The year 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of many things related to the environmental movement in Santa Barbara from the beginning of Earth Day, to the start of the Community Environmental Council, and the start of the UCSB Environmental Studies Program. To highlight those anniversaries, UCSB Arts & Lectures has arranged the Forces of Nature series, a lineup of varied speakers and documentary films focused on addressing issues facing the natural world today, not least of all climate change.
According to UCSB Arts & Lectures associate director Roman Baratiak, the climate issue is a thread that runs throughout the entire series, which kicked off on January 14 with a lecture from atmospheric scientist Katharine Hayhoe. Named as one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential people according to the Forces of Nature program, Ms. Hayhoe is an evangelical Christian. Mr. Baratiak remarked that her involvement with the Forces of Nature series goes against the prevailing idea that evangelicals are climate change deniers, and he summed up her talk as a call for people to take scientific findings seriously, even if they may go against one’s political beliefs.
Upcoming speakers in the series include David Wallace Wells, author of “The Uninhabitable Earth,” a book that explores how politics, technology, and business is being changed by climate change. Mr. Baratiak commented that Mr. Wells’ inclusion in the series will include an explanation about what happens if the climate crisis reaches its “worst case scenario.” Patagonia founder Yvon Couinard will speak about the protection of public lands, which the associate director said ties into the climate discussion because of how fuel extraction from these areas contributes to climate change. Native American activist Kandi White’s inclusion in the series will address the issue of environmental justice, addressing the issue of environmental degradation occurring in areas where poor people reside. When putting the series together, Mr. Baratiak thought the inclusion of a Native American perspective was crucial.
“It’s important to hear Native American voices because they are the poorest community of our country and very often fossil fuel extraction impacts these poor communities,” he said.
The next event in the series will be its first film screening at Campbell Hall on January 27. Named after a book of the same name by journalist Naomi Klein, “This Changes Everything” calls for combatting the climate crisis by changing economic systems that put carbon into the air. Ms. Klein herself will give the series’ penultimate lecture on April 29, during which she will talk about “The Case for a Green New Deal.”
The centerpiece of the Forces of Nature however is a lecture by renowned anthropologist and chimpanzee expert Dr. Jane Goodall, who Mr. Baratiak called “the inspirational voice” of Forces of Nature. Her lecture on March 31 will be preceded by a February 27 screening of “Jane,” an archival documentary detailing Dr. Goodall’s life and work. According to the associate director, Dr. Goodall’s talk won’t only address the connections between humans and chimpanzees that she discovered, but humans’ holistic connection with nature and the responsibility they have to the planet. When audiences gather to attend Dr. Goodall’s talk, he hopes they walk away taking its message to heart. That message that can be attributed to the series as a whole. As Mr. Baratiak put it: “We don’t just get to reap the abundance of the planet. We have to be good husbands of the planet.”