What do Arctic wolves, Alfred Hitchcock and King’s students have in common? They’ve all worked with Annett Wolf.
The retired Hollywood journalist meets with King’s students as they set aside ancient philosophers to discuss modern day issues in an ongoing series of audio podcasts called, “We Are Talking.”
The podcasts, to be published on the King’s website, each cover a different theme. The chosen themes for the year are: body image, the environment, LGBTQ identity, happiness, and a year-end review and call to action.
While the project is student run and oriented, it is mentored by Wolf, who moved to Halifax in 2012 to begin work on her autobiographical film, So It Was. In the past she has interviewed celebrities such as Alfred Hitchcock,
Jerry Lewis, Peter Sellers and Jack Lemmon. She worked on the CBS television special “Elvis in Concert,” which documented his last tour before he died.
Wolf says the “We Are Talking” discussions are an opportunity to delve into what individual students “care about, their concerns and how they want to change the world.”
Though, she says the discussion should be inspirational to anyone listening, not just youth.
Fourth-year early modern studies student Ian Kenny helps lead discussion. He says hearing about his peers’ opinions and experiences is hugely enlightening.
Kenny says “We Are Talking” has “profound social benefits to ordering your thoughts and becoming a more engaged citizen in your community, whether that be at King’s, municipally, provincially, federally, or globally.”
The goal of the series, he said, is to have students contribute, knowing their opinion will be valued. The conversations are not scripted, but guided – to make listening easier. He said it’s important the podcasts are not rants, but rather, “educated, personal conversations.”
Kenny believes King’s will benefit from Wolf ’s experiences. “The spirit and vitality she brings is totally at home here,” he said. “We fit well together, Annett and King’s.”
Katherine Connolly co-founded “We Are Talking” with Annett and organizes each event. Studying sustainability and international development, she has an especial interest in current issues. “When I leave these meeting I always
feel refreshed,” said Connolly. “It brings my mood up to engage with people who care.”
While discussions happen on campus all the time, “this is a way to keep record of it and show the greater public that the students here do care about things other than Plato and Dante.”
She said the main point of the series “is just letting people know that they’re not alone.”
Connolly says Wolf is an incredible resource for the journalism school and the theatre department.
“We Are Talking” meets twice to discuss each issue. The first gathering is an opportunity to brainstorm and collaborate. This meeting is higher energy, with a lot of interrupting and unchecked facts. The second meeting is calmer, meant for planned, researched discussion.
For the most recent installment of “We Are Talking,” the group congregated around a recording device in the Wilson Common room.
They discussed the social and political issues surrounding our environment.
They covered a lot of ground, talking about bike lanes, urban congestion, pipelines, oil sands, genetically modified foods, selling of water, trophy hunting and eco-tourism.
They also discussed an overarching guilt that haunts the average citizen for the wasteful way our society operates. Students say this guilt is soothed by monetary donations to environmental causes like adopting a panda, biking to work, or turning your lights off for an hour annually on Earth Day.
“It is important for this generation to stop thinking in dollars and cents,” said Kenny. You can’t buy a free conscience – or a new planet.
Canada is romanticized as an unadulterated place of nature, a beautiful wilderness, home to awe-inspiring wildlife, iconic mountains and vast waterways. While actually, said Connolly, Canada is one of the most environmentally destructive countries in the world.
Wolf begins each “We Are talking” discussion with a theme-related reflection and personal anecdote.
She opened this podcast by speaking about her work in the Canadian Arctic. She initially came to Canada to go to the Arctic – to meet a wolf.
Wolf grew up in Nazi-occupied Denmark, isolated from her parents because of her mother’s Jewish background. As a child she found comfort in an imaginary friend, a white Arctic wolf. She still feels a connection to that wolf today.
In 2000 she founded the Wolf Foundation, a non-profit organization committed to studying and protecting the wolf population in North America’s Arctic and Sub-Arctic territories.
Wolf went to the Arctic in 2004 at age 68. “I had never been in a sleeping bag in my life. I had never been anywhere near an outhouse or a tent,” she says. Her guide informed her that the sleeping bag she did bring was for Florida.
She soon learned how to survive in an Arctic climate and before the end of her eight-week stay encountered the white Arctic wolf she had envisioned since childhood.
Annett tells the students one day they could be watching a National Geographic special with their child about the polar bear or the wolf and have to explain how these magnificent animals have all died because of human carelessness.
“We Are Talking” made FYP student Connor Johnson realize his strong opinions against corporate marketing strategies. He thinks Coca-Cola’s polar bear campaign is a joke. Corporations with high carbon emissions, like Coca-Cola, add greatly to global warming, the highest threat to the polar bear.
“This discussion makes me want to look more into advertising and how it affects people,” says Johnson. “It’s made me think about how I should be changing my lifestyle.”
For Johnson, “FYP gives the tools to speak critically about the past. ‘We Are Talking’ puts a focus on thinking critically about the present.”
Wolf greatly admires the student’s passion and desire for change. “It’s their show,” she says. “It’s their brilliance, their knowledge.”
The next “We Are Talking” meeting will be in January.