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Climate Chaos | Climate Rising Advisory Committee


Earlier this winter Northern sent each committee member a questionnaire focusing on themes and features of Northern Spark 2016. Here’s what they had to say.


Dr. Jessica Cherry

Scientist, pilot, writer, photographer


Jessica Cherry is a Research Associate Professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and a commercial, instrument-rated pilot for land and sea aircraft. She got her B.A., M.A., and PhD at Columbia University in New York City. She leads a hydroclimatology and remote sensing group at UAF. She has served as a mission pilot for NASA and other clients through her private company, Northern Science Services, LLC, and was a finalist for NASA’s 2013 Astronaut Class.


What are your thoughts on this year’s theme, Climate Chaos I Climate Rising

The concept of chaos has negative connotations in popular culture but in science its technical definition is simply a system for which a small perturbation could push that system into a different state. Similarly, rising and falling are just descriptions by scientists of ‘that which is.’ If the festival increases awareness that humans are agents for changing the state of the Earth, that is the first step to taking a conscious pathway to a possible state of our choosing.

Of the topics: move, nourish, interconnect, perceive, act, which engage you? With which does your practice align, reflect or agitate, and how?

Move is the topic which engages me the most, because it can incorporate Perceive and Act, as well, or it can be without context, judgment, or meaning; it just is.

What are two important ideas or questions related to the subthemes you identify with, that the public should know or ask?

Do we need to move? Is the desire to move engrained in us and if so, why do we stifle it? What are the costs and benefits of moving over what expanse and by what means?

From the perspective of your field in general, what are two of the most pressing concerns about the effects of climate change that the public should know?

We should be concerned about the impacts of climate change on water resources and also the way that environmental changes can destabilize communities and whole countries—and have for millennia.

What is missing from that conversation about climate change? Whose voice is missing?

Local governments may be an under-represented voice. I would like to see more attention to the linkage between climate change and the endless pursuit of consumption that also results in massive landfills and polluted soil and waterways…realms that local municipalities and watershed stakeholders have to manage.

What has been your experience of how and why people’s behaviors change in relation to climate change?

You have to be fairly optimistic to believe that your behaviors will make a different in the climate change problem, but the increased awareness and changes to more sustainable practices ironically may benefit us the most simply because they are deliberate and purposeful acts.

In your view, how does or could art add to the climate change conversation?

Art encourages us to engage and reflect on our choices: it is an ideal medium for this conversation.