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Natural Awakenings Chicago

Conversation: The Start of Climate Action

Oct 31, 2019 09:00AM

Photo by Christine Esposito

by Christine Esposito 

No icebreakers were necessary. The artists and scientists gathered on a warm, late-summer day at Indiana Dunes National Park were eager to dive in.  They met, learned about each other’s work, hiked and talked.

Their common bond was investigating local climate change.

That day, they embarked on a yearlong conversation about climate change impacts and actions in the Chicago region. It was the launch of Third Coast Disrupted: Artists + Scientists on Climate.

Although climate change is happening here and now in the Chicago region and the need to act is more urgent than ever, research shows that most residents rarely or never discuss it.

There is work to do. Scientists say that climate action begins with conversation. “If we don’t talk about climate change, why would we care about it?” asks renowned climate scientist and communicator Katharine Hayhoe, an adviser to Third Coast Disrupted. “If we don’t care about it, why would we act? So action begins with a conversation.”

Conversation is at the heart of Third Coast Disrupted.

After spending the day together at the dunes retreat, the 14 artists and scientists will continue their conversation at a series of informal salons through the coming year. The first salon took place at the Field Museum ( last month.

The artist-scientist dialogue will build bridges between seemingly disparate disciplines while inspiring new artworks for an exhibit in downtown Chicago that will open at the Glass Curtain Gallery ( of Columbia College Chicago in September 2020.

The exhibit will spark more conversations and action, as will related public programs, further extending the reach of Third Coast Disrupted. Residents of diverse Chicago communities creating some of the artworks via local arts groups will bring even more voices to the discussion.

The interdisciplinary nature of Third Coast Disrupted is reflected in the project’s core team. Christine Esposito, director and co-curator, is founder of Terracom (, a 30-year-old environmental communications firm. Liam Heneghan, Ph.D., science curator, is a professor of environmental science and studies at DePaul University and co-directs its Institute for Nature and Culture ( Lisa Roberts, Ph.D., art curator, is principal of Naturalia (, which consults with institutions and nonprofits to develop unorthodox ways to help people experience nature.

Third Coast Disrupted is made possible in part by Columbia College Chicago, DePaul University, Illinois Arts Council Agency and Terracom.


Christine Esposito is founder and chief connection officer of Terracom and its Ex.Change Project. Learn more about Third Coast Disrupted, support the project and sign up for periodic updates at