With diminishing air quality, ravaging wildfires, and increasingly severe weather conditions, it is becoming more and more apparent that the climate crisis has affected large masses of ordinary people, and the District is no exception. Rising sea levels and flooding in riverfront neighborhoods is just the beginning of an array of complex climate issues.
SOC Director of Technology and Media Production and co-founder of The Climate, Jeffrey Madison is on a mission to tell stories of the world through the lens of the climate crisis through his current Humanities Truck Fellowship project. The project is titled “Climatize: How D.C. Riverfront Neighborhoods Are Left To Their Own Devices.” The Humanities Truck is a project developed by AU to increase local dialogue in humanities through an experimental mobile platform. Full-time faculty, advanced PhD students, and MA students are encouraged and eligible to apply for the fellowship.
Graduating from Harvard University with an AB in Afro-American Studies and Visual & Environmental Studies, Madison’s background in studying communities of color and the ecological systems surrounding them, there is no surprise of his interest in the Riverfront region of D.C. After seeing television segments and articles about proposed funding to prevent negative effects from daytime sea level rise and flooding of the Tidal Basin, Madison started to question the advertisements. Missing from them were the faces of the people living in the communities downstream. “All this money being poured into the Tidal Basin, and nothing being poured into the communities downstream made me think, ‘Maybe they’re doing their own thing, and let’s find out,’” he said.
The overarching difference between the Tidal Basin and the riverfront communities downstream is that Buzzard Point, Haines Point, Anacostia, and Blue Plains are “communities of color,” and home to “lower-income folks who are also under the pressure of gentrification,” Madison emphasized. The Tidal Basin, however, is “touristy, makes money, and is of symbolic importance to the United States of America,” he states. “The communities downstream have generally been ignored.As a result, they don’t have the same caring, dedication, or money committed to preserving them.”
This project is an extension of what Madison’s own media company, The Climate, strives to do. He co-founded The Climate with the mission to amplify and disseminate diverse, inclusive, and intersectional research on climate crisis mitigation and adaptation. The Humanities Truck will serve as a platform to amplify the voices of the people living in the riverfront communities, and thus, they’ll be at the forefront of telling their own stories about their own communities.
Madison is also employing SOC graduate students to help with the fellowship. He hopes that working with these students will inspire and build a generation of fierce climate reporters as the climate crisis continues to permeate all aspects of life.
What he hopes people will take away from his year-long fellowship is inspiration from the showcase of resilient communities in the face of the climate crisis. Changemakers will be able to be heard loud and clear from outside their communities, and that may inspire more communities to take action.
The Humanities Truck is a project through American University, made possible with funding from the Henry Luce Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.