Apr 29, 2013

To combat climate change, we need to cultivate a conversation on culture


If you have landed on this blog, there is a strong possibility that you are well aware of the need for culture to be considered in the conversation about climate change.  Environmental Leader recently added the voice of author and philosophy professor, Kathleen Dean Moore, to the discussion.  Moore and Sara Gutterman, author of the article, “The Cultural Imperative of Sustainability,”  and co-founder and CEO of Green Builder Media, are calling for collaborative, “moral conversation” and conscientious action, adding to the assertion that addressing environmental issues from a scientific standpoint is not enough.  If we are to imagine and build a better, cleaner, safer, more just and healthy world, we must acknowledge the interconnectedness of our environment and our existence.

Moore insists it is our responsibility to the earth and future generations.  “Our children will have to live in whatever is left of world when we get done with our extractions and degradations…If we love them, then we can’t take away what they need to thrive. We need to love them in definite and active ways. Lack of action is a betrayal of our love and an abandonment of responsibility.”

In her article, Gutterman echoes these sentiments, stating, “Science and technology alone can’t produce the economic and social evolution that is required to combat climate change. Human action is required as well, and Moore advocates that we develop a moral conversation about our cultural values that is as robust as our current scientific dialogue.”

Do you agree with Gutterman and Moore?  If so, how can we participate in and facilitate this conversation?

Apr 26, 2013

Tonya Sweet discusses “Culturally Reflective Design”


On April 17, Tonya Sweet—artist, designer, and lecturer in the Department of Design at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand—gave her talk “Culturally Reflective Design: Strategies for the Development of Culture-Specific Products.” She has generously offered to share that presentation with us here.

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Guide to images:
0) Title slide
1) Injection-molded plastic chair
2) Conceptual research: collage
3) Conceptual research: collage
4) Conceptual research: collage
5) Material research
6) Material research (digital and analog tools)
7) Material research (weaving)
8) Bench inspired by weaving and rolling of prayer rug
9) Stools inspired by ritual entailing flower petals set into a pattern on the ground
10) Table inspired by ritual of drinking coffee, instilling a sense of community
11) Table inspired by the reading of coffee grounds in an upturned cup
12) Stools inspired by a tea made of flower petals
13) Table inspired by the baking of bread
14) Chair inspired by the audible sound made by a cookie mould
15) Lamp inspired by ritual of consumerism
16) Lamp inspired by protests and global participation
17) Questions
18) Thank you

Apr 1, 2013

Join the conversation: Indigenous language revizalization and community radio


Sign up for this free webinar, hosted by Cultural Survival, and join the conversation about the role of community radio in indigenous language revitalization.

The webinar is schedule for Monday, April 8, 2013, 1:00-2:00 pm EST.  Interested participants can register here.

Panelists will include:

Kaimana Barcarse, Program Director and Lead DJ of Alana I Kai Hikina on KWXX-FM in Hawaii, Director of the Honuakai Exploration Sciences and Voyaging Division of the ‘Aha Punana Leo, and instructor at Ka Haka ‘Ula O Ke’elikolani Hawaiian Language College of the University of Hawai’i at Hilo.

Cara Dukepoo, a volunteer at Hopi station KUYI-FM in Keams Canyon, Arizona and the Producer of “Shooting Stars.”

Mark Camp, Cultural Survival’s Deputy Executive Director and director of Cultural Survival’s Community Radio Program.


To learn more about the role of community radio in Indigenous language revitalization, check out the latest issue of the Cultural Survival Quarterly.

Mar 21, 2013

Creativity for sustainability


“We should be using our most sustainable and renewable energy source – creativity – to accelerate the shift from our current unsustainable status quo to a future commensurate with the resources on our single planet.”

Alison Tickell, director of Julie’s Bicycle, a non profit organization working on sustainability within the creative industries


If you’ve ever had doubts about the potential for the arts community and the environment to benefit one another, check out Alison Tickell’s recent article in The Guardian.  Last year, the Arts Council England (ACE) became the first arts and cultural funding body in the world to require environmental reporting by organizations it funds.  Although this may mean a bit more work for the arts and cultural organizations in the short term, accountability for environmental impact is likely to lead to significant long term benefits for both planet and people.  For example, assessing energy efficiency and creating energy saving opportunities can minimize environmental impact and help save the arts organizations and funders money.  The article also highlights the undercurrent of collaboration within and amongst arts and cultural organizations, eager to share discounts and knowledge.  Here’s hoping we see more of this type of collaborative work, creativity, and environmental accountability in 2013 and beyond.

Feb 28, 2013

Call for papers: A Cultural Sustainability Symposium


In collaboration with the Vermont Folklife Center and Sterling College, Goucher College’s Masters of Arts in Cultural Sustainability program is sponsoring the upcoming symposium, “Sequestering Tradition?: A Cultural Sustainability Symposium.”  The gathering will take place August 15-18, 2013 at Sterling College, Vermont.

According to the event organizers, the goal of the symposium is to bring together scholars, students, and practitioners to:

– Examine the idea of cultural sustainability, outline key concepts and terms, and define a scope of professional practice.

– Develop models for the practical application of cultural sustainability methods and theories.

– Encourage networking among scholars and practitioners engaged with the work of cultural sustainability.

The symposium is inviting proposals for presentations and workshops that explore the role of culture in sustainability from two related perspectives:

– The introduction of the idea of culture into larger discussions of sustainability.

– The application of notions of sustainability to cultural practices and concerns.

Proposals should be submitted as a PDF or Microsoft Word attachment to the Cultural Sustainability Symposium Planning Committee at culturalsustainability@vermontfolklifecenter.org by May 3, 2013.


For more information, please visit http://www.vermontfolklifecenter.org/education/cultural-sustainability/symposium.php.


Feb 25, 2013

Call for proposals: The Association of American Cultures Open Dialogue


Our own MACS graduate, Deborah Spears Moorehead, is working with The Association of American Cultures (TAAC), the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, and the New England Foundation for the Arts to prepare for an upcoming Open Dialogue.  According to TAAC, this session of Open Dialogue will focus on “significant and pivotal people, places and policies impacting cultural democracy in America.”

Deb will be presenting on a panel with a focus on cultural policy, traditional knowledge, and partnerships.  The conference organizers are still accepting proposals that “focus on innovative strategies, tested tools, and best practices that relate to the frames of the Open Dialogue and TAAC’s foundational pillars of equity in policy making, funding, leadership and networks that impact cultural policy.”


Open Dialogue 13: People, Places, and Policy

August 2-4, 2013

Providence Biltmore Hotel

11 Dorrance Street · Providence, RI 02903 · 401-421-0700

For more information on this Open Dialogue and how to submit a proposal, please visit TAAC’s website.

Jan 31, 2013

An evolving understanding of sustainability


I have been involved in a number of discussions regarding the debatable association of a term such as “sustainable” to something that may in many ways be fluid, such as culture.  By the very nature of the study and work we are engaged in through the MACS program and our own endeavors, we must be open to considering what sustainability means in a variety of circumstances and to different communities.  One of the areas in which I have been challenged to think of new ways to understand sustainability has been in the (re)use of trash, and in particular, plastics.  Of course, I am very familiar with recycling and reuse.  But I have a longstanding hatred of plastic – or perhaps more accurately, the overproduction and careless disposal of it – having regularly seen it swim by me in the sea and swirl around in the streets of nearly every place I’ve lived or visited.

Recently, I have been inspired to think about plastic in new ways.  I am not happy to have so much of it around, nor do I think we need to continue to produce and use it in such mass amounts.  But I am increasingly interested in innovative ways of answering the question: What do we do with the plastic that is already here?  I have seen some creative ways people are putting plastic to use, and wanted to share a couple with you:

Landfill Harmonic: The people of Cateura, a town built on a landfill in Paraguay, are making musical instruments out of materials found in the trash.  Not only are they finding ways to reuse discarded materials, they are breathing new life into their community through music.

Garbage Homes: In Bolivia, where almost half of the population lives below the poverty line, one woman is using two of the only abundant and readily available resources – dirt and plastic bottles – to tackle one of her city’s biggest challenges: housing.  Ingrid Diez is building houses from recycled materials for people in need.

For some time (and with good reason), I have seen plastic as an enemy of the environment, and thus, of sustainability.  But discovering new ways to reuse the plastic that is already around to build homes, make music, and lift spirits certainly has me considering yet another piece of the sustainability puzzle.

Have a great story about how you or someone you know creatively reuses plastics or recycles other materials?  Please share your strategies and stories in the comments section below or on our Facebook page.

Jan 27, 2013

The Nile Project: music, celebration, education, and collaboration for preservation


The Nile Project is taking a collaborative, holistic approach in addressing the cultural and environmental challenges of the region.  The project team and their partners recently brought musicians from the Nile basin together to celebrate the river and its natural and cultural resources.  Two performances this month – the first for the project – provided an opportunity for cultural exchange, informal education, and discussions about sustainability.

To learn more about the Nile Project, upcoming events and programs, and how you can help them to continue their work, please visit http://www.nileproject.org/

Dec 31, 2012

Putin signs new law that could accelerate loss of indigneous languages in Russia


At the end of a year in which the alarming loss of languages around the world has been gaining more attention and groups and projects like The Endangered Language Alliance, Our Mother Tongues, Living Tongues and National Geographic’s Enduring Voices, the film We Still Live Here, and the Smithsonian’s Recovering Voices initiative have been working to combat this global issue, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin signed a law that may put Russia’s indigenous language in greater danger of extinction.  While the law does not directly ban education in indigenous languages, it also does not grant them the same protection that it gives the Russian language.  The law guarantees education in Russian, stating that classes in non-Russian languages cannot be carried out if it is found that this is “to the detriment” of teaching Russian. This law will take effect in September, 2013, in time for the new school year.

Languages are more than words; they contain the unique knowledge and cultural heritage of a people.   Thus, the protection and perpetuation of languages is crucial to the survival and transmission of culture and knowledge.  This new law appears to be a step backward at a time when it is critical to move forward in supporting – not discouraging – the teaching of indigenous languages.


Dec 13, 2012

“What Tribe Are You?”: Culture and Marketing


As many of you know, I am very interested in – and sometimes frustrated and frightened by – the intersection of culture, tourism, and sustainability.  This morning, I was tempted by a subject line in my inbox that invited me to enter to win a trip to Papua New Guinea… and then a bit shocked to open the email and find in bold letters “WHAT TRIBE ARE YOU?”  I went to the website to see more and to find out who was behind this type of marketing.

The contest, hosted by Papua New Guinea Tourism Promotions Authority, encourages entrants to “discover your tribe” by answering questions regarding your preferences of things like “Would you rather make art or be art?” and “Would you prefer a facial tattoo or a facial piercing?”  While the site does seem to attempt to share some cultural information about the different tribes in Papua New Guinea, I couldn’t help but wonder if there was a better way.  I also had to wonder:

  • Were any true tribal people of Papua New Guinea consulted or involved in creating this marketing initiative and contest?
  • Who are the beneficiaries of it?  Will tribes benefit from this marketing?

I would love to hear your thoughts on the “What Tribe Are You?” contest and your ideas for alternative approaches.  Please share them below in the comments.  If you are unable to post in the comments section, you can email your thoughts to me at asfit001@mail.goucher.edu, and I will post them for you.  Perhaps we can compile our questions, comments, and suggestions to pass along to the Papua New Guinea Tourism Promotions Authority.  


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