Field Stations Speaker Series, 2021

The role of creativity at the nexus of environmental practice

September 29, 2021

How can creative and artistic forms of representation help us understand and respond to our lands and living systems impacted by anthropogenic change? Contemporary methods for describing landscape and natural systems achieve a high level of detail and generate a large volume of data. However, the investigative tools of technology and scientific discourse are only one lens through which to interpret and understand changing landscapes. Advancing understandings of complex situations, such as climate change, or responding to the needs of affected populations and voices, requires expressive and multifaceted storytelling and engagement. This panel discusses how artists, researcher-practitioners, humanities scholars, activists, and social scientists, use a diverse range of creative tools and methods to build awareness and expand perspectives about socio-environmental complexities, protections and challenges.



Dr. Joni Adamson is President’s Professor of Environmental Humanities in the Department of English and Director of the Environmental Humanities Initiative (EHI) at the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State University. She writes on the centrality of the environmental humanities to the sustainability sciences, the design of desirable futures, climate fiction and film, Indigenous literatures and scientific literacies, the rights of nature movement, and the food justice movement. Her research has been supported by numerous awards and grants. She is the author and/or co-editor of eight books and special issues and 80 articles, chapters, reviews and blog posts which have been widely cited, reprinted, and translated into Mandarin and Spanish. She has given numerous keynote conferences worldwide and helped lay the foundations for transnational environmental American Studies and the environmental humanities. Adamson founded the Environment and Culture Caucus of the American Studies Association and was formerly president of the Association for the Study Literature and Environment (ASLE). She is currently Director of the North American Observatory (NAO) and part of the Humanities for the Environment global network which she helped launch with funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Basia Irland is a Fulbright Scholar, author, poet, sculptor, installation artist, and activist who creates international water projects. Many of these projects are featured in her books, Water Library and Reading the River: The Ecological Activist Art of Basia Irland, which documents more than four decades of work throughout Africa, Canada, Europe, South America, Southeast Asia, and the United States. Irland offers a creative understanding of water while examining how communities of people, plants, and animals rely on this vital element. She often works with scholars from diverse disciplines building rainwater harvesting systems; connecting communities and fostering dialogue along the entire length of rivers; producing water documentaries; releasing hand-carved ice books embedded with native riparian seeds along rivers in community gatherings; and creating waterborne disease projects around the world. Irland also previously wrote a blog for National Geographic about international rivers, written in the first person, from the perspective of the river. Her 2015 TEDx talk in Vail, Colorado was entitled We ARE the River: Urine Watershed – Planting Seeds. Irland is Professor Emerita, Department of Art and Art History, University of New Mexico, where she established the Arts and Ecology Program. She continues to lecture and exhibit extensively.

Dr. Melissa K. Nelson is an Indigenous ecologist, writer, editor, media-maker and scholar-activist. She is currently a professor of Indigenous Sustainability in the School of Sustainability at ASU, and previously served as a professor of American Indian Studies at San Francisco State University (2002 – 2020) specializing in Indigenous Environmental and California Indian Studies. She is a transdisciplinary and community-based scholar dedicated to Indigenous rights and sustainability, biocultural heritage and environmental justice, intercultural solidarity, and the renewal and celebration of community health and cultural arts. Nelson actively advocates for Indigenous Peoples rights and sustainable lifeways in higher education, nonprofits, and philanthropy, and is particularly passionate about Indigenous food sovereignty at local, regional and global levels. Melissa Nelson is Anishinaabe, Cree, Métis, and Norwegian (a proud member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians).

Dr. Lea Rekow is co-lead of Bifrost, an international humanities project promoting climate change awareness. Lea founded Green My Favela, a food security project based in the favelas of Brazil. She was formerly special envoy for Open & Agile Smart Cities, an advisor to Urban IxD, cultural advisor to the Australian Consulate in New York, adjunct professor at Pratt Institute and at FGCU, a sustainability consultant for GlobalCAD, executive director and lead curator for CCA Santa Fe and Gigantic ArtSpace, and media director of the Center for Peace and Human Security. She has sat on numerous advisory panels. Her writing and research focus on transdisciplinary practices for reclaiming degraded space in areas where people are living under extreme socio-environmental stress. She has worked on oral histories with ethnic minorities in conflict zones in Burma, with Indigenous groups on mining reclamation on the Navajo Nation, and with informal communities to help establish the largest organic urban food garden in Latin America.

Dr. Marcy Rockman is an archaeologist with experience in national and international climate change policy. Her research focuses on how humans gather and share environmental information, especially during colonization and migration, which she has used to address situations as diverse as cultural resource management in the American West and homeland security risk communication in Washington, DC. From 2011 to 2018, she served as the inaugural US National Park Service Climate Change Adaptation Coordinator for Cultural Resources. She recently served as Co-chair on behalf of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), alongside UNESCO and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), on a project to improve the incorporation of heritage in IPCC reports. Currently she works with Co-Equal, a nonprofit in Washington, DC, to provide climate change research for the US Congress. Marcy holds a PhD in anthropology from the University of Arizona and a BSc in geology from the College of William and Mary.

Additional Resources

For more information relating to this panel, please refer to these additional resources.

Joni Adamson

Watch a video about Dinner 2040

Dinner 2040: The Future of the Food System in Arizona

Joni Adamson, Introduction to Integrating Knowledge, Forging New Constellations of Practice in the Environmental Humanities, Eds. Joni Adamson & Micahel Davis (Routledge 2017).

Joni Adamson, (2011). Medicine food: Critical environmental justice studies, Native North American literature, and the movement for food sovereignty. Environmental Justice, 4(4), 213-219.

Joni Adamson, Gathering the Desert, Designing the Citizen Humanities, in Integrating Knowledge, Forging New Constellations of Practice in the Environmental Humanities, Eds. Joni Adamson & Micahel Davis (Routledge 2017).

Keywords for Environmental Studies. Eds. Joni Adamson, William Gleason and David Pellow (New York University Press, 2016).

Basia Irland

For a complete list of Basia Irland’s projects, including her two books, Reading the River (2017), and Water Library (2007), please visit her website.

Watch Basia Irland’s Tedx talk, We Are This River

Watch the NM PBS television segment where Basia discusses using ice books and other metaphors, to unpack the complex issues of climate and ecological disruption.

Watch Basia Irland’s film,  A Gathering of Waters: The Río Grande, Source to Sea, which focuses on her five-year, 1,875 mile project that involved hundreds of people and connected communities all along the entire length of the Río Grande/Río Bravo, from its source, to the sea.

Watch Basia Irland’s A Book of Drought, about the memory of water, which for many people around the world, is more tangible than the physicality of water itself. The implications of this are enormous, including a huge increase in environmental refugees.

Watch this short video about Basia Irland’s icebook project, Receding/Reseeding. Her hand-carved Ice Books, embedded with local native riparian seeds, are launched into rivers where the seeds are released as the ice melts in the current. When the plants regenerate and grow along the bank they help sequester carbon, hold the banks in place, and provide shelter.

Melisa Nelson

Melissa Nelson, Linking Ancestral Seeds and Waters to the Indigenous Places we Inhabit. Co-authored with Nicola Wagenberg. For Ecological and Social Healing: Multicultural Women’s Voices, edited by Jeanine Canty. New York, NY: Routledge Press, 2016.

Traditional ecological knowledge: Learning from Indigenous practices for environmental sustainability, Eds. M.K. Nelson and D. Shilling, Cambridge University Press, 2018.

Melissa Nelson, Indigenous Science and Traditional Ecological Knowledge: Persistence in Place. In The Indigenous World of North America. Edited by Robert Warrior. Routledge, 2015.

Melissa Nelson, Protecting the Sanctity of Native Foods. Is Sustainability Possible? State of the World 2013. Edited by Erik Assadourian and Thomas Prugh. Washington: Island Press, 2013.

Martinez, Dennis., Enrique Salmon., and Mellisa K. Nelson, Restoring Indigenous History and Culture to Nature, in Original Instructions: Indigenous Teachings fora Sustainable Future. Ed. Melissa K. Nelson, Rochester: Collective Heritage Institute, 2008.

The Hydromythology of the Anishinaabeg: Will Mishipizhu Survive Climate Change or is he creating it? In Centering Anishinaabeg Studies: Understanding the World Through Stories, edited by Jill Doerfler, Niigonwedom James Sinclair and Heidi Kiiwetinepinesiik Stark. East Landing: Michigan State University Press, 2013.

Melissa Nelson, Becoming Metis, in The Colors of Nature: Culture, Identity, and the Natural World. Edited by Alison Deming and Lauret Savoy. Milkweed Editions, 2011 (reprint).

Melissa Nelson, Indigenous Religions – North America. In The Encyclopedia of Sustainability, VI: The Spirit of SustainabilityEdited by Willis Jenkins. Berkshire Publishing, Great Barrier, MA., 2009.

Melissa Nelson, Rivers of Memory, Lakes of Survival: Native American Water Traditions and the Anishinaabeg Nation. In Deep Blue: Critical Reflections on Nature Religion and Water. Edited by Sylvie Shaw & Andrew Francis. Equinox Publishing, London, England, 2008.

Melissa Nelson, Oral Tradition, Identity, and Inter-generational Healing Through the Southern Paiute Salt Songs. In Cultural Representation and Contestation in Native America. Edited by Andrew Jolivette. Berkeley: AltaMira Press, 2006.

Contemporary Native American Responses to Environmental Threats in Indian Country. Co-authored with Dr. Tirso Gonzales. In Indigenous Traditions and Ecology –  The Interbeing of Comology and Community. Edited by John Grim, Center for the Study    of World Religions, Harvard University Press, 2001.

Melissa Nelson, Constructing a Confluence: Water Stories and the Restoration of an Urban Watershed. In Writing on Water.  Eds. D. Rothenberg and M. Ulvaeus, MIT Press, 2001.

Melissa Nelson, Becoming Métis. In At Home on the Earth – Becoming Native to our PlaceEdited by David Landis Barnhill, University of California Press, 1999 [Reprint].

Melissa Nelson and Philip Klasky, Storyscapes: Living Songs in Native LandsReVision Journal, Washington, D.C., Fall, 2002, Volume 25, Number 2, 11 – 18

Melissa Nelson, A Psychological Impact Report for the Environmental MovementReVision, Spring. Vol. 20(4): 37-43, 1998.

Lea Rekow

A short film about the mineral extraction economy and renewable energy initiatives in the Four Corners region of the Southwest US, 2009. Premier screening at the 9th Annual Native Cinema Showcase, Santa Fe, 2009.

Mapping a Bleak Future, book chapter by Lea Rekow documenting coal and uranium mining and community organizing on and around the Navajo Nation.

Website documenting the coal and uranium mining and milling sites in the Four Corners, Grants and Churchrock areas, including interviews with the Navajo Mines Lands Reclamation project leaders and renewable energy specialists.

A short film by Ryan Shaening Pokrasso, Filip Celandar and Lea Rekow, about people on the street in Santa Fe, New Mexico, describing where they think the source of their electricity comes from.

Terminal Landscape website with descriptors of key military and industrial waste sites in Utah.

Lea Rekow, Nobel presentation: creativity, pedagogy, and environmental practice. Speaking to teachers about possibilities for designing fun educational projects with middle school and high schoolers at Kulturhuset, Stockholm, 2018.

Marcy Rockman

Essay by Marcy Rockman, How to Pack a Cultural Suitcase (2017)

Interview with Marcy Rockman, Conversation with Living Landscape Observer (2020)

PNAS article by Marcy Rockman and Carrie Hritz, Expanding use of archaeology in climate change response by changing its social environment (2020)

Video and policy briefing via Environmental and Energy Study Institute,  Cultural Heritage and Climate Change (2020)

Introduction to the Wright-Ingraham Institute and the Field Stations Program

Preceding the Speaker Series event, Lea Rekow, Executive Director of the Wright-Ingraham Institute speaks about the role of creativity in relation to pedagogy and environmental practice. Kevin Bone speaks about the Field Stations program and gives an overview of the upcoming 2022 season under his directorship.

Kevin Bone is Director of the Wright-Ingraham Field Stations program. Bone was a professor of architecture at the Cooper Union from 1985 through 2018, teaching design, building technology and sustainability. During his time at Cooper, he worked to integrate issues of environment into the curriculum and was the founding director of the Cooper Union Institute for Sustainable Design. Bone has published on architecture, infrastructure, energy and landscape. Those publications include: Lesson’s From Modernism, Environmental Design Considerations in Architecture, 1925-1970; The New York Waterfront, Evolution of the Port and Harbor; and Water-Works, the Architecture and Engineering of the New York City Water Supply. Bone is also a principal at Bone/Levine Architects. The practice works in architectural design, technical consulting, and historic preservation.