This spring, Garrett Blad and Brittany Eberling gave a TEDx Talk discussing the importance of getting uncomfortable. They argue that doing so can fuel social movements and change the status quo. One driving force behind Garrett's involvement with GreeND and the "We Are 9" campaign comes from being uncomfortable with the fact that the poor and marginalized are disproportionately harmed by climate change. During his time at Notre Dame, Garrett, along with the support of many others, worked to make students, faculty and the administration aware of the connections between social justice and climate change while working to improve the campus's sustainability efforts. Over the next six months, Garrett is going to continue some of these efforts by participating in Climate Journey. Read on to learn a bit more about Garrett and what I think will be an exciting, fruitful journey that he is about to take!
Name: Garrett Blad
Major: Sustainable Policy, Environmental Science
Dorm: Zahm House
Hometown: North Liberty, IN
What clubs/activities were you involved with during your time at Notre Dame?
I played clarinet in the marching band my freshman year and sang in the Glee club until senior year. Other than that, I focused my efforts all on GreeND and starting the We Are 9 campaign after I returned from being abroad in Angers, France my sophomore year.
Can you talk a bit about your involvement with GreeND and the We Are 9 campaign? What were some of the goals of the campaign and the club?
When I met Katie Otterbeck in the Fall of 2013, we both knew we would do something climate related together. A few months later we launched the We Are 9 campaign, a campaign calling on the Notre Dame to take more aggressive action on climate change by (1) developing a plan for carbon neutrality and (2) divesting the endowment from fossil fuels. Transitioning into new leadership, the divestment campaign is now called Fossil Free ND, joining with the larger international divestment movement.
What were some highlights of your time at ND?
One of my highlights is without a doubt the enormous support Katie and I brought together for a three-week door-knocking campaign for divestment. We trained over 35 students to be ambassadors for the campaign, who then knocked on doors on and off campus, successfully collecting over 1,200 signatures supporting divestment. These signatures secured us a meeting with President Jenkins this past January. Although the administration still is making little strides towards aggressive action on climate change, action that Pope Francis calls us to make and action he will describe thoroughly in his upcoming encyclical on human ecology and climate change, Fossil Free ND will continue to garner multilateral support for divestment.
What’s one piece of advice you would give your freshman self?
“You are where you need to be.” I struggled for a while being at Notre Dame. It took me longer than most to find a community where I fit in, to find my talents and passions. But I wish I would’ve had more confidence knowing I was in the right place. And after all I have experienced here, the laughter, the tears, the triumphs, and the failures, I was in the right place indeed.
What is Climate Journey and what made you decide to get involved?
Climate Journey is a slow and intentional bike-powered journey from New England to Paris for COP21, the U.N. Climate Talks. Morgan Curtis, the brain behind the project, and I will start off in Vermont, heading north and east through Canada, Iceland, Scandinavia, and through east Europe. We will be collecting stories highlighting the impacts of the climate crisis – of rising oceans, of stronger storms, droughts, floods, of continued fossil fuel extraction, and more. I will be the visual communication arm for the journey, using videos, photos, collages, and sketches to elevate the stories of others. I decided to get involved because (1) I am young and can physically complete this journey, (2) this proves to be a perfect way to exercise my artistic mind and combine art and social change, (3) we are traveling to France, where I studied abroad sophomore year, (4) the U.N. Climate Talks represent an exciting but excruciatingly-overdue opportunity for a binding and equitable international treaty for carbon emissions, so (5) WHY NOT!
Your biking journey ends in Paris at the COP 21. What is this conference about and what do you hope to contribute or get out of it?
The conference is the 21st in a series of conferences that have been happening ever since I was born in 1992. Yet the international community, mostly impeded by the United States, has still been unable to implement a binding treaty on carbon emissions. Morgan and I both have the privilege of being youth delegates to the conference with an organization called SustainUS, meaning we will be inside all the action, helping to further the international agreement, to build youth support, and to mobilize this support before, during, and after the conference. I hope to better understand the nature of international climate politics and to build strong connections with climate activists across the world. The U.S. has a strong influence in these talks, I hope my voice can help us to lead and fight for people over profit.
What do you think some of the biggest challenges you are going to face during the project?
Some of the biggest challenges? Ummm...rain, cold, bears, thieves, wet clothes, mountains, and mosquitos to name just a few. Beyond the physical discomforts we will inevitably face, the biggest challenge I believe will be elevating the voices of others without raising my own voice as a white and highly privileged male. Understanding my place in this international movement will be a delicate dance of knowing when I need to step up and when I need to step back. This is something I am excited to explore deeply with Morgan along our journey.
What excites you most about this project?
I am excited to explore the intersection of art and climate change, two of my passions, hopefully producing powerful images and messages that help to reframe the narrative surrounding the climate crisis. I am excited to collage from materials from around the world, to build videos from interviews, to sketch, and to paint.
How can readers help you and where can they follow along with your journey?
Readers can help in a big way by donating to help us fund our journey. Anything big and small helps! My crowdfund side can be found here.
Thanks Garrett! Best of luck on this journey and embracing all the discomfort that comes with it.