At the confluence of climate change, cultural diversity and art in the era of COVID-19 is a valleywide mural installation presented by the Community Office for Resource Efficiency.
As part of CORE’s third annual “Imagine Climate” initiative, which aims to use art as a tool for social change, the energy nonprofit on Wednesday launched the first phase of the project in the form of a solicitation for selfies.
Yes, you read that right: CORE wants you and your neighbor to send them a selfie and brief story related to climate change to anchor its “Stories of Climate Change/Historias del Cambio Climático” project. The first 200 submissions will appear on one of three murals that will be installed on three separate Colorado Mountain College buildings from Aspen to Glenwood Springs. (Visit aspencore.org/participate for submission specifics).
Adding another layer to the initiative, “Stories of Climate Change” specifically aims to involve minorities and members of the Latino community. For one reason, simply because “climate change knows no boundaries,” Imagine Climate project director Lara Whitley said Wednesday. “It’s going to take all of us pulling in the same direction to restore the climate. We can’t do that by leaving 30% of our valley out of the conversation — especially a population that cares about and is motivated to address climate change.”
Whitley pointed to research that illuminates the Latino community’s increasing demographic not only locally but also nationally.
According to a 2019 study by the Pew Research Center, Latinos are the second largest and the second fastest growing racial or ethnic group in the U.S. In the Roaring Fork Valley, the Latino community represents more than 10% of Pitkin County and over 30% of Carbondale and Glenwood Springs, according to research from the local advocacy group, Voces Unidas de las Montañas.
The demographic locally is also growing, as evidenced by the Roaring Fork School District, which currently boasts a Latino student population of 58%.
A 2017 Yale University report called “Climate Change and the Latino Mind,” reported: “Latinos are much more engaged with the issue of global warming than are non-Latinos. Latinos are more convinced global warming is happening and human-caused, more worried about it, perceive greater risks, are more supportive of climate change policies and are more willing to get involved politically.”
In an effort to walk the talk, Whitley said, CORE comprised a multicultural advisory board consisting of two-dozen local residents. One of those board members is Glenwood Springs activist and conservationist Beatriz Soto, whose work goes hand in hand with “Stories of Climate Change/Historias del Cambio Climático.”
Soto’s race for a seat on the Garfield Board of County Commissioners in November saw a historic number of Latinos casting their ballots locally. And as director of Wilderness Workshop’s Defiende Nuestra Tierra program, Soto endeavors to embolden Latinos to recreate on and help protect public lands.
“It’s a fact that public lands are majority used by our white counterparts,” Soto said Wednesday.
“The environmental movement as a whole has been extremely white, and not a lot of people have been included in those movements necessarily,” she said. “But now with climate change being such a pressing issue for our generation, communities of color are very much acknowledging that the consequences of climate change … I think this is where the environmental movement now really wants to be spearheaded by [minorities].”
Soto also credited CORE for seeking alternative and creative ways for the community to talk about and engage with climate change.
“Sometimes it’s a very dry science and not everybody can relate to it, so I very much appreciate that they’re looking for different ways to talk about climate, to care about climate, to participate,” she said. “That’s why I’m really excited about this project.”
CORE decided on the buildings as canvases because the organization works in the built environment, from which 63% of carbon emissions in Pitkin County stem. Further, buildings as a means of artistic expression seemed like the safest option in the era of COVID-19, Whitley said.
She hopes the project demonstrates some stopping power by literally putting a face on the issue.
“We want to show the human diversity of this phenomenon, representing a breadth we don’t usually see in the media or in the environmental movement,” said CORE executive director Mona Newton. “We hope our portraits and personal stories will demonstrate that we are all in this together.”