Professor presents TED Talk at Cosford Cinema

The University of Miami community was treated to an exclusive presentation of a TED Talk by Xavier Cortada, professor of practice and three-time graduate, on Monday. The event included a discussion on climate change impacts, research and solutions in South Florida.

How can we best engage the public on climate issues?

It’s a question University of Miami practice professor and three-time graduate Xavier Cortada has spent his life answering through socially engaged art.

Cortada addresses this question in an upcoming TED Talk, and members of the University of Miami community received an exclusive preview of the talk during a Nov. 28 screening at the Bill Cosford Cinema. The event included a discussion with university experts on climate change impacts, research and solutions in South Florida. The event also marked the launch of Miami Art Week as part of Art Basel, which begins on December 1.

To introduce the panel, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava welcomed guests and thanked Cortada for his environmental activism in South Florida. Levine Cava called on young audience members to be agents of change to combat climate change.

“We need public buy-in and we need to welcome broad civic engagement and pressure from residents, students and future generations. [to fight climate change]Levine Cava said. “Climate change will affect all of you the most, and we’re counting on you to be the shakers, the disruptors, and make sure we don’t back down on those commitments.”

The discussion was moderated by David Kelly, University of Miami Patti Professor and Allan Herbert Business School, Academic Director of the Master’s Program in Sustainable Business and Co-Chair of the Sustainable Business Research Cluster. It introduced Cortada alongside Sonia Chao, associate dean for research and co-director of the Master of Professional Science in Urban Sustainability and Resilience program in the School of Architecture, and Brian Haus, professor and chair of the Department of Science of the Ocean at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric, and Earth Science.

Experts discussed their academic and research-based approaches to climate solutions. They noted that the threat of climate change is one that people living in Miami must address with a comprehensive strategy that includes research, community and passion.

Chao highlighted one of her research projects in which she and a team of researchers analyzed data, including maps of federal insurance rates, land areas and building structures, to develop a tool that details how buildings are exposed to the risk of sea level rise, to solve them. specific vulnerabilities. She said she hopes research like hers will help communities make informed decisions.

“We hope this tool will become a useful tool. Not only to citizens, because it allows them to understand what their reality is and help them make choices, but it also helps those in government make their choices. They have limited resources and we have entrusted them to make decisions on our behalf that will best serve us as a community,” she said.

The discussion focused on how raising awareness in the South Florida community of the threats of sea level rise is an integral part of the complex strategies that will be part of the solution to the climate crisis.

Cortada shared how she uses her art to inspire awareness throughout Miami.

“As an artist, I try to make sure that the wider society finds its relevance [climate issues] at a time when it might not be obvious,” he said.

In 1984, the nonprofit organization TED—which stands for technology, entertainment, and design—began bringing together experts in technology, entertainment, and design for public presentations at its conference. The topics of these TED talks have grown, as have the presenters, who are usually limited to 18 minutes each, and the presentations. Countdown, TED’s climate action initiative, launched in 2019, with a focus on discussions on accelerating solutions to climate change.

Cortada’s TED Talk recounts a trip to Antarctica in 2006, where he discovered just how serious the climate crisis is. Inspired by his visit, Cortada turned to socially involved art. He founded “Underwater HOA,” an interactive art project that aims to raise awareness of sea level rise in Miami and engage people to take action against climate change by providing a space where homeowners can address its impending impact.

The artwork depicts South Florida’s vulnerability to sea level rise, particularly the vulnerability faced by South Florida homeowners. Using paintings made from melting ice that Cortada saw in Antarctica, local homeowners then install a “marker” in their front yard that illustrates the house’s current height above sea level.

Ethan Rozencwaig, a senior studying ecosystem science and policy;  Dale Pantone, a senior studying maritime business;  and Luke Norris, a sophomore studying ecosystem science and policy, pose for a photo in front of
Ethan Rozencwaig, a senior studying ecosystem science and policy; Dale Pantone, a senior studying maritime business; and Luke Norris, a sophomore studying ecosystem science and policy, pose for a photo in front of “HELLO,” photographed by Cortada Project intern Patrick Rodriguez. Photo: Jenny Hudak/University of Miami

Before the event, participants were invited to participate in Cortada’s participatory art project “HELLO,” which launched with Levine Cava in 2021, and “Underwater HOA,” where participants could use an interactive map to see where their home was above sea level. Visitors took tags from the “HELLO” project and, instead of identifying themselves with their names, identified how many meters above sea level they lived.

Sara Hooper, a freshman studying economics and neuroscience, and Luke Norris, a sophomore studying ecosystem science and policy, are interns for the Xavier Cortada Foundation. Together with Cortada’s team, he works to bring his art projects to life in the community.

“I know the importance of how art can reach people in a way words can’t,” Norris said. “You know the saying ‘A picture is worth a thousand words?’ I have done murals and art in public places to create awareness [about climate change]. Awareness is important, but it’s really about awareness and action.”

Cortada noted that socially engaged art provides a mechanism to bring diverse people together in a common challenge and gives people a sense of agency and responsibility in the climate crisis.

The event ended with questions from the audience. Matthew Justin, a first-year student studying architecture, asked the panelists about future alternatives to natural barriers, such as mangroves, to reduce natural disasters. Haus discussed the emergence of hybrid man-made structures with natural attachments, such as coral reef or seagrass barges, to replace sea walls.

As a member of the Student Government ECO Agency, Justin previously helped Cortada plant mangrove seedlings along the canal near the Miami Herbert School of Business as part of the program. Recovery project. “It was really cool to come and hear what Professor Cortada had to say after meeting him at the business school,” he said.

Cortada’s TED Talk will premiere online on December 15. Visit Xavier Cortada Foundation for more information.

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