THIS Friday, get inspired to take action for our coastline.
One Hundred Miles hosts activist and artist Mary Edna Fraser, whose photography captures the affects of climate change. (For more on Fraser’s art, go here.)
Catherine Ridley is the Vice President of Education and Communications of One Hundred Miles. We caught up with her last week.
Tell me about One Hundred Miles.
Catherine Ridley: One Hundred Miles is a coastal conservation organization. We try to affect change through advocacy and education. What we’re trying to do is broaden the tent of what it means to be a conservationist. Everyone has a role to play. We want as many people to join forces as possible. That’s true whether you’re a biologist, community advocate, or educator, but equally true if you’re a painter or sculptor or storyteller. There’s a place for all of us in that big tent. That belief is at the heart of all our education programs we do across our coast, from Savannah to St. Mary’s.
How did the Nature and the Arts program come about?
Nature in the Arts came about in 2016 as a way to share the stories of these inspiring artists. We have such a tremendous history of art in Savannah, and we want to hold them up and encourage others to follow their model.
We recognize artists have relied on the natural world for generations as their muse and inspiration. Our programs are designed to really help people discover their own coastal story through the lens of nature. We’ve done photography workshops and creative writing and potter,y just everything trying to get people to think about that side of their brain and what they care about the coast and how they share what’s important to them.
Simultaneously, one of the artists we respect and love is Mary Edna Fraser. She’s a phenomenal person and we honored her as part of our first One Hundred Miles 100, an annual list of people affecting change for our coast. She’s not just a tremendously talented artist, she’s a wonderful person. We wanted to find a program for her. We know our communities are ready to have a conversation about the effects of climate change, and we’re doing that through our lecture series.
Why is it important to present information about the effects of climate change?
It’s important as we see sea levels rising and storm intensity increasing — we as citizens don’t know how to join that conversation. I think we’ve definitely had opportunities to have the researchers come in and present this data. Sometimes people respond to that, sometimes they don’t. They’re holding onto stories the way they remember from their childhood. They’re able to see this demonstrable and irrefutable proof—this is what our coastline looked like 20 years ago, 50 years ago, and today. It’s hard to explain that away.
Again, [Mary Edna] has had literally a bird’s-eye view to these changes. I think that’s something that’s really exciting. As people start to see these pictures, they start to see issues happening in their backyards. With coastal flooding, you’re trudging to work and driving through water. They’re all pieces of the bigger puzzle that starts to change public perception. Mary Edna’s art, in this case, is one tool towards shaking that perception.
It takes all of us. There’s not one tool that’s going to reach everyone, but collectively at the end, if we’re all raising our voices, if we’re all using our passions to share our story, there’s power in numbers.
At the end, that’s what Nature in the Arts is all about. Hopefully, this conversation may inspire some people to think about the issue of climate change differently and also inspire others to think about what talents they have and share their beliefs and passion for our coast.
How can someone get involved with One Hundred Miles?
We have a lot of programs going on. There are always opportunities to get involved as advocates and issues affecting our coast, and not just Chatham County. Up and down our coast there are people caring about different islands, and there are lots of different proposals on the table. We’re working on a wealth of issues on the federal, local, and state levels.
I manage our education side. Under education, we have monthly programs for people to build an encyclopedia of knowledge about or coast and wildlife and also experience the coast. To protect something, you have to love it, and to love something, you have to have had those formative experiences in nature.