Climate Action Track at SXSW 2020
Nearly every week there’s a new horror on the climate front. These are just some of the gloomy headlines from just the past few weeks:
- A study published in Science revealed that the North American bird population has declined by 3 billion, or 27 percent, just since 1970.
- There are new warnings of catastrophic coral reef die-off in Hawaii.
- Sea level rise is leading to an increase in “ghost forests” along the East Coast, at a rate about three times higher than before the Industrial Revolution — when human activity started generating the vast amounts of greenhouse-gas emissions that scientists link with the current climate crisis.
While the planet seems to be trying to make its concerns known loud and clear, all too many people in positions of power insist on looking the other way as they crank up their AC and lower auto emission standards.
But in the face of this refusal to see and address what’s happening in front of them, activists are standing up and demanding change. On Monday, thousands of climate change protesters took to the streets in cities around the world, beginning a week of civil disobedience calling for urgent action to prevent permanent environmental disaster.
In New York, protesters outside the New York Stock Exchange drew attention to people killed by climate-related disease and disaster. The Bahamas may be forever changed, but deadly Hurricane Dorian quickly faded from the public view.
The protests, coordinated by Extinction Rebellion in more than 60 cities, are the latest effort in an global campaign for tougher and swifter steps against climate change.
This action comes just weeks after 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg boldly excoriated the U.S. Congress and the United Nations Climate Action Summer for their inaction on climate change.
Thunberg’s steely determination inspired as many as four million people to walk out of schools and workplaces on September 20 as part of a massive Global Climate Strike. Organizers said protesters turned out in 156 countries from such disparate locations as Nepal, Senegal, Quebec, Rome, Kyrgyzstan, Sweden, Bolivia and Peru.
Thunberg, who took a boat to the United States to reduce her own contribution to carbon emissions, continues to travel the country, drawing attention to the many fronts in the war on climate change and the diverse group of activists fighting to save the planet. As a person with Asberger’s, a form of autism, Thunberg also represents the truth that all people, even the most atypical, can contribute to making the world a better place. This week she’s in South Dakota, at the invitation of indigenous environmental activist Tokata Iron Eyes, speaking on a climate crisis panel hosted by the Lakota People’s Law Project at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, and at Standing Rock in North Dakota, the site of the 2016 protest over the Dakota Access Pipeline.
SXSW 2020 will highlight many of these voices demanding action at the new Climate & Social Action Track, which will run March 13–18. This track will celebrate innovations that create a positive social impact and contribute to environmentally sustainable systems. Attendees will learn from a diverse gathering of individuals and organizations sharing their knowledge on how to achieve a healthier and more equitable world.
In addition to this big October 22 announcement, mark your calendar for Friday, November 15, the entry deadline for SXSW Pitch (which focuses on the world’s top startups) and the SXSW Interactive Innovation Awards (which focuses on some of the most intriguing new digital projects).
Two other SXSW competitions also have upcoming entry deadlines. The final day to apply for Place by Design is Friday, November 22. The final day to apply for the David Carr Prize is Friday, December 6.
Hugh Forrest serves as Chief Programming Officer at SXSW, the world’s most unique gathering of creative professionals. He also tries to write at least four paragraphs per day on Medium. These posts often cover tech-related trends; other times they focus on books, pop culture, sports and other current events.