Yearly Archives: 2017

Global Warming’s “Six Americas” and Yale’s Program on Climate Change Communication

This post comes from the Artists and Climate Change Blog

In preparing for a submission to an international art competition on climate change, I came across The Yale Program on Climate Change Communication (YPCCC), a dedicated program within Yale University’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Fascinated by their research on public climate change attitudes, behaviors, knowledge, and policy preferences, I reached out to Associate Director, Lisa Fernandez, whose insights guided my application. What I learned from her and from studying the program’s data convinced me that the work of YPCCC is critical to artists of all disciplines whose art is focused on stimulating awareness of, and action against, man-made climate change. Specifically, Lisa called my attention to Global Warming’s “Six Americas.”

I have been as guilty as other artists who may assume that their creative expressions against an alarming global threat will be endorsed by an audience of like-thinkers and will convert those who think otherwise. But, in fact, the research conducted by YPCCC indicates that it is not so simple. They explain:

There is no one public response to climate change. Instead there are different audiences or “interpretive communities” within society who each respond to the issue in their own distinct ways. One of the first rules of effective communication is “know thy audience” – including who they are, what they currently understand or misunderstand about climate change, their perceptions of the risks, their underlying values, attitudes, and emotions, where they get their information, whom they trust, etc.

In other words, understanding your broader audience is a ‘critical first step’ to actually impacting their beliefs and actions.

According to the research, first conducted by YPCCC in 2008 and then updated as recently as 2016, there are six distinct American audiences with regards to climate change: the alarmed, the concerned, the cautious, the disengaged, the doubtful and the dismissive. Only the alarmed, representing just 18% of Americans, are fully convinced of the threat posed by climate change and are taking some sort of action to address it. Although the concerned, at 34% of the population, agree that it is a significant reality, they have not yet become actively involved in addressing the issue. The rest of the population are not yet fully convinced of the global dangers posed by climate change. (See video explaining the six Americans.)

Just as other groups interested in generating support for actions to combat climate change (such as environmental organizations, local, state, and national governments, businesses and the media, etc.) are using the framework of the Six Americas to direct their messages, so do artists need to consider the six diverse audiences of Americans if they want to effect real changes in attitudes.

The resources contained on the YPCCC’s website are extensive and include additional information on audiences and their opinions, the barriers to behavioral change and climate action, what messages are best for engaging different audiences and combatting misinformation on climate change. The New York Times recently highlighted the research of YPCCC in its article, “How Americans Think About Climate Change, in Six Maps.”

Two maps from the article shown above reveal a clear disconnect between the responses to the statements: (Left) Global warming will harm people in the United States, vs. (Right) Global warming will harm me personally. The responses on the left show that most people know climate change is happening (Light yellow-red being 50% – 100% agree) but those on the right indicate that most don’t believe it will hurt them (Light Blue to Dark Blue being 0% – 50% agree). Source: Yale Program on Climate Change Communication

I asked Lisa Fernandez, Associate Director of YPCCC, the following questions related to the work of the program of the YPCCC and the artist’s role in addressing climate change:

What other YPCCC resources are particularly relevant to artists?

We have an outreach and communication arm called “Yale Climate Connections” that tells stories about global warming from many different perspectives, using the written word, video, and audio.  There is a daily 90-second radio show that has so far told nearly 700 stories, aired on more than 300 stations across the country (it’s also available as a podcast). There are a number of stories about art and climate, and we’re always looking for more material, especially if it’s focused on what people can do to address global warming. You can submit suggestions here.

What is the single most important thing that artists can do to address climate change?

Don’t underestimate the importance of “preaching to the choir,” (as well as to the other 4 Americans.) The single most common question people who are alarmed and concerned ask is “what can I do to make a difference?”  It actually makes a lot of sense to address your work to these two groups because you don’t need to convince them that it’s happening and that humans are causing it.  You can spend your energies engaging them in solutions.  There is tremendous potential here that is not yet tapped.

Why are you hopeful that we will ultimately be successful in reducing the effects of climate change?

Because of the energy that we see growing among the alarmed and the concerned to protest inaction (the People’s Climate March is gathering steam for April 29th in DC) and the increasingly widespread innovations that are proceeding apace in the business sector and states and cities. There are many examples in our radio stories. I think the profitability and quality of life improvements of the new energy economy are unstoppable, even given the orientation of the current administration. Former NYC Mayor Bloomberg has a great piece on why he remains optimistic.


Susan Hoffman Fishman is a public artist, painter, photographer and educator whose work has been exhibited widely in galleries and museums throughout the country. Her mixed media paintings address current social and political issues.

In 2011, Susan established a long-term partnership with fellow artist, Elena Kalman to create socially relevant, interactive, public art projects. Their current, on-going works include The Wave, a national installation which addresses our mutual dependence upon and responsibility to protect water, and HOME, which calls attention to homelessness and the on-going need for affordable housing in our cities and states.

About Artists and Climate Change:

Artists and Climate Change is a blog that tracks artistic responses from all disciplines to the problem of climate change. It is both a study about what is being done, and a resource for anyone interested in the subject. Art has the power to reframe the conversation about our environmental crisis so it is inclusive, constructive, and conducive to action. Art can, and should, shape our values and behavior so we are better equipped to face the formidable challenge in front of us.

Go to the Artists and Climate Change Blog

The Element in the Room

This post comes from the Artists and Climate Change Blog

For #NationalPoetryMonth, Joan Sullivan interviews UK poet Matt Harvey. This is the fourth installment of Renewable Energy Artworks, a monthly series on Artists & Climate Change.

Matt Harvey has written a lovely little book of poetry inspired by renewable energy. Published in 2014, The Element in the Room is dedicated to “all those unsung souls quietly doing what they can to bring renewable energy to their communities.”

Matt Harvey, Harvey, poet, poem, renewable energy, renewable

Short-and-sweet, the book is deceptively whimsical. Harvey opens his book with apologies to Dr. Seuss:

Energy cannot die – it’s just redeployed
it can’t be created, it can’t be destroyed
it can’t be frustrated, it won’t get annoyed
it can’t be upset, it can’t get in a mood
but it can be renewed and renewed and renewed

Featuring 32 poems – some several pages long, others as short as two lines – the book contains a variety of poetic styles, including a sonnet, a country and western song, and a prose poem cleverly entitled The Not-For-Prophit, as in:

“I didn’t say it would be easy.
A set charge per tonne of carbon emissions
would do more to save the planet
than any amount of recycling
and green poetry anthologies.”

Harvey also includes three “crowd-sourced” poems in his book. These are poems created through a process that Harvey calls “decimal democracy” in which the poet challenges his audiences to vote on a theme and then collectively contribute individual lines that are later taped together into a coherent (or not!) ensemble. As an example, here are a several lines from the crowd-sourced ode Turbines Are Beautiful:

Friendly sentry standing on a hillside giving us power
Bladed beauties, air cleavers
Daddy! Look, a windy bine!
What, no cooling towers?

The book also contains an important foreword by Jonathon Porritt, Founding Director of the Forum for the Future and author of The World We Made, a book we reviewed on Artists & Climate Change in 2014.

Readers of the Artists & Climate Change blog will recognize the prescience of Mr. Porritt’s words:

“Through time, poets and artists of all kinds have held a mirror up to society, to help us reflect and engage with some of the fundamental questions we face. Energy cannot be considered from an entirely intellectual perspective; energy generation is the unrecognized beating heart of our culture, the invisible ingredient in our diets, the unseen web that binds us to each other, to our places of work and our places of fun, and to strange people in strange lands. We cannot hope to grasp the magnificent complexity of this without art (emphasis added).”

With solar panels on his own roof, Harvey clearly is a fan of renewable energy: “I’ve always liked the look of wind turbines.”  But he does not shy away from controversial topics, notably NIMBYism (An Unchanging View) and consumerism (Less is More). He devotes no less than six poems to explore resistance to wind development, and why wind turbines seem to be “loved by many and loathed by some.”

If I had to choose my favorite tongue-in-cheek line in the book, it would have to be this:

“Don’t look a gift source in the mouth”

Let me end this post with Harvey’s playful paean to solar energy:

A Radiant Romance

To fly so far, so fast
And land so gently

Upon a panel on planet Earth

Eight and a third minutes old
And worth its weightlessness in gold

Fallen, faded and cooled

Then to be told,
‘Oi photon. Get your coat on.
You’ve been pulled.’

About Artists and Climate Change:

Artists and Climate Change is a blog that tracks artistic responses from all disciplines to the problem of climate change. It is both a study about what is being done, and a resource for anyone interested in the subject. Art has the power to reframe the conversation about our environmental crisis so it is inclusive, constructive, and conducive to action. Art can, and should, shape our values and behavior so we are better equipped to face the formidable challenge in front of us.

Go to the Artists and Climate Change Blog

Firerock: Pass the Spark

This post comes from the Artists and Climate Change Blog



Lyric selection as sung by the 360 million-year-old Firerock in Sparksong from Firerock: Pass The Spark from Heart to Heart.

Firerock: Pass the Spark is a project that combines community engagement with climate change through the ancient practices of singing and storytelling. At its core is a mythical, warm-hearted, family-friendly musical production that illuminates our disconnection from ourselves, each other, and our living world, as well as the negative impacts of extractive industries. This musical storytelling project is a scalable, open-source, DIY project that anyone can produce. Performances are integrated with activities intended to build community and create spaces for dialogue and sustained collective action. Ultimately, Firerock strengthens our connections and focuses on what we can do to adapt, create resilience and solutions, and combat the worst impacts of climate change.

When I began Firerock, I decided to commit ten years of my life to the project. I set out to apply to climate change the lessons I had learned as a social engagement artist who worked around the globe with many communities including border towns (Littleglobe), homeless shelters (EU Festival of Culture), arts and hospice (Lifesongs) and many more. I was daunted by theme-based projects and yet morally compelled to do my best to bring whatever I could to the vast network of cultural expressions rising up in the face of such disaster.

Molly working with singers.

Generally, I seek to bring a spirit of experimental artmaking to my work and I tend to focus on the cultivation of a few key conditions: 1) The experience of healthy and dignifying relationships; 2) Feeling connected to something larger than ourselves; and 3) Forms for meaningful participation. While there are many more conditions I care about fostering in social practice, I have found that these three have been essential for the kind of work that I am most interested in – namely personal and social healing through creative vitality. Firerock is an expression of this.

Many of us who are called to address climate change know it is an effort woven from heart and commitment. I had been working as an artist-composer, professor, and activist, creating art and social engagement projects for many years. So I started where I often start – by writing music. Working with my collaborator, Luis Guerra, we birthed the beginnings of Firerock in New Mexico. Soon, a group of immensely committed collaborative artists and cultural workers came together to make the Firerock team. Over the past years, we have taken a deep dive together and have done our best to create something that would pierce what we call in Firerock, The Snooze, the thick slumber of disconnection from ourselves, each other, and our planet. We set out to create something that would inspire a sense of possibility, and lead to sustained engagement and solutions. We have done this together and with hundreds of people from different communities through generative workshops. Firerock is a form of creative social evolution itself.

Firerock has been developed in workshops at universities, high schools, churches, with First Nations communities, coal miners and many others. The project will launch in New Mexico in the fall 2017 with a production and release of three DIY forms. We have focused on creating a story that captures the heart and imagination, and can hold up as each place makes it its own. Our small team works with local organizers and regional and national partners to create educational materials to support local DIY Firerockers. We are careful not to remake forms that have been so carefully created by others.

Reciprocity – NYC Workshop 2014 from Firerock Musical on Vimeo.

The attempt to make something as broad as climate feel intimate has been a great challenge. We often get compared to the Vagina Monologues in terms of the structure of the project. It must be stated, however, that everyone has a pretty good sense of a vagina. Climate, on the other hand, can feel very distant, abstract, and overwhelming. Artist of all kinds have tackled this in many ways as it is the power of our path – to make the world intimate. Many artists are documenting the wreckage and insanity growing around us. This approach is absolutely vital as part of a spectrum of creative expressions required for change. Our team, however, is interested in participatory story-making, and how our stories come alive through engagement – not simply through encountering the story. We want to give life to remembered, renewed, and new narratives that are truly regenerative.

Through the development of this project, some team members have stayed steady and solid, and others have come and gone. There have been delays. Deaths, babies, marriages, divorces, and other life events have happened and changed us. Each member has shown immense commitment and care. Funders and partners have been supportive, or at times, have gotten frustrated. Mistakes have been made. For a mostly volunteer team, working professionally around the globe, we have not been daunted but we have repeatedly needed to examine our commitments at different times and identify what we can and cannot do. This is an important process particularly when we are working in the realm of what is sustainable for all of us.

Institute for American Indian Arts Firerock Engagement Workshop.

This project has many challenges. These challenges, together with our current political assaults, demand that we learn and grow better as a team and as a community through a process of trial and error. Since there are no simple solutions, the challenges make us increasingly clear and precise. For this, I am grateful. During the challenges – whether we are wrangling with the ins and outs of climate justice storytelling, funding, team issues, a difficult musical transition, personal ebbs and flows, fatigue, and more – I often return to what gives me the most joy… and that is the songs, the story and the unique way I have seen small communities take the work and make it their own. I never fail to see immense resource, power, and creativity in individuals and communities and I am reminded that inspiration and heart-felt connection can carry us a long, long way.


Molly Sturges (artistic director/facilitator/composer/performer/activist/and creativity consultant) has worked with individuals & communities around the globe for over twenty years focusing on creativity, healing, and social transformation. Sturges is the founding artistic director of Littleglobe, a diverse artist collaborative devoted to arts and social transformation, and both Lifesongs (an intergenerational arts, aging, and hospice program) and the Institute for Living Story at the Academy for the Love of Learning. Molly is a United States Artist Fellow in Music and served for six years on the faculty of the University of New Mexico’s Arts & Ecology program.


About Artists and Climate Change:

Artists and Climate Change is a blog that tracks artistic responses from all disciplines to the problem of climate change. It is both a study about what is being done, and a resource for anyone interested in the subject. Art has the power to reframe the conversation about our environmental crisis so it is inclusive, constructive, and conducive to action. Art can, and should, shape our values and behavior so we are better equipped to face the formidable challenge in front of us.

Go to the Artists and Climate Change Blog

Crawl Arts: Bringing Art & Biodiversity to London

Recently created initiative, Crawl Arts, aims to create new stories for positive change in our environment through works in deliverying up-cycled, “activated” clothing and creative educational programmes. Working to “use creativity to engage a mainstream audience with climate related issues” through their clothing, they provide “narrative illustrations to weave environmental consciousness into the things we use and wear daily”- Gabi Gershuny ,Director Crawl Arts.

The concept behind their clothing is influenced by traditional Guatemalan garments, embellished with colourful stories that illustrate the peoples’ social and cultural history. They are worn with pride and form part of their idenity. If the same were true for many of the products that line the high street shops in the UK, their narratives would more likely give cause for concern.

At Crawl Arts, it is believed that the everyday things we wear and use should not only be sustainable, but active. As well as being reclaimed (“up-cycled”), or sourced from responsible UK manufacturing partners, their garments tell stories that provoke different ways of thinking for how to engage with our natural world.

Additionally, Crawl Arts has developed their first creative educational program, School of Crawl. Working in partnership with GiGL (Greenspace Information for Greater London) and the Royal Parks Foundation, they will be running it between 21st – 28th April at Thomas’s London Day School, Kensington.

Interested in learning more? Contact Crawl Arts Here:


i: @allthingsthatcrawl

t: @CrawlArt