Climate Change Interview with Karletta Chief

The Climate Change + Poetry series continues this Thursday with a reading from Ross Gay,  with more readings upcoming through the spring. As part of our effort to pose questions about poetry, language, and our role in combatting climate change, we will also feature blog posts where we pose some of those questions to climate scientists. Today's post features climate change scientist Karletta Chief.

Dr. Karletta Chief is an Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist in the Department of Soil, Water, and Environmental Sciences at the University of Arizona in Tucson, AZ. As an assistant professor, the goal of her research is to improve our understanding, tools, and predictions of watershed hydrology, unsaturated flow in arid environments, and how natural and human disturbances affect soil hydrology through the use of physically based methods. Dr. Chief's research also focuses on how indigenous communities will be affected by climate change.

Poetry Center: What do you want people to know about climate change right now?

Karletta Chief: Climate change is happening and is projected to be more significant in the decades to come. Record temperatures have been recorded in the southwest and drought is occurring.


PC: Some of your work focuses on indigenous communities. What makes a community particularly vulnerable to climate change? What kinds of culturally sensitive solutions are succeeding?

KC: Climate change will impact the culture, land, and traditional ways of Native Americans in unique ways because tribes are deeply connected to the natural environment. Tribes depend on animals and plants for their livelihoods, health and cultural practices. The impacts of climate change on the environment, forest, waters and and other ecosystems will impact tribes. Tribes need to be engaged and involved in the conversations of climate change impacts, adaptation and mitigation.


PC: What role do you think poetry (or more generally, language) has in the education about and fight against climate change?

KC: Poetry is a language that can help communicate to people across all cultures the impacts of climate change, encourage action through climate mitigation, and encourage steps towards adaptation.


PC: What can people do/what do you do to combat climate change?

KC: Eliminate or reduce consumption of red meat, carpool or use public transportation, reuse-recycle-reduce, compost, reduce water, harvest rain, build sustainable buildings, and use renewable energy.