turning them into places for this type of discourse. If you’re thinking about starting a space that is climate oriented, then there’s only a certain group of people that you’re [speaking to] versus, if there’s something [within] the arts that can handle this topic, then there’s a broader audience, and you’re not just preaching to the choir. There are people that you’re actually serving new information to. I really wanted to use Serving the People to do that. This was actually beta-launched within the coalition that I run at Cooper [Union].  I wanted to see it reach a broader audience and have a disparate group of people apply who would be interested in doing this kind of [work] on a different scale of platform.

I realized that I wouldn’t have the luxury of just addressing art and art history and culture.

SE: I definitely empathize with the urge to bring culture and art together, especially in artistic institutions, which I think are getting involved with climate change but only at a kind buzzword level of engagement. Are there particular artists or creatives who you’ve seen working with Anthropocene issues in a way that you found to be productive or engaging?

AP: I really appreciate Sondra Perry. She deals with race and ecology and environment, blending that with images of apocalypse, collapse or natural disaster. These various contending crises are interconnected and Perry [shows]  that really well. 

Sondra Perry exhibition titled “Resident Evil”
Sondra Perry exhibition titled ”Resident Evil”

SE: When did you start getting interested in the climate crisis as something you were going to be engaging with at this level?

AP: I grew up in California, which is a generally eco minded state. You grow up learning to turn the water off when you brush your teeth. But my background was always in the arts. When I got to Cooper, (the shift started) at a class called Interdisciplinary Seminar, where every week different artists, economists, engineers, architects, and people from all various walks of life come [in and speak] with a through line about the climate crisis. Each one of them painted the picture of how the world would be completely different very soon. [Then] the IPC report came out, which was the report that said we had, you know, 12 years (before irreversible climate catastrophe).

Also, the Brett Kavanaugh trials. There was one week where I almost didn’t get out of bed. Them, It wasn’t immediately like, ah! I’m going to dedicate my life to climate! But soon after coming out of that headspace, I realized that I wouldn’t have the luxury of just addressing art and art history and culture. Even if I really wanted to ignore, it at some point I was going to have to face it, so I decided to shift everything I’m doing toward climate awareness and figure out ways in which we may begin to adapt and mitigate.

SE: There’s definitely a wall that we all hit. 

AP: Yeah. I think COVID kind of gave us a sneak preview, like a dress rehearsal for what it’s like to really quickly adapt to something.

Source: @statisticallycartoon Instagram
Source: @statisticallycartoon Instagram

SE: I definitely saw a lot of memes [comparing COVID and climate change], which were like, the wave of COVID and behind it, this ultra mega monster tsunami that was climate change. There’s always been this narrative with climate change that we can’t respond to it properly because it’s not a disaster. Then a disaster happens, and it’s like, well, it’s not like we’re amazing at dealing with that either. 

AP: I personally believe that the reason we dealt with COVID relatively quickly, in terms of how the last fastest vaccine took four years, is because we’re not saving people, we’re saving the economy. If [the economy] didn’t suffer so much because of COVID, I don’t think we would have gotten that quickly to a vaccine.  I think that’s the same thing for climate. People are suffering right now, but the economy hasn’t yet been hit significantly because of the climate crisis so…

SE: Then, seeing everything that happened at the Capitol is distressing. A lot of these people have their own get back to the wilderness, self-sufficiency fantasy.  I don’t think people understand the extent to which different visions of living closer to nature have a very, very, very wide political ideological range. But then there’s the climate skeptics.

Claims from climate deniers. Source: nrdc.org
Claims from climate deniers. Source: nrdc.org

AP: There’s a lot of undoing for us to do politically. How are [things like] air quality or water quality or species extinction politicized? It’s because of mass misinformation. The fact is, oil companies hired the same people that released the misinformation [to support] Big Tobacco. The unlearning and the undoing is a lot slower of a process than the learning and the doing unfortunately. Consequently, we’ve lost 50 years we didn’t have. So I think, in terms of politics, the uglier it gets, the more time we lose. 

SE: Then again, I remember first getting into school, thinking ‘okay, climate skepticism is something that I’m really interested in.’ In the four years since then, it feels like climate skepticism isn’t even the issue at hand, you know?

AP: There are different boats, too. There are the people that think, “Oh, the only people we need to be talking to are the climate skeptics.” And then there’s a whole other boat where it’s like, “just leave them behind. We don’t have the time to connect.”

SE: And why bother, sometimes. There’s such a weird form of discourse that takes place online, which I think was primarily affirmed during Gamergate and has continued on since then, which feels like you can have this pool of senseless and contradictory chatter and it’ll just confirm itself without any real logic or centrality. Trying to approach people that are inside of that–you’re just going to go in circles forever. 

AP: I was working on this TV show about climate change and we had a lot of experts come in and to chat with the writers’ room. We spoke to somebody that runs a specific company that tries to clear [up] misinformation. It’s just really crazy to see this graph of the day before the UN climate action summit, and there are these giant spikes [in content] to basically drown all the [relevant] hashtags so that anything that’s tagged becomes drowned in misinformation. 

SE: Circling back a bit closer to your upcoming STP program, this is a question I’ve been thinking a lot about: what can art do in an emergency, and particularly, a climate emergency? 

AP: I think building community is a way of fighting the climate crisis and being able to introduce people to it and kind of slow down, working against the speed that we’re forced to [operate at] right now; the transactional nature that we’re forced into every day. 

SE: Do you need to believe in the future to participate in trying to save it?

AP: You need to want a future to participate in, you have to believe in humanity a little bit, believe that humanity should continue. I read this book by Rebecca Solnit called Hope in the Dark. She was saying about France under the monarchy, that if they didn’t imagine life outside of monarchy, there would’ve been no revolution. In my head, that’s a driving force.

Click here to submit climate-related work to “What Will You Tell Next Year.”