Spring 2021 PPEH Newsletter

January 19, 2021

gorgeous blue, pink, yellow sunset

Dear Friends, 

It’s T-1 to Inauguration Day, and we’re sending best wishes for collective health, safety, and (dare we hope?) joy. As we continue to work through the violence and terror of the previous months and years--and to work to counteract them--we recall especially the disproportionate burden borne by BIPOC during this public health crisis that has revealed the toxic, living legacy of White supremacy. Environmental and racial justice is the heart of our work at PPEH, a vibrant and inclusive research and teaching community and a community of care. May the sun be soon setting--as you see it in this brilliant photo by PPEH Dissertation Fellow, Andrew Niess--on the systemic racism that, today, remains at the heart of systems of power. 

When we selected 2020-21’s thematic topic, Transition/Transformation, led by Professor Daniel Barber, we of course did not yet know the speed and size with which our lives would be transforming today! Over this spring semester, we’re so pleased to invite you to an extraordinary line-up of public programming designed to help take stock of current transformations and to envision and catalyze positive transformation and promote action of the intersecting crises we face. 

We’ve also launched two new communications platforms: a bi-weekly newsy digest, The Understory, and a monthly podcast, The Canopy. The minor in Env Hum is off and running, PPEH Graduate Fellows are developing a slate of publicly engaged projects, and there are myriad opportunities for faculty, students, and staff--as well as members of the wider community--to get involved in public research projects. 

We can not wait to gather again in person. Until then, please be in touch and please stay well and join me in wishing the sun down on a terrible and terrifying historical chapter.




collage depicting road and sun



Spring Transition/Transformation Programming

This Spring, PPEH welcomes artists-in-residence, Kristen Neville Taylor and Ricky Yanas. With Transition/Transformation topic director, Professor Daniel Barber, Kristen and Ricky have developed the dynamic, three-part program, Solar Imaginaries: Play and Pragmatism in Energy Future. The interlocking sessions bring practitioners from environmental and creative sectors together to re-envision the role of energy in our lives, past, present, and future. Join us on February 18th and 25th, and on March 4th for films and readings, discussions, and a participatory workshop in which we collectively reimagine the road to renewable energy systems. Information and registration for these events on our website.


art credit: Kevin McNamee-Tweed, RGBC, 2017, Monotype on kitakata, 10.5” x 8.17”

Text poster demonstrating SISR method of climatestorytelling



Public Research Interns and Climate Storytelling

Throughout the fall 2020, our dynamic public research interns for Climate Storytelling and Story-Sharing made climate storytelling intelligible and accessible to wider audiences, hosting six workshops over the course of the semester whose participants ranged from elementary school students through adults. Beginning in late January, they will train teachers across greater Philadelphia to facilitate climate storytelling workshops in their schools and organizations. Our climate storytellers also are excited to provide an illustrated workbook and companion video by May 2021! 

Visit the Climate Story experiment page for updates.

Screenshot from Digital Environmental Justice website in Colombia



Environmental Humanities Minor and the Touchstone Course

In Fall 2020, PPEH launched our Environmental Humanities minor for undergraduate students in the College. We continue into our second semester with a bevy of engaging, cross-disciplinary course offerings, which you can expect to hear more from as the semester continues. We also offered the touchstone EH course this Fall with Dr. Kristina Lyons and Dr. Marilyn Howarth. Embracing our remote learning environment, Drs. Howarth and Lyons' class and their collaborators in Colombia, worked together to create The Digital Environmental Justice Storytelling Project, a wonderfully rich digital resource that explores  community organizations and civil society initiatives in Colombia. For more information on the minor, please email us at director@ppehlab.org


Chet Pancake film still of fish, water, portrait, legs in varying opacities

Working Wednesday Series

PPEH offers a new lunch series, Working Wednesdays, designed to showcase in-progress Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR) straddling theoretical and practical environmental concerns with a focus on our mid-Atlantic region. This fall, we hosted Dr. Katherine Faull, filmmaker Chet Pancake, and Dr. Joshua Moses, discussing each expert's approach to participatory research with their students and communities. The series continues this semester, starting with Dr. Marcy Rockman, speaking about the inspiration for and new developments from the National Park Service’s “Every Place Has a Climate Story” project. Then, February 3rd, we will be joined by PPEH Grad Fellow Davy Knittle and Dissertation Fellow Andrew Neiss, who will be discussing their new project The Philadelphia Area Environmental Justice Curriculum Hub, a living archive of resources for connecting middle and high school students with sites of environmental justice advocacy in and around Philadelphia-- with a call for collaboration forthcoming! RSVP for these events here. 

art credit: Chet Pancake

black and white gear and hand holding mound of soil and sprout


Environmental Humanities Curriculum, Partnerships and Programs

PPEH continues working with the College’s Council on Undergraduate Education (CUE) to consider how ecoliteracy, including climate literacy, could, or perhaps should, figure more prominently in the liberal arts curriculum. For graduate students, PPEH has entered exploratory conversations with Environmental Humanities Initiatives at the University of Toronto and Oxford University to establish an international consortium to train graduate students in the Environmental Humanities.


lovely orange, red, yellow sunset


PPEH and Upcoming Projects!

This winter, PPEH's administrative team met for a two day retreat to discuss in depth what our core values and commitments are to our EH community. It was a wonderful exercise in both grounding and visioning, and from this came a dedicated communications strategy to build stronger connections with all of our community members, even while operating remotely.

The Field Notes blog continues to highlight recent scholarship, experiments, and events from our Penn community and beyond. Our newest team member, Mia D'Avanza, heads up this channel, while tying in her expertise in exhibitions and archiving. 

We also launched The Understory, a bi-monthly email conversation that is meant to really highlight your work, recommendations, and questions. In March, we will present the first episode of our new podcast, The Canopy, a monthly show dedicated to showcasing and expanding the scope of Environmental Humanities, from student work to voices of global leaders in EH, and also highlighting recent publications and projects in the community. Stay tuned for special teaser episodes coming in February, featuring the voices of Dr. Sheri Parks and PPEH Public Research Interns, Piotr Wojcik and Connor Hardy, and me, Bethany, talking about the longing and alienation many Black Baltimoreans experience when visiting “natural” places in Baltimore City.

If you have work to share,  ideas that you would like to discuss, messages to amplify, in either The Understory or for the upcoming podcast, please email us at faranda@sas.upenn.edu!


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