The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

Combating climate change through art: GV students host environmental awareness concert

Courtesy | Rebecca Williams

Despite taking place on April fools day, students in Grand Valley State University’s ENS 242– Climate Change in Popular Culture class purposefully used trash cans and recycling bins as instruments during their Climate Change Awareness Concert

Performing at the Cook-DeWitt Center Auditorium on April 1, ENS 242 students invited friends, family and members of the GVSU community to attend their concert. The event aimed to help audience members develop a deeper understanding of the environment through music. Students hoped their performances would motivate the audience to take action against climate change.

With winning artwork from March’s Climate Change Art Competition hung in the lobby, the concert featured a variety of original poetry and musical compositions with accompanying visual components.

Partnering with GVSU’s music program, the ENS 242 class asked students and anyone who wanted to participate to share their talents and knowledge of climate change and justice, equity and positive social and ecological change. 

“I believe very strongly that the solutions to climate change will require people to have creativity and imagination far beyond what we are doing now,” said Rebecca Williams, Ph.D., assistant professor in GVSU’s School of Interdisciplinary Studies. “We wanted our students to have that experience of having to think differently about a really big problem.”

Williams worked alongside fellow Interdisciplinary Studies Professor Steve Nathaniel, Ph.D., to organize the event. The goal of the concert, Nathaniel said, was to spark a conversation and deepen the audience’s curiosity about the long-lasting effects of climate change through the students’ personal interpretations of the issue.

“We want our students to be deeply engaged with these ideas of imagining climate change,” Nathaniel said. “Not simply learning it (climate change) from a factual standpoint, but being able to interpret it as we see it around us in our culture.”

Kat Vann, an environmental and sustainability studies major at GVSU, composed a song on her guitar that she performed at the concert called “I’m Worried for My Friend.” With this piece, Vann said she aimed to personify the earth, comparing its struggles with the human need to recharge in a rapid-paced economy where many are overworked.

“Hopefully, they (the audience) were able to relate and feel empathy for the planet,” Vann said. 

Furthermore, Vann said environmental art is often ignored in terms of community outreach, even though it can be impactful. With the Climate Change Awareness Concert, Vann said students were able to spread awareness about their cause, motivate others and learn about the benefits of working in a diverse group that shares a common goal.

“Our main issue in protecting the planet is simply the fact that people don’t fully know what is going on,” Vann said. “Through each art piece, audience members received various pieces of information while also reaching into their emotions to leave a lasting impact.”

Williams said she hoped the emotional pull of the concert would be a powerful call-to-action for people. At the event, materials were provided that suggested practical ways for individuals to start immediately making a difference in the environment. 

Additionally, many of those in attendance, Williams said, were moved by the heaviness and severity of the concert’s topic. 

“People in the audience were in tears,” Williams said. “It was surprising to me, but (it was) also very moving (to see) that this is a thing (climate change) a lot of people are really struggling with.”

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