FENV alumni team up to make climate change education accessible for all

March 21, 2024

On February 12th, Faculty of Environment alumni Paige Hunter (BEnv, REM, 2023) and Victor Yin (BA, GEOG, 2022) hosted an event at Vancouver’s Heritage Hall as the first chapter in a series of in-person events called The Art of Change.  

Each event explores a different art form, beginning with “Chapter 1: Sounds”.

“The series is built on the theory that the arts can tap straight into our emotional selves and spark motivation for climate action,” says Hunter.

It’s one of the initiatives the two of them are collaborating on as part of the Sword Fern Collective, established in 2022 to spread hope and share what they learned in university with the world.

“We realized most people aren't able to access comprehensive climate knowledge,” says Yin. “So, one of Sword Fern Collective's goals is to make what we've learned more accessible.”

When SFU’s Faculty of Environment heard about the event, we were curious to learn more and caught up with Hunter and Yin to talk about the Sword Fern Collective, The Art of Change series, and what else they have planned. 

Paige Hunter and attendees at the Art of Change, Chapter 1: Sounds
Victor Yin at the Art of Change, Chapter 1: Sounds

1. Where is the name “Sword Fern Collective” from?   

Hunter: We wanted a name that reflected the Pacific Northwest and what we were trying to create. We chose ‘collective’ because all our work is focused on building community. At events we organize, like The Art of Change, guests are as much a part of it as we or the performers are. Everyone becomes a part of the collective experience, even if it’s only for an hour or two.

Yin: I was really drawn to sword ferns because swords make me think of the adage "the pen is mightier than the sword." We are certainly in a collective and existential battle right now — a fight for climate justice, reparations, and reconciliation.


2. What can you tell me about your Art of Change series?  

Hunter:  While accurate data is so important for decision-making, it doesn’t always resonate with the public. Despite robust data from groups like the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), we still see harmful discourse and conspiracy theories pop up, which divide communities and delay climate action.

I grew up immersed in the arts and know the power they have for connecting disparate groups of people. Victor and I are also both alumni of the SFU Semester in Dialogue program, so we’ve also witnessed how dialogue can help people think deeply about “wicked problems” like climate change.  We’ve frankenstein-ed these two together to create The Art of Change.

Yin: I think for me, The Art of Change is really about the big collective spiritual struggle of our time. The climate crisis is not just a technical problem with a technical solution — fundamentally it's a person-problem. And people-problems require personal solutions. I think that starts with empowering individuals, who in turn strengthen communities — we will not address the climate crisis with a single silver bullet, but with thousands of unique community-sized projects that weave together.


A string quartet performs at The Art of Change, Chapter 1: Sounds

"The climate crisis is not just a technical problem with a technical solution — fundamentally it's a person-problem. And people-problems require personal solutions."

3. What was the goal for the event on February 12th? How did it go?

Yin: Our goal for "Chapter 1: Sounds" was to use music as an entry point into connecting with individual people. Music is really powerful — there's a lot of emotional and spiritual energy, especially when it's experienced collectively. Our event was kind of an experiment in a sense, as we also had many questions we wanted to test in the field: Can we use music to bring up thoughts and feelings and reflections in the participants? Can we use music to encourage self-reflection?

Hunter: We were blown away by the response. We took some risks with our program because we wanted to push our guests and the musicians to be a part of the event together, rather than the transactional audience/performer/host relationship, and thankfully we had a very willing group. For example, we opened the event by asking a group of strangers to sing with each other, and it created a magical experience where everyone was willing to be vulnerable. It set the tone for the rest of the evening and created some really deep discussions later on.


4. What are you currently working on?  

Hunter: We’ll soon begin planning the next event in The Art of Change, which is pretty exciting!

I think we both want to take more time and write for Rerooting/Rerouting, I know that the past times I’ve sat down to write for the blog have been really healing. I also have a few talks scheduled at high schools talking about climate hope, so hoping (pun-intended) to expand on that. 


5. What is Rerooting, Rerouting?  

Yin: Rerooting, Rerouting is our online publication where we post articles, think pieces, poetry, and other media related to the climate. We're trying to establish new understandings (re-root), and then use that to slowly, collectively, shift our societal values (re-route). 

The best thing about Rerooting, Rerouting is that you can also subscribe to it like a newsletter — so every time we post, you'll get our writing right there in your inbox.  


6. Are there any plans you would like to share?

Yin: I would really like to find more time to write for Rerooting, Rerouting, and to continue sharing more thoughts and ideas. We'd also love to grow the Sword Fern Collective team — we have so many ideas but not nearly enough time or hands (so please reach out to us if you're interested). Our long-term goals are to help make the climate education in our K-12 curriculum more hopeful and comprehensive. 

Hunter: I’m really excited to continue The Art of Change. Not to be dramatic, but it’s been really life-affirming to combine my passions for the arts, community, change-making, dialogue, and climate action.

My big long-term priority is to work with more public school teachers on their climate curriculum to make it easier for them to teach and more hopeful for both them and their students. I’d also love to work with early-mid career people who may not know how they can be climate leaders. 


7. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Hunter: We are so incredibly grateful to the SFU Faculty of Environment, the Morris J Wosk Centre for Dialogue, and SFU for giving us the tools and knowledge to create something like Sword Fern Collective and The Art of Change. While there’s just a (very) small team running Sword Fern right now, we got here because of our communities, so a big thank you to everyone who’s been supporting us.

Yin: Likewise. This absolutely would not have been possible without all the people who have been so excited and enthused about what we're working on! In particular, our friend Erica Binder has so much experience in arts management and made our concert possible.

I think Sword Fern Collective is proof that you don't need to have a professional background or years of experience to get things done. Paige and I had zero experience starting or running an organization. It's also proof that we can get things done while still being true to our values and prioritizing our wellbeing.

Follow the Sword Fern Collective on Instagram here to stay up to date about future events in The Art of Change series.