Who We Are

Our collaborations explore the friction between diverse ways of knowing environments: we aim to bring them into productive relationships beyond our university’s campus to nurture inclusive environmental futures. This summer, with partners in Philadelphia and beyond, we’re developing participatory, arts-driven and evidence-based public initiatives that invite Climate Stories documenting experiences of global climate change in local environments from the Schuylkill and beyond, and we’re continuing to support Futures Beyond Refining in south Philadelphia with remotely-available public history tours and exhibits about life with an old refinery and with the establishment of a pilot community-based air quality monitoring network.

Zoë Affron (C’23, English // Environmental Studies) joined PPEH as a public research intern in June 2020. She is interested in environmental justice issues, and especially those that are specific to Philadelphia. This summer, she is excited to be working with the Beyond the Lab team on a community air quality monitoring project in South Philadelphia. She will also be managing the group’s Facebook page. 

Meg Arenberg is Managing Director of the Penn Program in Environmental Humanities. As part of Beyond the Lab this summer, she is leading initiatives to expand and develop the My Climate Story project and its storybank of personal experiences of climate change. She will be focused on efforts to diversify the growing archive linguistically and culturally by forging new partnerships with community organizations, activist groups, and individuals in Philadelphia and farther afield.

Grace Boroughs (C’20, Environmental Studies) Joined PPEH as part of the Sink Float Spill Flow research group in the summer of 2018 and has been actively part of the group since, focusing on the Data Remediations podcast. Grace is excited to continue her work this summer with Beyond the Lab to address environmental justice issues in Philadelphia with thoughtful design. This summer Grace will be working on the pilot project on the community air quality monitoring in South Philadelphia with Alexandre Imbot. Additionally, she will be working with Isabelle to illustrate an educational video on environmental toxins. 

Isabelle Breier (C’21, Medical Anthropology // Health and Societies) joined the Beyond the Lab team in the Penn Program in Environmental Humanities in June 2020. This summer, she will work on the Futures Beyond Refining project in the area of public health advocacy. Her focus is on educating communities about the environmental toxins that the refinery has producesd with the aim of alleviating the public health issues inherent in the enterprise. She also administers Beyond the Lab’s Twitter account.

Danny Cooper (C’21, Environmental Science // Creative Writing) joined PPEH in the spring of 2020 as a part of the climate storytelling team. This summer, he is working on sharing another type of climate story – the stories of the plants, animals, and insects all around us. As a member of the Beyond the Lab team, he will be extending the My Climate Story campaign beyond humans. Using interactive tools like iNaturalist, Danny will create the materials for anyone to share climate stories of whatever species they encounter. Danny will also be continuing work developing the Data Remediations podcast and sharing and creating graphics for the My Climate Story project on Instagram.

Connor Scarlet Hardy (C’21, Health & Societies // Gender, Sexuality & Women’s Studies) was introduced to PPEH as part of the Beyond the Lab team. This summer Connor will continue to develop materials to collect narratives for the MyClimateStory initiative, focusing specifically on partnerships and collection methods that cross linguistic and cultural borders. Connor will also assist in podcast development, read, reflect, write, and encourage others to think about how the language we use to describe environments is important, and explore the relationship between emotions and climate change. Connor is excited to be working on a team with such varied interests, and looks forward to showcasing work by Beyond the Lab members, organizing and maintaining the team website. 

Alexandre Imbot (C’20, Environmental Studies) joined PPEH as a founding member of the Futures Beyond Refining experiment. He recently published his senior thesis on the role of community based participatory research in expanding the risk assessment of Philadelphia’s largest polluter: the Philadelphia Energy Solutions Refinery. This summer, he is working with Beyond The Lab to plan, design, and install a pilot network of community maintained, independent air quality monitors in the refinery’s fenceline neighborhood of Grays Ferry. His goal is create a durable, lasting collaboration with refinery neighbors to keep heavy industry accountable for their dangerous externalities.

Tsemone Ogbemi (C’21, English) began her work with the Penn Program in Environmental Humanities in June 2020 as a public research intern. This summer, as part of the Beyond the Lab team, she will be working on the Data Refuge podcast, Data Remediations, developing a weekly newsletter called ‘Imagination Machine’ on projects at the intersection of art, science, and climate activism, and managing the Beyond the Lab Instagram account.  She is interested in the many ways that creative language and art can make data more accessible. 

Bethany Wiggin is an Associate Professor of German and affiliated faculty in the Program in Comparative Literature and the Department of English. She is the Founding Director of the Penn Program in Environmental Humanities. Her books and essays explore histories of migration, language, multilingualism, and cultural translation since the Columbian exchange across the Atlantic world. She is now writing Utopia Found and Lost in Penn’s Woods and Timescales: Ecological Temporalities across Disciplines, co-edited with PPEH alumnae, is in press (University of Minnesota Press, 2020). In 2020, she became the Co-President of the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment. She is also the coordinator of a collaborative public research project on Climate Sensing and Data Storytelling and directs its Philadelphia-based initiative, Futures Beyond Refining. You can learn more about these projects–and about how you can get involved– at ppehlab.org.

Piotr Wojcik (C’20, Urban Studies) joined PPEH as a Climate Storytelling Intern in the fall of 2019. He became engaged in developing narrative work around the Futures Beyond Refining project, which investigates the former Philadelphia Energy Solutions oil complex in South Philly, now owned by Hilco Redevelopment Partners. When the pandemic drove him home to Chicago, he was shocked to learn that residents on the Lower West Side had been organizing for years to transform a former coal plant into something non-polluting, but that Hilco has plans to extend the site’s industrial legacy. This summer, Piotr is connecting with environmental advocacy groups in both cities to help develop resources for keeping the owners of toxic real estate accountable; interrogating cultural production around dust, data, and demolition; and virtually supporting the My Climate Story and Community Air Quality Monitoring projects from his laptop.

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