Hunger for Hope is a multimedia project that serves as a collection of stories from people who are part of or related to the agriculture industry near Viroqua, Wisconsin, a hub of organic farming in the Driftless Region. The interviews focus on the impacts climate change has had for the interviewees in the last ten years and the ways that people are mitigating and adapting to these changes. The stories highlight flooding, erosion, and water contamination and emphasize regenerative agriculture, rotational grazing, and community activism and education as ways forward. See more at Hunger for Hope.

Driftless Books and Music is a bookstore and concert space in a warehouse in Viroqua, Wisconsin. In 17 years, Eddy Nix, the owner, has created a space that homes close to a million books. In non-pandemic times, Driftless hosts up to 100 music events a year and created a music collective that provides community for artists. After starting his own theater company at age 16 and then spending more than a decade traveling the world, Nix bought tens of thousands of books on eBay on a whim and started a bookstore in the post office building of a small town in Wisconsin. Within two years, the bookstore had lost one of its walls in a tornado and had multiple feet of water in the building from a flood. In an act of what Eddy calls guerrilla philanthropy, a stranger gave him an abandoned tobacco warehouse in 2009 which was renamed The Forgotten Works Warehouse and Driftless Center for Slow Media. In the 15 years since, they have transformed the empty building into a community gathering space where people contribute to the inventory through donations and trades every day.

 

Eddy Nix appreciates that a used bookstore can act as an alternative to the hyper-capitalism and consumerism that surrounds us. While shopping in a bookstore, you can take your time and don’t need to buy anything. He also believes used bookstores have been spaces that support revolutionary movements and wants them to be a place that community issues get discussed. Eddy spoke of the current extinctions of physical books that are happening under our noses as books become digitized and there’s a lack of a new generation that is motivated to protect these books. Every year, 320 million books are thrown away in the United States alone, the equivalent of 1 billion trees. Eddy hopes to pass the bookstore on to young people in the community, envisioning the bookstore eventually being run by one of two local schools, Youth Initiative High School or Thoreau College. Eddy hopes that Driftless Books and Music can help reignite excitement for literature and community in the eyes of younger generations. Published on the Peninsula Press.

Thoreau College is a microcollege in Viroqua, Wisconsin where artists and activists from ages 18 to 46 live and learn together in an intentional community. Thoreau College is working to create immersive, impactful, personalized higher education that is also financially accessible. The college currently has academic courses in regenerative agriculture, writing composition, political philosophy, and visual arts. In addition to internships and classes, each student and faculty member participates in self-governance of all college programs including admissions, outreach, curriculum design, and operating the business aspect of a greenhouse called Thoreau’s Garden. Thoreau College is currently hosting a range of programs including the Metamorphosis Year, a full-time program for young adults seeking to challenge and develop themselves through engagement with academics, labor, community, art, and nature. The college is also organizing a three-week summer program for fifteen people that will include a week-long farm stay and an intensive workshop as an introduction to permaculture. Read more at the Peninsula Press.

For An Exploration of Wildfires and COVID-19 Fatality, I used QGIS to create maps to determine whether a correlation exists between air pollution from wildfires in the Central Coast of California and fatality rates of COVID-19 at a county level. These maps help us better understand the health impacts of fires and how they amplify inequalities so that we can minimize these consequences, motivating action for policy change to support low-income communities of color in these areas, especially farmworkers and other essential workers that make our society run. This work is increasingly urgent as wildfires, drought, extreme weather, and infectious diseases become more frequent and intense because of climate change.