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Fort Lewis College hosts inaugural Four Corners Climate Summit

The event will occur Saturday at the Student Union Ballroom
Fort Lewis College will host a climate summit Saturday featuring writer and conservationist Terry Tempest Williams. (Hart Van Denburg/CPR News file)

The world just wrapped up the hottest year on record and there’s a lot to talk about, says Michael Drake, a Fort Lewis College assistant professor of environment and sustainability.

That’s part of why Drake and six other organizers are hosting the inaugural Four Corners Climate Summit on Saturday. The event will feature regional authors of the nation’s top report on climate change, local experts on climate impacts and a keynote address from author Terry Tempest Williams.

RSVPs are recommended, although not required for the event. The initial 400 spots offered had filled by Monday afternoon, however more are anticipated to become available at bit.ly/49NH0vt.

About every four years, federal agencies work together to produce a comprehensive report on the climate, per a 1990 congressional mandate. However, the reality of a changing climate and its impacts on the ground, especially in rural communities, can feel disconnected from glossy reports.

FLC Provost Mario Martinez and Emile Elias, director of the USDA Southwest Climate Hub, initially developed the idea of a collaboration to bridge that gap.

“Fort Lewis can serve as this forum for helping bridge the gap between federal agencies and community members around here in an area that oftentimes feels very divorced and far away from Washington, D.C.,” Drake said.

The event aligns with the opening of a new exhibit at the college’s Center for Southwest Studies titled “Coloradans and our Shared Environment in Times of Challenge and Change.”

The exhibit focuses on bringing together scientists and artists to create pieces that are informed by science, Drake said.

With climate-centered art and the authors of an important, albeit dry report at hand, organizers decided they needed a bridge between the two. That bridge? Famed writer and conservationist Terry Tempest Williams.

Williams is an author and conservationist who has focused extensively on the Southwest. She is the author of “Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place” and “An Unspoken Hunger: Stories from the Field,” and was featured in Stephen Ives's PBS documentary series “The West” (1996) and Ken Burns' PBS series “The National Parks: America's Best Idea” (2009).

“We were really hoping that having Terry Tempest Williams as a keynote speaker would be a draw for people that might not know what the 5th National Climate Assessment is, (or) might not know who some of these regional partners are,” Drake said.

The event features a lengthy schedule of events beginning at 10 a.m. Speakers will both present and engage in forum-style question and answer sessions with audience members. Speakers include representatives of the Montezuma Land Conservancy, scientists from various regional universities and five authors of the 5th NCA.

It will begin at in the Student Union Ballroom. Those without tickets may be allowed entry for some events, Drake said, as most guests are not expected to attend the entire event.


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