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October 31, 2014
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The Weather Project: Forecast calls for epic event!

The River Dancers, Isabel Braverman, left, Corinna Grunn and Carrie Mellinger, flow through a scene.
Photos by Sandy Long


The challenge of bringing science into the conversation was solved by the unexpected appearance of research scientist Elaine Matthews of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, who portrays the role of the play’s scientist.

After reading about the project last year in The River Reporter, Matthews emailed Kowalchuk to offer assistance with the science of climate change. Kowalchuk seized the fortuitous offer. The pair would go on to participate in a public presentation followed by discussions about climate change, a series of educational visits to schools and a climate symposium organized by the Sullivan Alliance for Sustainable Development.

So why did the NASA scientist get involved? “For a long time, I’ve been a strong advocate for scientists paid with public dollars to contribute to the public’s understanding about our research. When you strip off the insider jargon, and just talk about climate, people get it, kids get it, and they always have interesting and thought-provoking questions and comments.”

And how well did a scientist fit in with a collection of creative types? “I really do think differently than most of the people participating in The Weather Project, but we have developed a wonderful and interesting bond, and we communicate really well,” said Matthews. “That’s largely because NACL creates and nurtures an environment where ideas have a chance to develop, where everyone’s contributions are listened to and considered.

“Another aspect I’ve really enjoyed is the creative and collaborative nature of our work together. I’m used to people sitting in their own offices all day, staring at computers; discussions occur when needed; and competition is common. There is often very minimal social interaction, so work people can remain strangers even after many years. The dynamic and interactive work of a community effort like The Weather Project play has been a wonderful albeit daunting experience for me. I very much look forward to contributing to development of a version of the play and program that can go into schools and other public venues to educate and engage all sorts of people in the serious work of dealing with climate change,” concluded Matthews.

Another important partner is the Town of Highland, whose participation was called for in a hard-won grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Supervisor Andy Boyar attended planning sessions and remains enthusiastic.