Like many college professors, Everett Hamner, English professor at Western Illinois University-Quad Cities in Moline, is concerned with big issues affecting humanity.

He’s certainly got a weighty topic — climate change — that he will address Thursday, Oct. 6 at 4 p.m. in his presentation, “Welcome to Spaceship Earth” at WIU-QC’s Riverfront Hall (room 111), 3300 River Drive, Moline. If you can’t make it to the talk in person, you can join by Zoom at http://wiu.zoom.us/j95633191005.

Hamner teaches 20th-21st century American Literature & Film; Science, Health, & Culture (esp. climate & biotech); Religion, Spirituality, and the post-secular. He earned his Ph.D. at University of Iowa after master’s degrees at Johns Hopkins and Regent College (Vancouver, BC).

For Thursday’s lecture, Hamner filmed in WQPT’s studio on campus, and edited in the style of a TV show like HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.”

After that 35-minute video presentation, there will be an in-person Q&A he will lead, both available through Zoom. He named his lecture “Welcome to Spaceship Earth,” because we’re all riding on and are responsible for this planet.

“I want us to better understand where we are at as passengers on what is literally a spaceship, that is deeply dependent on the environmental controls, the life-support systems that are being destroyed by a relatively small group of people on board that ship,” Hamner said Tuesday.

He will be critical of the fossil-fuel industry, as contributing to global warming and destructive climate change.

“One of the things that is crucial to me to do is, invite people to discuss not just the facts but the stories we imagine ourselves to be living in,” Hamner said. “And to point out how the fossil-fuel industry is trying to get us to live one story through their propaganda.

“They want us to imagine that we are in a situation where we can afford to simply continue with business as usual, making maybe a few, what they call green shifts, but this is what I call greenwashing,” he said. “And instead what I want to offer people is a story that is far more integrated with the scientific facts.”

But that is not a single story, but many diverse stories, including film, Pulitzer Prize-winning literature, young adult fiction, comic books, and video games.

Making a difference alone and together

Hamner will try and give people ways that they can make a difference individually and collectively.

Oil and gas industries, with their powerful lobbyists have been lying to politicians and the public for decades, he said.

Smoke rises from a fire near a logging area in the Transamazonica highway region, in the municipality of Humaita, Amazonas state, Brazil, Sept. 17, 2022. Brazil has a major role to play in addressing climate change as home to the world’s largest rainforest, but after the Sunday, Oct. 2, election, the subject is less likely to come up than ever. (AP Photo/Edmar Barros, File)

“Their aim is to escape all regulations for the sake of the profits of an extremely small number of people,” Hamner said. “We need to understand that all the personal choices that we make in the world individually aren’t going to be close to enough, if we don’t include among them demanding that those in power act responsibly and remove themselves from the grip of the uber-wealthy billionaire club.”

Among pop-culture references he’ll talk about are the Netflix film “Don’t Look Up,” the Paul Schrader film “First Reformed,” and an Icelandic-Ukrainian collaborative film from a few years ago, called “Woman At War.”

The cover of “Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands,” by Kate Beaton.

”There’s several more films I will share clips from,” Hamner said, noting among other recent things a new comic memoir called “Ducks,” set in the Canadian tar sands, exploring the “raping of our planet,” he said. That term is “appropriate when you look hard at what’s occurring and the consequences for all of us.”

Not just another issue

Unfortunately, many people look at environmental issues as just one of many problems out there in the world, Hamner said.

“There’s racism, there’s fascism, there’s corruption in government – and the list goes on and they just kind of add the environment to that list,” he said. “One of my goals is to let these stories invite people into understanding that our spaceship’s life control systems are fundamental to absolutely every other problem that they’re concerned about and that shape their lives.”

There are studies that show our responses to climate destruction, that stories and our imagined sense of personal character within those stories shape our decision-making, just as much as — if not far more than — the known facts on the ground, Hamner said.

First responders with Orange County Fire Rescue use an inflatable boat to rescue a resident from a home in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Orlando, Fla. Climate change added at least 10% more rain to Hurricane Ian, a study prepared immediately after the storm shows. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

“We may appeal to those facts in order to justify our decisions, but the decisions themselves are far more driven by our sense of who are our people — what is our story that we’re part of,” he said. “The ones that we are open to listening to; the facts that we’re capable of encountering and really hearing often depend on the story we think we’re part of.”

Everything from commercials to TV, film, video games and social media all shape our sense of who we are and what story we’re living in, Hamner said. “And I’m trying to make that a little more conscious to my audience.

The Oct. 6 talk is aimed at challenging and encouraging people “to recognize they’re not as alone as they think,” he said. “We’re constantly told this a niche issue and polling shows the vast, overwhelming number of Americans – including Republicans, not just Democrats – want clean energy. They want to address the threats they’re increasingly taking seriously.”

The number of people alarmed about what they’re hearing on climate change continues to grow, Hamner said.

There will be a series of follow-up conversations at WIU, and how the institution can take this more seriously in everything they do and teach.

“One of my convictions is this is less about setting up some completely separate dimension of our society’s attention,” Hamner said. “It’s more about getting every organization involved – whether they focus on global refugee issues, on poverty globally and in the Quad Cities, or they focus on racial tensions.”

The increasing incidence and severity of scorching, sustained hot weather, frequent flooding, storms, hurricanes, wildfires, etc. results from climate change and the increasing influence of Big Oil, which matters to every organization, he said.

“How can we better partner, so we’re all working in concert here?” Hamner asked. The public also can’t leave solutions to the younger generation.

“It’s so clearly pressing – on the one hand difficult to think about, because it’s abstract and slowly unfolding, a slow-moving emergency,” he said. “This is a problem for everybody right now. There is so much of that narrative out there that just says, well, the children will solve it, and that’s awful and not an excuse that can be afforded.”  

Holocaust discussion coming up

Hamner also is scheduled to lead a thoughtful discussion on the Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel “Maus” by Art Spiegelman, on Monday, Oct. 10 at 6 p.m. at Rock Island Public Library, 401 19th St.

The cover of the Pulitzer-winning graphic novel, “Maus.”

If you need a copy of this book before the event, visit the Reference Desk at the Downtown Library to sign out a copy. Copies are available while supplies last.

Serialized from 1980 to 1991, “Maus” depicts Spiegelman interviewing his father about his experiences as a Polish Jew and Holocaust survivor. The work represents Jews as mice, Germans as cats, Poles as pigs, Americans as dogs, the British as fish, the French as frogs, and the Swedish as reindeer.

In 1992, it became the first and so far only graphic novel to win a Pulitzer Prize (the Special Award in Letters). The Oct. 10 event is in partnership with the QC community-wide project, “Out of Darkness: Holocaust Messages for Today.”

For more information on this series, click HERE.