The Rensselaer Sustainability Network—a group that connects faculty, students, staff, and community members with a common interest in sustainability—and the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences are hosting a series of programs the week of April 20 in celebration of Earth Week.

The varied events of Rensselaer’s 2014 Earth Week Festival all celebrate interconnections—across generations and geography, between plants, animals, and humans, and across issues as distinct as shale gas, public education, and environmental governance. Highlights of the program include the Sensing Sensibilities Symposium, several movie screenings and public discussions, and a finale festival with special events for children. The public is welcome at all the free events that make up the Earth Week Festival.

Sensing Sensibilities Symposium

The Sensing Sensibilities Symposium, part of the Vollmer Fries Distinguished Lecture Series, will feature a pair of lectures from an artist and a philosopher, Steve Baker and Monika Bakke, about the questions artists are posing about the evolving way humans consider their relationships to animals, plants, and the environment. The lectures will begin at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 22, in Studio 2 at the Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC).

Baker, an emeritus professor of art history at the University of Central Lancashire and the author of Artist|Animal, will give a talk titled “The redescription of the world” that will explore how common ground can be found between works dealing with language and works dealing with animals without diminishing each other.

The varied events of Rensselaer’s 2014 Earth Week Festival all celebrate interconnections—across generations and geography, between plants, animals, and humans, and across issues as distinct as shale gas, public education, and environmental governance.”

Bakke is an associate professor of philosophy at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, Poland, and the author of Bio-transfiguration: Art and Aesthetics of Posthumanism. She will give a lecture titled “And the plant responded” focused on the philosophical and artistic ramifications of the significant, and emerging, evidence that plants behave intelligently and, in some cases, have decision-making abilities.

Bakke and Baker will also participate in an informal discussion about bioart and biotechnology at 10 a.m. Wednesday, April 23, in the Bruggeman Conference Center at the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies (CBIS).

Finale Festival

The Finale Festival—from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, April 26, at the Rensselaer Union on 15th Street—promises to be of particular interest to community members and families, with many activities geared toward children. Food trucks, music, and demonstrations will make this a unique and entertaining event.

From noon to 3 p.m. there will be kiosks with face painting, crafts, and educational demonstrations run by Rensselaer student groups, alongside music, juggling, and a parkour performance.

From 1 to 3 p.m. there will be an informal environmental jobs meet-and-greet during which sustainability professionals can meet with students and community members.

From 3 to 5 p.m., there will be a viewing of the film Bidder 70, about a college student’s act of civil disobedience that disrupted the auction of the oil and gas lease rights of a piece of Utah land. A discussion following the film will be moderated by Rensselaer students, drawing high school students into discussion about different kinds of environmental activism and civil disobedience.

Other Earth Week Festival Events

Monday, April 2
2 p.m. | CBIS auditorium
“How the Gene Got Its 
Lecture by professor Mike Fortun.

Monday, April 21
3 p.m. | CBIS auditorium
Do The Math
Film viewing and discussion. The film, based on a Rolling Stone article by environmental leader and founder Bill McKibben, has galvanized people around the world to address climate change.

Tuesday, April 22
2 p.m. | CBIS auditorium
“Tree Sits and Glitter Banners: How New Terrorism Laws are Meant to Silence Environmental Protest”
Lecture by journalist and TED fellow Will Potter. Potter has written about the animal rights and environmental movements as well as civil liberties post-9/11.

Tuesday, April 22
4:15 p.m | CBIS auditorium
Public Discussion: Intergenerational Ethics, Environment, and Public Education
Teachers, students, environmentalists, elected officials, clergy, and many others will gather to discuss the intergenerational ethics of stewarding the public goods of environment and education.

Wednesday, April 23
7 p.m. | CBIS auditorium
“How Can Sustainable Practices Overcome the Gravitational Pull of Convenience?”
Lecture by Cameron Tonkinwise of Carnegie Mellon University will examine how the habitual practices of everyday life work against sustainable consumption.

Thursday, April 24
12 p.m. | CBIS auditorium
Cotton Road, from South Carolina to Shanghai
Film viewing and discussion with filmmaker Laura Kissel. Kissel’s film tells the story 
of globalized labor from family farms in South Carolina to factories in China.

Thursday, April 24
7 p.m. | CBIS auditorium
Public Discussion: 
Intergenerational Ethics 
and the Shale Gas Boom
A roundtable discussion about the long-term impacts of the shale gas boom.

Friday, April 25
10 a.m. | CBIS auditorium
“Redefining the Grocery Store for Local Food”
Lecture by Ben Greene, the founder of the Farmery, an urban farm, market, and café based in Durham, N.C.