Changing Lives


Amber Pairis, whose work in protecting America’s natural resources has won a national award, will appear with Idyllwild Arts Academy’s alumni panel on Oct. 21, at 3 pm in Stephens Recital Hall, in one of the highlights of the school’s Oct. 20-22 Family Weekend.

Now known as Dr. Pairis, thanks to her graduate work at Antioch University New England, she graduated from the Academy in 1992, having concentrated on photography. Going from an arts school to a Ph.D. in Environmental Studies surely means taking the road less traveled. But Dr. Pairis’s scientific work is driven by concern for the natural environment, a concern to which the arts have profound relevance.

“Art can bring along the community and the policy-makers by translating scientific research into something that touches your life in a personal way,” she says.

A life touched deeply enough can be changed, and Dr. Pairis has clearly taken to heart the Idyllwild Arts mission of “changing lives through the transformative power of art.” The need to address climate change—a subject to which she was led by several years of studying endangered species on the most remote Hawaiian Islands—cries out that lives must be changed.

“The pieces to promote resilience to climate change are out there, but it’s time to put the puzzle together.”

As Director of the Climate Science Alliance-South Coast, Dr. Pairis works out of San Diego, just a couple of hours from Idyllwild. But the work keeps her busy, so opportunities to return to her old high school are scarce. However, she knows that many Academy students share her environmental concerns. She also believes they’re “uniquely positioned to be innovative leaders on this front.”

That’s not all.

“I also get to come to the most beautiful place on earth!”

Even for committed activists, there’s more to life than making life better for everybody.