Coordinator of Science Outreach, Science Discovery Center
The 2041 Festival, held April 23, 2022, was a celebration of the ongoing 2041 Project. The 2041 Project is an interdisciplinary initiative organized by the A.J. Read Science Discovery Center to encourage creative thinking about a positive outcome to the climate crisis. Recognizing that a negative perspective about future outcomes defeats initiatives before they even start, The 2041 Project uses a fictional future timeline to explore ways we might transform critical systems and infrastructure to adapt to a changing climate, creating healthier, happier and more connected communities in the process.
The festival featured an interactive exhibit of the timeline as a thought experiment to think creatively about how events might unfold between now and 2041. The global pandemic has taught us that the world can change overnight, and that we need to consider low-probability but high-impact possibilities. Over 100 students presented projects during the festival, with topics ranging from biofuel viability to proposed sustainable housing communities for Veterans. "Posters from the future" helped visitors visualize what may be the values and concerns of citizens of the year 2041.
The 2041 Project started in 2018 as a collaboration between the A.J. Read Science Discovery Center, and Professors Dr. Brian Lowe (Sociology) and Ruben Salinas (Art) as an experiment to see how worldbuilding could create positive frameworks for considering difficult, complex topics. The project paired sociology and art students in the creation of New Deal era-style public art that reflected the values and social movements of a future scenario in which the US had joined the rest of the world in confronting the climate crisis. With the help of Rachel Kornhauser, sustainability coordinator, we developed a workshop to help participants engage creatively with the timeline and create characters in the universe.
This spring, with the support of the Corning Foundation, a fellowship was created for faculty interested in implementing a 2041 Project unit in their classes. The response was overwhelming. We enrolled 13 faculty members representing a range of disciplines, involving 17 classes and over 200 students. Each class worked on a unique assignment to be presented at The 2041 Festival.
No two class projects were alike. While illustration students designed public art, biology students created videos investigating how increasing heat waves will affect endangered species, and environmental studies students explored how energy production might change. Another initiative, with Andris Balin's Studio Assistant class, focused on the production of a fiction podcast set in the world of 2041 and featuring volunteer student voice actors.
We even met with local leaders and developed a secondary timeline in which we envisioned how global and national developments might play out locally. Our guiding principle has remained the same: to envision a realistic but optimistic future.
The 2041 Festival included a panel discussion between fictional characters in the year 2041, including recent Cooperstown Graduate Program graduate and 2041 Project co-founder Emma Sarnacki '21 and senior Music Industry major Rosie Baez, who played the main character in the current season of the 2041 podcast. The panel was moderated by two leaders in sustainable design, architects Jodi Smits-Anderson and Lauren Staniec. The festival concluded with a keynote speech by Bryan Alexander, a noted futurist who discussed how higher education institutions like SUNY Oneonta might play a leading role in the transformation to sustainability.
The 2041 Festival capped off a busy and productive Green Dragon Week which featured 15 events focused on environmental protection, restoration and sustainability.
Read more about Green Dragon Week 2022.