RPI’s Earth Week Festival creates interconections

The second annual RPI Earth Week Festival will be held April 21 through April 26. The theme of this year’s festivities will be Interconnections. Events will highlight connections between groups of people across space and time: between people, animals, plants and ecosystems and between seemingly distinct political, social, cultural issues, ranging from public education, environmental governance, shale gas, and intergenerational ethics.

Last year’s festival succeeded in bringing together individuals from a variety of disciplines (from artists to lawyers to scientists) to focus on environmental issues. Organizers hope to continue along this path with this year’s events. Professor Kim Fortun, one of the lead faculty organizers, said, “This is the second year we’ve run the festival. Last year, it brought together faculty, staff, students and people from the community at many different kinds of events—including a grand percussion performance at the end. This year, we hope to create the same kind of energy and interest, building a base for sustained collaboration.”

A wide variety of speakers, from diverse backgrounds, will give talks and present their work throughout the week. Award-winning journalist, and author of Green is the New Red: An Insiders’s Account of a Social Movement Under Siege, Will Potter, and sustainable design scholar, Cameron Tonkinwise, Director of Design Studies at Carnegie Mellon, are both scheduled to speak. Additionally, internationally renowned art historians Steve Baker and Monika Bakke will speak on the topic of animals, plants, ethics, and art. Also among the list of speakers are RPI’s own Mike Fortun, a historian of science, and Yuri Gorby, a geomicrobiologist.

Like last year, Earth Week 2014 will also feature an array of film screenings. Among the films scheduled for this year are Bhopali, which discusses the cumulative effects of toxic chemical disaster, Cotton Road, which highlights connections between China and the United States, and consumption and labor, and Triple Divide, which details lives and environments around high volume hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for shale gas. Films will be screened in the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary studies auditorium, and will be free to the general public.

New to this year’s program are the two public discussions, designed to allow diverse stakeholders to deliberate different dimensions of complex environmental issues. The first, to be held on the evening of April 22, will focus on “Intergenerational Ethics, Environment, and Public Education.” The second, which will take place April 24, will focus on “Intergenerational Ethics and the Shale Gas Boom.”

The grand finale, to take place Saturday, April 26, will be a daylong celebration and showcase of environmentally-focused education and research. Groups from RPI and the surrounding community will come together to share their work and their ideas for a more sustainable community. The day will be full of entertainment and activities for kids of all ages, and will feature a variety of musical performances, shows, and food, all centered around the theme of environmental sustainability.

All events will be free to the general public. For more information about specific events, or to find out how you can become involved in the festival, please visit the Earth Week website, at