top of page



Author: Monty Hughes

After heavy deliberation, I did a trust fall with my friend and colleague Hannah Findling and signed my Saturday off to an activism training, “Be the Revolution.” I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I arrived curious, early, and more than a little caffeinated.

Immediately I began connecting with other activists from all sorts of backgrounds and spheres of action. It felt exciting to share such a spontaneous space with so many like-spirited people from different corners of USC and beyond, and the event hadn’t even started yet!

Throughout the afternoon, I became a stronger changemaker, expanded my knowledge of movement building, and found comfort in the uncomfortable through a host of guest speaker presentations and novel workshop activities.

During my most-powerful experience of the day, attendees were invited to hold eye contact in complete silence with strangers, which prompted laughter, wide smiles, and even tears. I would never have imagined such a seemingly inoffensive and simple activity could produce such a rich and varied array of human emotions, including my own (a.k.a. uncontrollable smiling). Though not the best icebreaker activity to employ at every activist meeting, I found it uniquely effective at creating nearly instantaneous connections among total strangers. I guess there’s some truth to the whole eyes are the window into the soul thing!

Throughout the training, our host Jay Ponti also discussed change-making strategies and principles, like “outside tactics, internal beings,” that emphasized the importance of self-care and healing trauma for activists. I was ecstatic to see self-care explored in an activist training because of the burnout crisis plaguing activist spaces, which I’ve witnessed firsthand in political campaigns (where self-sacrifice is, unfortunately, part of the job description). Jay continued to share about the importance of collaboration across movements and the detrimental effects of infighting as well, drawing on personal stories from the Bankexit movement and Standing Rock.

We further explored four changemaker archetypes– including analysts, promoters, supporters, and controllers– and how our identities within one or more of those categories influence our behaviors and effectiveness as activists. I was genuinely shocked at how accurate the characteristic behaviors of my archetype were in describing my own traits and tactics as an activist, especially as I analyzed myself honestly alongside other attendees belonging to the same category.

Toward the end of our Be The Revolution training, we were fortunate enough to hear from a Native American spiritual leader and former co-chair for the Global Indigenous People’s Cause at the United Nations, Shannon Rivers. During our conversation, Rivers explored the Doctrine of Discovery (a 15th century framework for Europeans to claim territories uninhabited by Christians) and its continued use in denying Native American claims to land. We also learned about ways to be an ally to Native American activists.

After wrapping up some fountain-side conversations outside the temporary home of our weekend workshop, I confidently rode home feeling like a more capable and self-aware activist. Sometimes while caught up in the dizzying scene of activist spaces, I’ve forgotten how critical it is to step back and look inwards for the sake of the cause and one’s own well-being. This training served not only as a critical reminder of this but also as an invaluable space for connecting with other activists, building a more robust arsenal of change-making tools, and analyzing how our efforts fit into bigger movements for change.

Updated: Aug 22, 2023

Author: Au Chung

Photographer: Dylan J. Locke

If you visited USC’s Founder Park on the morning of April 11, you found that this green space was bustling with sustainability organizations, student projects and community partners, all busy in preparation for the year’s largest green event. By the time the event kicked off, the serene campus space had transformed into a hub of vibrant discussions, delicious vegan treats, live music, and a resource fair connecting students to local organizations, all unified by a common goal - a fossil-free city and a sustainable future.

The Arts and Climate Collective’s much-awaited event, "Imagining a Fossil-Free L.A." The festival, held in celebration of Earth Month, resonated deeply with the attendees, who were eager to engage with activists and learn about climate justice initiatives.

One such artist, Katya Urban, a junior studying Visual and Performing Arts and a member of the ACC, showcased her multimedia installation, “The Emotion House.” The interactive space, meant to serve as a cathartic space for people to express their feelings in a communal environment, invited attendees to contribute to the art, making it an ever-changing piece.

“It’s deeply meaningful to be in a community that shares a passion about fighting for sustainability and climate justice,” Urban says. “At a place like USC, there are times where it’s hard to find people who actually are willing to act on the issues we see in the world, but I feel like I’ve been able to find others who are working alongside me to make meaningful art and contribute to initiatives of all scales.

Throughout the event, students had the opportunity to connect with local South and East L.A. groups as well as various USC organizations, providing resources and innovative tools to inspire them to get involved in the greater work. The Undergraduate Student Government (USG), the Environmental Student Assembly (ESA), and the SC Garden Club were just a few of the enthusiastic participants at the resource fair.

Meanwhile, the main stage hosted a captivating panel featuring medical experts, professors, and grassroots leaders, expertly moderated by our very own Colin Maclay, the executive director of the USC Annenberg Innovation Lab and co-founder of the Arts & Climate Collective. Each panelist offered their vision for a more climate-friendly and sustainable L.A., ranging from "access to healthy shelter" to "living in a future of abundance" with affordable and clean energy.

The festival also highlighted the student-driven initiatives aimed at transforming the campus into a model of sustainability. Meet some of our on-campus organizations here: [link]

The powerful conversations, creative projects, and community connections built during this event will undoubtedly continue to shape the path towards a future where a fossil-free L.A. is more than just a dream - it's a reality we all work together to achieve.

If you haven’t noticed yet, this theme of “reimagining Los Angeles” also happens to be the theme of our upcoming fourth cohort. If you’re wanting to get involved in our Arts & Climate Collective and have a project proposal, Fall 2023 applications will be open from August 21 to September 24 at this link:

Updated: Dec 15, 2022

100 students, faculty and community members gathered at USC's first ever Eco Film & Media Arts Festival to watch student's environmentally themed films and engage in an inspiring panel about climate storytelling and activism. Our panelists were Courtnee Zambrano, a screenwriter and producer who recently worked with Scott Z Burns' in an upcoming climate themed Apple TV show, and Jay Ponti, a grassroots political organizer who has participated in some of the most important movements of the last decade from Occupy Wall Street to Standing Rock. The panel was moderated by our lead student organizer Natasha Nutkiewicz, who is a senior theater and film student. We discussed the panelists' career journeys, big need for hopeful and informed climate stories, the challenges of being a young filmmaker and climate emotions while organizing.

Watch some of the student films here:

Natasha Nutkiewicz · Our Garden

William Higbie · Divest SC

Arian Tomar · Canaries of the Coast

Aristotle Hartzell · Lambent

Sanay Saboo · Free Plant

Yayu Zheng & Mengyuan Qiao · Out of Sight

Braulio Hernandez · Right in Front of You

Neha Dhabale · Divine Intervention

Eduardo Maia & Melanie Robertson · Living Colors

Watch the full panel!

From a USC Annenberg Media article about the event:

"Each storyline is different, but all of the films work to share the same message, according to the festival’s prompt: ‘we must act now.’ Many of the film directors found the motivation to share this message through film because of their personal experiences, they said"

A few words from the lead organizer, Natasha Nutkiewicz:

Charles McCollum Photography Credit

"We all know the climate crisis is here. It's an emergency we can't continue to ignore. But why doesn't it get the attention it so desperately needs on TV, in movies, in podcasts, or even in the news? The absence is startling. According to the recent Good Energy and Norman Lear Center report, only 2.8% of 37,453 analyzed scripts from 2016 to 2020 contained climate keywords. We need to start telling stories about environmental justice, eco-feminism, and sustainable futures to culture hack, shift our collective consciousness and alter the course of our future. The stakes couldn't be higher, especially for storytellers and artists.

Charles McCollum Photography Credit

Instead of just sulking in eco-grief and anxiety as I have been for the past 2 years, I decided to use my skills as a producer and organize this film festival. I am just one person, right? But with the support of a collective, I was able to bring 100 people together to celebrate students already doing this work, raise awareness and inspire action. As young people, we have more power and agency than we think.

I couldn't be more grateful to the Arts & Climate Collective, Arts in Action, Assignment Earth, and Media Arts + Practice for supporting this event. Thank you, Colin McClay and Michael Bodie for helping me and trusting my vision. Thank you to everyone who came, your messages and words of encouragement mean the world. Thank you to the wonderful panelists, Courtnee Zambrano and Jay Ponti for your honesty and passion.

We have the science and solutions, now we need to tell the story and continue building a movement. This is just the start!"

Charles McCollum Photography Credit

"Your event inspired me so much. Thank you for bringing the community together and giving these artists a venue to showcase their work” - Eliana

Charles McCollum Photography Credit

"Thank you for inviting me! Seriously it was so inspirational to see everyone's stories and

hear what they had to say. In a way, it really made me think differently about the talent at

this school and really made me think about what I want my art to do for the world. If there's

anything else like last night going on please let me know because I'd love to come and

show my support again!!!" - CJ

Charles McCollum Photography Credit

For more pictures of the event, visit the Eco Film + Media Arts Festival: Photo Gallery here.

Stay engaged and join on campus sustainability efforts

Check out this opportunity: 2022 NRDC Climate Storytelling Fellowship.

bottom of page