Numbers and data models are commonplace when it comes to the science of climate change, but adding music to the mix could be the secret to driving the message home.

This is why Dr. Madjid Mohseni, the scientific director at UBC-based RES’EAU Centre for Mobilizing Innovation, is partnering up with the Italy-based symphony Bazzini Consort in an innovative approach towards tackling climate change and its impact on water.

On World Water Day this year, they presented a series of four short video vignettes featuring musicians playing excerpts from Antonio Vivaldi’s masterpiece The Four Seasons. Vivaldi had an affinity for nature. For Dr. Mohseni and Bazzini Consort conductor Aram Khacheh, this classical music piece was the perfect vehicle for thinking about the environment in new ways.

Dr. Mohseni, an engineering professor in the faculty of applied science specializing in clean water solutions, hopes to start conversations around climate change and water. UBC’s media team spoke to him about the collaborative project.

Why is intersecting art and science important in this project?

We really want to take a holistic approach to innovation and learning, and part of this is seeking out and learning from from other disciplines. As an engineer, I’ve found that the technical sense we bring to our work could be even more innovative if we branch out.

For example, when tackling critical issues in Indigenous communities, as engineers, we have to be mindful of the unintentional by-product of technologies. We [also] have the opportunity to reach out and learn from the Indigenous perspectives and their traditional environmental knowledge and practices—we can’t just apply our engineering way of thinking. We need to apply a different lens. There’s so much data and opportunity for learning within traditional oral storytelling that could complement our technical approach to problem-solving.

How did the collaboration come about with the Bazzini Consort?

We had some conversations thinking about a collaboration, and found there is a synergy between how they think and the work we do. They are a group of young, creative, and talented musicians who are unconventional and they also have a mandate of bringing societal impact, in their case through music.

We want to highlight the importance of water, and through this collaboration we are able to tell the story of water through the music. We hope to generate heightened awareness, but also conversations around what we can do about climate change.

When looking at the challenges with water in Indigenous communities we realize these conversations need innovation and things need to be done differently. Hopefully by bringing more human connection to these conversations through music there can be more acceptance of these issues. And we can then start to talk about how to change things.

As someone who specializes in water quality and purification, what are you thinking about this World Water Day?

World Water Day is symbolic for talking about the importance of clean water, of course, but this needs to be talked about every day. Every day I open my tap and drink water without thinking that how blessed we are to have clean running drinking water. This makes me think that so many people don’t have this luxury, even here in Canada. The fact is that so many people don’t have such access to this basic human right is important. I want there to be more conversation on the value that water has, and the connection we have to water is something we can’t take for granted.


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