SFU students break down ‘invisible walls’ to climate action

The students aimed to cultivate public dialogue through a series of personal monologues

SFU student Rhiannon Wallace performing a monologue at the event.

Although many people are aware of climate change issues, some may feel that they are unable to take action to change the situation. These often invisible barriers are what inspired a group of interdisciplinary SFU students to take on this event.  

The Invisible Wall team collected stories about students’ struggles with action in the face of climate change and turned them into a series of monologues showcased at the Café Deux Soleil on February 5.

The event drew a large crowd of students and community members to examine their own inaction and ways to overcome it.

“Our vision was to explore the invisible walls — invisible because we don’t often talk about them — the walls to action whether that be climate action or another form of action,” explained Jessie Russell, a student in environmental sciences and organizer of The Invisible Wall.

The students hope that the audience took away a better understanding of the reasons people are not involved in action or came to identify with the stories told by the performers, Russell said.

Initially, the organizers compiled anecdotes before reaching out to contributors to perform their stories and reconstructed anonymous submissions into monologues. “A lot of the pieces that were written as amalgamations of many voices touched on the fear of being alone in action, the fear of being overwhelmed in taking action,” Russell explained. “And then some of the pieces that were shared by those who wrote them touched on a variety of issues including more external [societal] barriers.”

The whole idea was originally just spontaneous and between friends, but grew into a five-month extracurricular project to engage the public around these issues.

“One of our core organizers [. . .] she’s aware of a lot of the issues and feels incredibly overwhelmed by the issues, but there is not necessarily any outlet to talk about the barriers to why we might not take action on climate change,” Russell said.

“We aren’t a club. We’re just a bunch of students who were interested in organizing an event so that we could talk about issues that are not talked about enough.”

The team consisted of international studies students Prodpran Wangcherdchuwong, Nicolas Tellez-España, and Scott Takenaka; Jessie Russell and Tessa Ramburn who are in environmental sciences; Ted Hinkle in communication; and recent SFU alum Leena Hasan. Ever since they started the project, Russell said the response has been huge and people seemed really taken by the idea of discussing a topic which is often overlooked.

“I think one of my favourite things about this particular project is that we didn’t have an agenda, and so what I really loved about it was the opportunity for the monologues to speak for themselves, to contradict each other, to maybe come from such a different reality,” Russell noted.