At the Crossroads of the Four Forms of Catastrophe

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atthecrossroads.jpgWe here at the Bridging Divides, the Conference on Communication and Environment in Boulder. Artist Mimi Katzenbach's installation At the Crossroads of the Four Forms of Catastrophe invites participation from those attending Virtual COCE.

Guest post by Mimi Stokes Katzenbach

As you enter room 235, four columns of covered with colored papers and text meet you.  Deliberately makeshift, very low (non) tech, irregular, uneven, somewhat precarious, temporary: as shelters are in environmental catastrophes. 

Ripped edges everywhere: as structures and lives are ripped apart by catastrophes.

And as hearts are shattered into compassion by catastrophes.

This hybrid poster session/art work is an adaptation of a landscape installation work-in-process created for the IECA conference to serve three purposes: 1) to bridge four concepts of Catastrophe from diverse disciplines; 2) as art-based research to reflect the environmental communications community to itself; and 3) as a curriculum prototype for all levels of education. 


The Bridge

The Four Forms of Catastrophe come from three disciplinary sources: Environmental Science, Drama, and the mythopoetic Story tradition. 

Right now, at this moment in the long epic history of human life on earth, we are standing at the Crossroads of these four forms of Catastrophe, all actively playing out in human life and cultural and living systems.



There are four questions, one on each column, that conference participants are invited to respond to and write their responses, either on the pieces of paper on the floor and / or on-line at the IECA website. 

The Four Questions


Scientific Catastrophe

How does communicating the science of environmental catastrophes make you feel?

As a person? As a communicator? About the planet, the future, human beings?


Tragic Catastrophe

What is the critical insight into our environmental tragedy that liberates us from our tragic human  fate to render the planet no longer adaptable to life?

What insight has our many environmental tragedies given you into life, humans, yourself?


Comedic Catastrophe

What is your wild audacious improbable “impossible” what -- event? awakening?

invention? insight? -- that turns our tragic planetary situation around that you deeply

wish, hope, desire to happen?

What do you love about being alive -- now?


Transcendent Catastrophe (Eucatastrophe)

After we have come through the tragic stage of human life on earth we are now in and are living in a sustainable just and thriving future, what / who will you be overbrimming with gratitude for bringing you / us / all life through, and why?


Who/what would be a catastrophe to despair? An awakening to heart piercing joy?


Arts Based Research

After the conference, I would like to gather up all responses, in person and virtual, and craft four poetic summaries of the IECA community ‘At the Crossroads.’  All responses kept anonymous in the poetic summary.


Sustainable Humanities Curriculum

A Curriculum resource model will be available after the Conference.  I will post a notice at the IECA website with a link to my website for a free download to IECA members.


Thank you.

Mimi Stokes Katzenbach, MA