Project: Essay by Grace Chun

My relationship to climate change and environmental justice is one of constant discoveries. I was first aware of the impacts of air pollution due to petrochemical industries in my childhood city in South Korea, which turned almost every snowfall into a gray blanket across the land. However, I wasn’t invested in studying climate change until years after moving to the United States. 

What sparked my interest was a series of documentaries that I watched in middle school that opened my eyes to issues surrounding animal rights, environmentalism, and climate change. In the later half of high school, I found out about Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL), and I have been active ever since. From tabling at community markets to lobbying on Capitol Hill, I enjoyed participating in CCL and I felt empowered to make a difference through solution-based tactics, rather than scare people away with cold, dense charts and figures. Through these phases, I’m still learning to communicate better with people regarding climate change, especially to some conservative friends. I hope that I can reveal to them that climate change is relevant to everyone. 

As a member of Sowers and Reapers, I have helped the team to delve more deeply in the stories that Durham, North Carolina can tell through the people who cultivate here. I look forward to becoming more sensitive to the language and culture of the gardeners as our team interview them. Through crafting the exhibition, I want to learn how to best communicate ideas to someone who has never heard of the Blossom Garden Club, the Year-Round Garden Club, or Briggs Community Garden and effectively influence them by showing the relevance of these stories to their personal lives. I hope to become more apt at visual storytelling methods and skills such as design and attention-grabbing writing. As my understanding of climate justice evolves and grows, I hope to always have an open mind and open heart to the issues surrounding my own backyard, wherever I am.

I hope that this local story of gardeners in Durham will shine a light on the importance of community gardens. For example, I hope that individuals can be inspired to take the idea of a community garden and implement it in their own area as a tool to empower communities with low food access. Even in other ways, big or small, I hope that our exhibit will spark viewers with ideas for cultivating sustainability in the broader sense through education, community outreach, and nature. I also hope to broaden the viewer’s opportunities about nature, namely by showing that engaging in environmental issues can be enjoyable and relaxing through the act of gardening. I hope that they could see that a garden can provide rewarding experiences in producing food and cultivating diverse relationships. Just as I had realized last semester, I hope that the viewers understand that environmental justice is more about the people than the environment itself.