The New Westminster Public Library is celebrating Climate Action Week with a series of “provocative” community programs.
From Nov. 4 to 11, the library will highlight the importance of climate action with a number of programs, displays and activities that are open to all New West residents. The week’s theme is Art in Climate Action.
“The climate crisis requires major shifts in how we approach everything in our societies,” said Caitlin MacRae, programming librarian at the New Westminster Public Library. “It’s hard and often uncomfortable to do this work, but it is vital and urgent. We hope that art can provide a way to raise lots of questions in a short amount of time, to spur people to action, and to get people talking.”
The BC Library Association initiated the first annual Climate Action Week in 2022 as a way for libraries to highlight the need for action around climate change in communities throughout the province, said a press release from the New Westminster Public Library.
“B.C.’s libraries are not only places to learn about climate change, they are also community gathering points, places for action, and even act as emergency centres in times of climate‐related crises such as heat domes, wildfires and floods,” said the press release. “In support of the City of New Westminster’s own goals around the climate emergency, the library is developing an active climate action program with year‐round activities and programming. The goal is to provide information and get more folks involved.”
MacRae said the BC Library Association organizes Climate Action Week, but the details of what each library does are left up to each individual library.
Last spring, Jennifer Nathan, a New West resident and science educator, approached MacRae about having the library host the sculpture, Chambers of Predetermined Outcomes. It was created by sculptor George Rammell, who grew up in New West and used to make window displays at the library when he was a teenager.
“After some conversations with George Rammell … I realized that the concepts of art creation, climate action, and protest were tied together in some really interesting ways,” MacRae said. “Nowadays you may hear more about climate protesters vandalizing famous works of art, but the creation of art in protest also has a long tradition. Think of the role of art in raising awareness and changing attitudes during the 1980s and early 1990s AIDS epidemic, Banksy’s many anti-war pieces, or the unforgettable music of Vietnam War protesters.”
MacRae felt the installation of Rammell’s sculpture could provide a focal point for a series of events at the library during Climate Action Week.
Art in Climate Action – taking place on Thursday, Nov. 9 – features a visit from Rammell and artist/art historian Alex Phillips. Chambers of Predetermined Outcomes (2023) is an interactive piece that can be animated.
“One event is directly about the sculpture itself and about using art to highlight a point of view about a topic of importance to the community,” MacRae said. “George will animate the sculpture and talk about making it, and artist and art historian, Alex Phillips will talk about art in climate protest a bit more broadly.”
Programs for all
The library’s Climate Action Week programming kicks off on Saturday, Nov. 4 with Creating Protest Art, which runs from 1 to 2:30 p.m. This session, which is for teens, tweens, and people of all ages, teaches folks what makes a great sign for a climate strike and gives them a chance to make their own sign.
Climate Action in the Courts is taking place on Tuesday, Nov. 7 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. It features Jennifer Nathan and David Gooderham.
“The event on Nov. 7 references the role of the courts in climate action that is depicted in the sculpture,” MacRae explained. “This session will not only talk about what happens in the courts in B.C. with regard to climate protesters, but also the positive action that is happening in courts around the world leading to more climate protection.”
As an example, she cited a case in Montana where the judge ruled that the youth plaintiffs had a right to clean and healthful environment that is guaranteed in the state constitution – and that fossil fuel industry expansion violates that right.
Gooderham is a lawyer with extensive personal experience in climate action through the courts, both as a lawyer and a protester.
Our New Fire Weather is the theme of an event on Wednesday, Nov. 8 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. This is a hybrid event, which is being livestreamed from the library, so it can be attended in person or watched from home.
John Vaillant — a Vancouver-based author of non-fiction books about environmental issues, including The Golden Spruce (2005), The Tiger (2010) and Fire Weather (2023) – will speak at this event. Vaillant will talk with Fatima Syed, climate reporter at The Narwhal, about his latest book, Fire Weather.
“In presenting these events, the library is wanting people to consider art as a tool through which to engage directly with issues that affect us,” MacRae said. “We may not all share the same point of view, given that these issues are complex and varied.”
MacRae said the library wants to promote dialogue, and an open and civil exchange of ideas by asking questions.
“The climate crisis for example, is an existential crisis – meaning it is about our existence and ability to survive and thrive on this planet. Therefore, is the status quo acceptable? Are folks justified in not taking action? What informs this?” she said. “We are using this series to draw attention to how art intersects with the social, structural and environmental forces of both the creator and the subject. We hope people will be spurred on to examine the institutions we rely on to safeguard our futures, and to question whether our values and aspirations match those that underpin those same systems and structures.”
Everyone is welcome to attend the events, which take place at the main branch of the library at 716 Sixth Ave. Register to attend one or all of the events at firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com or by calling 604‐527‐4667.
You can get details about all of the events on a special page of the library’s website www.nwpl.ca/climate.