Yearly Archives: 2018

Persistent Acts: Ask for Jane

This post comes from the Artists and Climate Change Blog

Through Persistent Acts, I look at the intersection of performance, climate, and politics. How does hope come to fruition, even in the most dire circumstances? What are tangible alternatives to the oppressive status quo? My Persistent Acts series considers questions of this nature to motivate conversations and actions on climate issues that reverberate through politics and theatre. The Persistent Acts series continues, zeroing in on the particular politicized topic of reproductive justice through the story of the Jane Collective.

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Near the end of Women’s History Month, and in preparation for the annual New York Abortion Access Fund (NYAAF), a cohort of political theatre activists, the Back to Work Collective, staged a reading of the 2018 screenplay Ask for Jane. We organized this reading to raise money and awareness for NYAAF, which provides safe and accessible abortions to anyone in New York.

White supremacy, colonization, and patriarchy – which keep people of color impoverished and LGBTQ+ people marginalized, and seek to restrict women’s right to choose when and how to have a child – are the same power structures that attempt to control nature, assert humans as the dominant species, and prioritize profits over anything else (including the future of life on Earth). Therefore, what happens to women and underrepresented communities cannot be separated from what happens to nature.

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Ask for Jane image by Paul Bedard.

Ask for Jane is based on the true story of the Jane Collective, an underground network of abortion providers in Chicago. In the years leading up to the Roe v. Wade decision, these women adopted the Jane moniker to support one another when needs arose for safe and affordable abortions. I had only heard of this story as an organizer of the Back to Work reading, but the Janes had a rippling effect on the movement for legal abortions, and for reproductive rights in general. As one of the Janes and author of The Story of Jane: The Legendary Feminist Abortion Service, Laura Kaplan, puts it:

Those of us who were members of Jane were remarkable only because we chose to act with women’s needs as our guide. In doing so we transformed illegal abortion from a dangerous, sordid experience into one that was life-affirming and powerful.

The impetus for the Jane Collective is inspiring because of this empowering energy. These young women saw the needs of their peers, recognized that establishments were not going to help, and thus took matters into their own hands. Close to fifty years later, as state restrictions counter the Roe v. Wade ruling and abortions are again driven underground, women are still leaning on and learning from one another.

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March in support of Roe v. Wade: WBUR.

When the creators of Ask for Jane embarked on their project, they thought the country would be in a much different position at the time of the film’s release. Instead, we’re sliding back to the same place as the conditions prior to Roe v. Wade. The film took on a new urgency, as we followed characters who faced similar conundrums to women today: from feeling option-less when it comes to reproductive “choices” to the insurgence of #MeToo and #TimesUp in the face of sexual violence. The underlying system of patriarchy has remained intact, pitting female (or non-binary) experiences as less worthy than a cis-male experience.

Ask for Jane is the tip of the iceberg in the abortion and reproductive rights conversation. It is also a significant instance of activism and organizing by and for the people. Bringing such stories back to life is an important step in undoing oppressive systems like patriarchy, to look back, remember when times were tougher, and recognize that for some, the circumstances haven’t changed. How can we not just look back on history and learn from it, but also take tangible steps towards equity? Shouldn’t the successes in justice of the past live on, so that we are continually building a world by and for everyone, not just the few?

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About 200 members of the Women’s Coalition marched south on State Street from Wacker Drive on May 15, 1971, to the Civic Center demanding equal opportunity, free child care and free abortions. (James Mayo, Chicago Tribune)

In a blink, I’m feeling history fold over itself. Hard-won rights and steps toward equity and inclusion are being threatened and trampled. What is different now, than in the early 1970s for example, is the proliferation of the Internet and digital media, to communicate, magnify, and organize. How can we take learning from history to another level, to get to the root of the oppressive systems, and take actions to stop repression in its tracks? A start is to tell and retell the stories from the margins, amplifying successes of the past and drawing courage from those who have come before. The arts play a role here, as I experienced in hearing Ask for Jane. Despite the differing decades and cities, the necessity of reproductive rights felt more urgent than ever. I am educating myself on stories of struggle and triumph, interrogating dominant narratives, and reevaluating my assumptions of history as static, to build on the momentum of the original Jane Collective and the contemporary Janes, and to tear down the patriarchy.

Take Action
Learn more about reproductive issues and how to take action via the Our Bodies Ourselves organization and the National Network of Abortion Funds.
Meet other performance initiatives on reproductive rights, including Words of Choice and writings by original Jane member Judith Arcana.

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Julia Levine is a creative collaborator and vegetarian. Originally from St. Louis, Julia is now planted in the New York City downtown theatre realm. As a director, Julia has worked on various projects with companies that consider political and cultural topics, including Theater In AsylumHonest Accomplice Theatre, and Superhero Clubhouse. She is on the Marketing team at HERE Arts Center and is Artistic Producer of The Arctic Cycle. Julia writes and devises with her performance-based initiative to bring questions of food, climate, and justice into everyday life.


 

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

Carbon Reduction in the Creative Industries

This post comes from Creative Carbon Scotland

Creative Carbon Scotland has published a scoping study into the carbon reduction potential in the Creative Industries.

In order to understand how the Creative Industries could reduce their carbon emissions, and benefit socially and economically from these efforts, the research concentrated on two particular sub-sectors: the craft sector, and the digital content sector.

The report describes the the work undertaken during the study, the responses of the interviewed businesses, and the main findings. It outlines the main sources of carbon emissions for these sub-sectors, as well as existing low-carbon activities already in place and the main opportunities for reduction. Finally, it provides recommendations to actions that could be taken, and the barriers that may be experienced.

The report will be of most interest to those working in, or supporting, the craft and digital content sectors of the Scottish creative industries.

Take a look at the resource now!

Carbon Reduction in the Creative Industries 

 



The post Carbon Reduction in the Creative Industries: Scoping Report Published appeared first on Creative Carbon Scotland.



 

Creative Carbon Scotland is a partnership of arts organisations working to put culture at the heart of a sustainable Scotland. We believe cultural and creative organisations have a significant influencing power to help shape a sustainable Scotland for the 21st century.

In 2011 we worked with partners Festivals Edinburgh, the Federation of Scottish Threatre and Scottish Contemporary Art Network to support over thirty arts organisations to operate more sustainably.

We are now building on these achievements and working with over 70 cultural organisations across Scotland in various key areas including carbon management, behavioural change and advocacy for sustainable practice in the arts.

Our work with cultural organisations is the first step towards a wider change. Cultural organisations can influence public behaviour and attitudes about climate change through:

Changing their own behaviour;
Communicating with their audiences;
Engaging the public’s emotions, values and ideas.

Go to Creative Carbon Scotland

John Thorne: Psychology, Creative Practice and Climate Change

This post comes to you from EcoArtScotland

This blog comes to you from John Thorne. John is Sustainability Coordinator at Glasgow School of Art. Here he opens up issues which frame Saturday’s Climate Psychology Association Scotland 1st Annual Conference: From the personal to the social: Climate psychology and the sense of responsibility. Booking here.

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We live in a time of great anxiety due to Climate Change, but our response is muted. Only a psychological approach can help us accept our possible futures and to take action, only creative practice can show us how.

“Mother and Child” by Frank Bruce https://www.facebook.com/FrankBruceSculptureTrail/

A few years ago an eminent group of psychoanalysts and psychologists realised that many more people were presenting to them with clear signs of Climate Change related anxiety. The group formed the Climate Psychology Alliance to highlight the psychological issues being faced by individuals within society, and sought to involve other professional disciplines. The CPA aims to use psychology to help people understand their emotions regarding climate change, how to respond to them better, and to form a basis for action to mitigate Climate Change.

The psychological effects on individuals within society (the “psycho-social” effect) caused by Climate Change go deep into our ancient, instinctive selves, but is a distant issue that doesn’t yet impact on our daily lives. Our instinctive reactions, built on 50,000 years of cave-person development doesn’t deal with distant threats well: we are programmed to notice and run away quickly from charging elephants, but are ill-equipped to react to a herd of elephants many miles away. Or to put it into a modern context, we react fast to issues around family, work and hobbies, or a flood on our doorstep, a burglar in our house, a punch to the nose, but slowly if at all to a creeping, existential threat to the climate.

The threat to humanity is existential. We face a societal collapse through changes to our climate. Our reaction to this psychological threat is a psychological process where we disbelieve, hide, transfer that feeling of threat, grab at possible tech fixes, are angry and confused, blame others, avoid responsibility, and respond by losing ourselves in the easy hedonism and busyness of our modern capitalist society.

If we allow ourselves to feel at all, we feel guilty; for every thing we buy, for every action we make. We know it has an environmental cost, but in a complex society there is no escape: the most organic carrot is wrapped in unseen fossil fuel plastic for delivery, delivered on a diesel truck, seeded and harvested by a diesel tractor whose tyres are made of fossil fuel plastic which all directly links to this existential threat….the links go on and on and it is overwhelming, which causes us to deny that it is happening now, happening to us.

The types of denial range from negation that it is happening at all, to disavowal, the dangerous state in which we know but deny at the same time, sometimes defined as “turning a blind eye”.

Denial is powerful. We can ignore 1,138 deaths in one clothing factoryand still shop where the cheap clothes are sold; we buy DVD players whose makers have gone blind making them, wear gold and silver mined in slave-conditions, and use mobile phones containing minerals from conflict ridden areas whose miners don’t get paid a fraction of their real value to us. We are all guilty just by being, breathing, taking the car to Tescos, eating, travelling, taking a holiday or heating our homes.

This isn’t just present guilt, but it is the sins of our fathers too. We live in a society that has developed as a patriarchy, aided and abetted by a male-led series of religions that puts our soul and distinct categories of humans above everything and everyone else. This is useful. Once we devalue something or someone we can subjugate them to our use, and use and dispose of them at will. There is a reason we have words such as “savage” in our lexicon, why animals have no rights, and why we feel entitled to take what we need, including the contents of the sea, and fossil fuels that should remain locked forever in the Earth.
In the past 20 years we’ve lost 75% of all insects. In 40 years we have lost 40% of all global wildlife. In 50 years I have been alive our proliferation has added 4.1 billion extra people. We lose 13% of Arctic ice a decade, and parts of the Arctic are over 20°c warmer this year than usual. We are already psychologically in mourning for our future loss.

The planet is dying, and fast. Current projections by the IPCC do not include feedback loops which will accelerate change. We know Climate Change is happening, but are underestimating both the catastrophic extremes that are imminent, and the speed at which permanent damage will be done.

Feeling anxious? Feeling helplessly guilty yet? We’re stuck in a capitalist system from which there is seemingly no escape. But it’s been no accident or natural progression to this state of greed. It is not naturally evolved, it is designed, and actively and consciously managed to keep us consuming. Some of our best creative people work where the money is – marketing this impossible, threatening nightmare.

We’re told to “save the planet” to minimise our impact, a term that generalises the threat when the real losers here are humanity. We talk of save the rhino, save the whale, but the psychological elephant in the room is the loss of us, ourselves.

We are told that the choice is ours: we have the power to change the World by recycling, we are told to “do our bit”. Such minimised responses to existential threat are damaging. Recycling is largely useless, it confirms our entitlement to keep consuming, creates another industry to profit from, externalises the ownership and cost of packaging to the consumer and then the council who collects it at society’s cost. It does not slow consumption and stops people taking further action.

If we are to face up to our existential threat we have to realise that we are all guilty. You are guilty. I am guilty. Not just the ruling elite presently grabbing all the money they can, but the consuming middle classes protecting what they can hold on to. All of us live in a modern society that is developed, funded, shaped and supported by exploitative consumerism. We all live on the backs of others, unseen, un-thought and unreported.

Today’s response to the psychological threat of climate change is to not discuss it, or lose ourselves in the hedonism of online life. The considered, thinking response is hampered by years of specialising silos within the artistic and scientific discipline: it is perhaps 200 years since the last of the great polymaths died: artistic and scientific disciplines are no longer shared by individuals, and the disciplines themselves do not interact. History does not talk to psychologists, environmentalists not to businesspeople, artists not to engineers.

The scientific explanation of what is happening is often impenetrable. We need a translator, a group of people who can emotionally connect us to these complex global changes and challenges. We need the creative.

The Creative Response

If we’re all guilty, then how to change the system? The fact that we are in a system is one hope, for systems can be changed. We must focus not on consumer-led demand responses, but on systematic change to supply. Not on plastic free supermarket aisles by 2042 and electric cars by 2050, but by fundamental re-examination of how we got here, our historical debt, our current impacts and painting possible futures.

There is hope in change and humankind’s ability to adapt. If we’re to free ourselves from a fossil fuel resource economy then everything made of oil must be redesigned – thousands of things and millions of jobs transitioned or created, and society and the role of work transformed. Disruptive and innovative change is possible, but relies on a psychological approach to trigger that change.

This psychological response can be proportional: we are each one in 7.6 billionth of the problem, but those who can should do more. We must make the best use of whatever our professional or personal power is; we don’t all have to be raving tree-huggers, though I do recommend it for psychological relief. Take action where you are, or where you can position yourself to be to have maximum impact.

We should examine our feelings: Climate Change is not an environmental issue; it is an emotional, social and cultural one and overwhelmingly a psychological one. Creative practice has a powerful role to play. It has the ability to link us emotionally to visions, issues and action, not raising our anxiety levels but lowering them to useful levels, allowing us to take action. It can reconnect us to ourselves, to each other and to nature.
What we don’t connect with we don’t value: consider refugee deaths in the Med, or drying-up lakes in Africa, we have never met or seen such people or things, so have no connection and no value to their loss. The greater the numbers of people killed, or the amount of water lost, the less we can allow ourselves to care, or risk psychological damage. Creative work that connects us to the death of a refugee mother, the fisherman who is losing his livelihood, or the suffering of the animal without water, can cause us to connect, care and take action.

Creative images can shock us, from balls of carbon around skyscrapersto turtles mixed up with plastic fishing net, from the picture of the last rhino to apocalyptic films. The benefits of such images are arguable, and cause raised anxiety and negative reactions. Don’t we know all this already? We’re just not connected to it in any usefully psychological way.

David Attenborough’s programmes, much loved by millions, are a double-edged sword: we are asked to value our natural environment, but are given a vision of the Earth as full of animals and diversity, perhaps as we remember as children, when in fact we have lost so much. We subconsciously know this, and part of us mourns for a past without hope for a future.

These are powerful feelings that shape who we are and what we feel able to do. Creative practice, carefully shaped, is able to balance information and make connection with our levels of anxiety: if we’re too upfront about the issues nothing gets attempted.

The correct use of language is vital. We should talk about the existential threat to things we love and connect to – which aren’t polar bears and white tigers, or artic ice flows, or Lake Chad, but ourselves and our children. Only a creative and psychological approach can quickly connect us emotionally to issues and provide possibilities to change the system. Knowing we are in a designed system can lower levels of anxiety to useful levels, that the system can be changed for the better.

Humans respond to stories, and art & design can tell a positive future story, good enough to drown out the siren calls of consumerism, hedonism and comfort (for some) of our current global system. We need to talk, paint, sculpt, build and design to tell the story of a clean energy economy which works for all, one with naturally fertile soil and clean air, a World where people regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race or colour are equally valued, where flora and fauna are seen as part of a planetary system not as mere common commodities. A place that recognises that to save our children we must save the planetary system.

This creative vision isn’t something less, it is something more. It is not a cost but a benefit for all. We need to inspire environmentalists, many of whom are worn down from the destruction of the Earth’s systems and see little benefit in trying to change or to save our culture. We seek a new model of development, and creative people need to show us this possible future.

We might be the first society on Earth to successfully transit from one harmful system to another more caring one. History tells us that such transformations are rare if they have ever truly happened before. But does the complexity and knowledge of our society make us able to buck the trend and change before we collapse?

Art can open our eyes to the realisation that we might end, and that we might not see our children grow up. Imagining Modern Fossils we might leave behind for future archaeologists to dig up helps highlight our present follies. There is a role for extinction art, making us aware of what we have lost so we can better protect what we have left and encourage the reinstatement of habitat.

Humans have a natural desire to leave a mark, to have made a difference, to give our lives purpose, and creative practice can record and celebrate the good that is happening across the planet.

Much as our modern society has manufactured consent to our consumption-rich society, so too can we use creative psychological approaches to re-establish connections within ourselves, to each other and to nature. There is a positive story to be told of a new society. This society will have to be innovative and disruptive in its system design, allowing people, even corporations, to transit to new ways of thinking, and for current systems of production to transit to new methods of supply. The creative arts can help explain where we are, what we can each do, and how to get there.

Whatever your profession or practice you can further explore these themes with the Climate Psychology Alliance. The Scottish branch has a conference in Glasgow on Saturday 21 April at the Glasgow School of Art.


ecoartscotland is a resource focused on art and ecology for artists, curators, critics, commissioners as well as scientists and policy makers. It includes ecoartscotland papers, a mix of discussions of works by artists and critical theoretical texts, and serves as a curatorial platform.

It has been established by Chris Fremantle, producer and research associate with On The Edge ResearchGray’s School of Art, The Robert Gordon University. Fremantle is a member of a number of international networks of artists, curators and others focused on art and ecology

Go to EcoArtScotland

Abundance, Art, and Creative Social Research

This post comes from the Artists and Climate Change Blog

As climate changes continue to impact upon the world, we as a species will need to create truly resilient systems for humanity to live in the natural world with more consideration. An excellent starting point could quite simply be to begin reconnecting with where our food comes from, how it is produced, and what we do with the waste. Thus, as an artist and anthropologist I began to consider ways in which I could find out more about how connected and aware our communities are of the food systems that sustain them.

In January 2018 I presented the creative installation Food for Thought at Rainbow Serpent Festival, an internationally-renowned festival drawing over 20,000 people for a four-day weekend of music and creativity in the Victorian bush in Australia. The installation sought to engage festival goers into dialogue about fresh food consumption and waste practices. I asked: Where does your fresh produce come from and where do you put the waste? The bigger question behind this is, of course, how we can achieve sustainability and resilience within our food systems.

The installation consisted of seven “pods,” each a little over 5-feet tall, with ribs made from marine grade ply, a middle hoop and a mesh fabric skin, hung from trees, lit up at night, and set in sympathy to the site. Natural and found objects were used to construct a walking maze around the pods, which represented different sites of fresh food purchase and waste disposal commonly used by people. In the centre, the earth pod showed four common consumption profiles that you could match your own food print to.

The food mapping installation seeks to provoke and make conscious questions about food consumption and our relationship with the natural world. Inside each of the source pods is information about how far your food has travelled to get to you. Each of the waste pods contains information about what happens to the waste and how it breaks down. Participants were asked to answer a simple question by clicking a hand counter inside the pods. Icons then allow participants to get a sense of their own food print profile from the accompanying information board. You can see more on the food prints here if you want to explore your own.

Our creative research method crosses the disciplinary boundaries of artistic practice and social research. As an interactive installation, the work has an educational and research basis grounded in empirical evidence. Part of the beauty of researching via art is that the piece was specifically designed to inspire curiosity and play, conversation and contemplation, while asking simple survey questions that allowed us to illustrate the consumption and waste practices of festival goers. Alongside this, my collaborators and I collected ethnographic insights on the kinds of conversations and experiences people shared with each other while engaging with the installation.

We estimate from the observed interactions and survey data that around 5,000 people actively engaged with the research side of the project. Throughout the long weekend, we witnessed numerous types of interactions ranging from vague acknowledgements that a pod was hanging down and needed to be sidestepped, to people settling down within the space and actively engaging with the work. Children ran through and around the installation, spinning the pods so that the tendrils splayed out to reveal the openings, leading to further interaction. We overheard people discuss their consumption and waste practices with others, and reflect on how their food print influenced their lifestyles. I also witnessed a grown man hanging and swinging off one of the pods – not the ideal behavior an artist wants to see in relation to their work, but it was good that the pod was robust and resilient enough to take it.

A key finding of the research to date is the sense of guilt and shame felt by many people. Working with Dr. Alexia Maddox and other collaborators, I have run three Food for Thought creative interactive research data collection installations, with the installation at Rainbow Serpent Festival being the latest iteration. High levels of consumption guilt (not linked to behavior change) became apparent in the first two installations. The data collection process in each of these installations asked participants to input their responses to the questions by using a potato or carrot stamp with egg tempura ochre paint onto a collaborative canvas. The first installation was in a gallery and featured a large community created artwork. The second installation took place at a market stall where children and adults alike added their potato or carrot ochre stamps to the initial collaborative piece. At both events, we occupied the installation space and struck up conversations with people about the work. The shame or guilt became known when participants made their marks on the canvas, along with statements like “I wish I could say that I do differently, but I shop at the supermarket and I dispose of the organic waste in the rubbish bin.” On occasion, people would express that they felt as though they had little control over these patterns of consumption and waste. These insights have led us to other questions about how we can, as a society, make it easier for people to behave in ways that they know are good for the planet. This finding on consumption guilt obtained in the first two installations was cemented for us during the festival weekend.

Red cabbage, 153cm x 76cm.

This mobile practice and multi-site installation work is part of a long-term research project that I hope to bring to a variety of places. The purpose is to collect representative data from people across the greater Melbourne region to creatively map fresh food consumption and waste patterns. The final component of the installation will draw together the other creative works, including my large-scale paintings of vegetables, into a collective installation.

Human interaction and perception of the natural world are common themes in my work. As an artist and anthropologist, I thoroughly enjoy the merging of the two disciplines. My new works aim to focus more upon memory spaces, value systems, and the ways in which humans engage with the natural world be it through resource extraction, waste production, or recreational activities. By designing creative low-tech interactive art installations, I ask for contribution from participants in order to stimulate thought and conversations, and encourage input on how we as a species relate to the natural world. Hopefully, this will unearth new and positive ways to relate to the planet that are reflective of different ontological understandings of the natural world.

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Dianna Tarr is an artist and anthropologist located in the Yarra Valley, east of Melbourne, Australia. Informing her creative practice is a deep interest in the ontological understandings of cultural relationships with the non-human, other, life, and the natural world. She explores ways to stimulate thought, response, and action through creative research methods that encourage conversation about some of the world’s most “wicked” problems. Dianna has been awarded numerous grants for creative research and has exhibited extensively over the last twenty years.


 

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

News: Take One Action launch a brand new Global Change Film Directory!

This post comes from Creative Carbon Scotland

Take One Action Film Festivals present a brand new global change film directory!

Do you love international cinema? Do you want to see more world-class films on the issues you care about, and connect with organisations taking action here in Scotland? Then head over to Take One Action’s brand new Global Change Film Directory!

This new unique digital resource provides instant access to over 400 short and feature films exploring global change from a wide range of key social and environmental justice perspectives, from climate change to food sustainability, from land rights to energy creation.

The directory reflects ten years of Take One Action’s focused curatorial work which celebrates the films and the people that are changing the world – and the list will keep growing: over the coming weeks, the directory will swell with an ever wider selection of titles, thanks to additional input from a range of new and long-term partners (such as the Friends of the Earth Scotland, Christian Aid, Oxfam, the Scottish Documentary Institute), friends and supporters (including fellow Scotland-based film festivals Africa in Motion, SQIFF and Cinema Attic).

Many of the titles within the directory are available to watch for free online, or through paid streaming services, and you are also able to search the catalogue by geographical focus, topic, genre, age suitability, or concentrate on films that are subtitled or captioned, to ensure that you can find the films that resonate with the topics you care about.

Keen to go beyond the screen? To help you identify your next steps, each film entry connects you to organisations and campaigns actively working towards a better world – starting from Scotland.

So what are you waiting for? Dive in and see the change you want to be: bit.ly/TOA_e-news

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Take One Action Film Festivals nurture communal exploration of the stories, ideas and questions at the heart of positive social change. Through film screenings, conversation and enquiry, we bring people together to inspire a fairer, more sustainable and more fulfilling world, in Scotland and beyond our borders.

“Want to change the world and not sure where to start? These guys will rouse you into action” The Guardian

“An exemplar in true audience engagement” Creative Scotland

“Truly empowering” The Scotsman

Founded in 2008, Take One Action run the UK’s leading global change film festival, holding annual festival events in four key Scottish cities in September and November (Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Inverness), alongside additional events throughout the year

Join us at our festival events this year in Edinburgh & Glasgow (12-23 September), Aberdeen (16-18 November) and Inverness (23-25 November).

Sign up to the TOA newsletter: bit.ly/TOA_e-news
Like TOA on Facebook: @takeoneaction
Follow us on Twitter: @takeoneaction



The post News: Take One Action launch a brand new Global Change Film Directory! appeared first on Creative Carbon Scotland.



 

Creative Carbon Scotland is a partnership of arts organisations working to put culture at the heart of a sustainable Scotland. We believe cultural and creative organisations have a significant influencing power to help shape a sustainable Scotland for the 21st century.

In 2011 we worked with partners Festivals Edinburgh, the Federation of Scottish Threatre and Scottish Contemporary Art Network to support over thirty arts organisations to operate more sustainably.

We are now building on these achievements and working with over 70 cultural organisations across Scotland in various key areas including carbon management, behavioural change and advocacy for sustainable practice in the arts.

Our work with cultural organisations is the first step towards a wider change. Cultural organisations can influence public behaviour and attitudes about climate change through:

Changing their own behaviour;
Communicating with their audiences;
Engaging the public’s emotions, values and ideas.

Go to Creative Carbon Scotland

Ben’s Strategy Blog: Fossil fuel companies’ sponsorship of the arts

This post comes from Creative Carbon Scotland

If you scroll to the bottom of the About page of the Creative Carbon Scotland website you’ll find the Fossil Funds Free logo, which shows that we’ve pledged not to accept any funding from fossil fuel companies.

The full statement that we’ve signed reads, ‘We do not take any oil, coal, or gas corporate sponsorship for our cultural work. We call on our peers and institutional partners to refuse fossil fuel funding too.’ A no-brainer, you’d think, for an organisation working on the intersection between climate change and the arts. Well, yes. But nothing is ever that simple in the world of climate change.

Let’s be clear first that it is of course that simple. If we are to limit the global temperature rise to 2°C, let alone the 1.5°C ambition, as the world’s nations agreed in Paris in December 2015, then, in the absence of some magical technology to take greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere (and they haven’t developed it yet to work on any significant scale), there is a limited amount of pollution we can put into the air.

So it is simple. As the Governor of the Bank of England said, most of the fossil fuel reserves can’t be burned. But the fossil fuel companies, and the governments of the UK and Scotland, were thrilled last year when a new oil field was discovered 60 miles West of Shetland. And you can see why: the transition has human costs. In Aberdeen I sometimes stay in a nice B&B which used to be full of contract staff every week: now it’s like a ghost ship.

Our self-destructive addiction

Humans are addicted to energy: we can’t live without it (literally: evolutionary scientists think that it was the discovery that cooking food made it more digestible, and so enabled our brains to grow larger, that enabled homo sapiens to develop into the extraordinary success that we are today). The future, of Aberdeen and the world, is not a fossil fuel one. But the industry’s skills, knowledge, technology and facilities are closely related to those needed for the large-scale, difficult environment renewables that will feed humans’ insatiable appetite for energy.

On the financial side, a UN report estimates that the cumulative global investment required in renewable energy to stabilise atmospheric CO2 concentrations at 450ppm (which wouldn’t keep us below 1.5°) ranges from US$149 billion to $718 billion per year for the decade 2021-2030. It may be depressing, but the energy companies are some of the only organisations able to invest that sort of money.

The oil and gas companies are going to be with us for some time, since we haven’t yet got to the stage where we can do without fossil fuels. But as discussed above, this ‘some time’ needs to be a limited one. And their persistence must not be based on how well they sell themselves and how they persuade people of their importance. Often, they seek to do this through our culture: our arts events and experiences.

So what’s a poor arts manager to do?

I’m conflicted about sponsorship anyway. The arts have always been supported by patronage, religion and, more recently, governments, so I’m not vehemently opposed. But I’ve worked in the arts for over 30 years and because I’ve never led a mainstream organisation doing predictable work (I’ve done a lot of newer work, my happy days freelancing at Pitlochry being the main exception, but there I had nothing to do with the money), any sponsorship that has been available has been pretty minor: it’s the mostly big organisations presenting work that they can confidently describe as unthreatening to the sponsors that get the big cash, especially from larger companies such as energy giants. Let’s not kid ourselves: sponsorship isn’t a replacement for public funding for much of the arts, which is there precisely to address market failure.

Unlike charitable donations, sponsorship is a business transaction. The arts get the money, the company gets a benefit: credibility, tickets for guests, their name on the bus stops on the high street and positive associations in their customers’ (or the Government’s, or their peers’) minds. So it isn’t just a warm glow that’s being offered.

And this is where I get puzzled. If you’re the Tate or the British Museum there’s surely no shortage of big companies out there who might be interested in benefitting from your brand. In this age of divestment, increasing public concern about pollution and environmental change and quite impressive campaigns by Liberate Tate,  PlatformArt Not Oil etc, why would you decide to take the money from a company involved in the most damaging of industries? If they’re offering so much more than anyone else, wouldn’t that suggest that their motivations might be worth examining? (Note that the Edinburgh International Festival and the Tate are no longer supported by BP, so maybe they agree!)

Know the risks

The risks to a cultural organisation of taking dirty cash are many. Public awareness of both climate change and the dodgy nature of some money is growing fast – look at the impact of David Attenborough’s Blue Planet on companies’ use of plastic and the ‘Presidents Club’ furore. So there’s a definite reputational risk, with the added danger that Liberate Tate’s own work might outshine your own! It might make your organisation more risk-averse: you’re now beholden to that sponsor, and if you’re on reduced funding from other sources (perhaps because you’re so good at getting sponsors!) then loss of them might mean redundancies, a thinner programme… Other funders could pull out, either because you don’t now meet their own ethical standards, or because they fear being tainted by association with your sponsor. And how does it look to your main funder, who insists on your having a strong environmental policy and actions?

I can’t say we face this problem at Creative Carbon Scotland – big fossil fuel sponsors aren’t exactly breaking our doors down. But perhaps we do need to engage with the fossil fuel people. We can organise events where artists discuss the future, but the engineers, geologists, finance people etc are also part of that future and many of them share those same concerns about making it a sustainable one. We may not take money from the energy giants, but I don’t think we can ignore them.

Questions of ethics and choice when it comes to how the arts are funded by sponsors (whether that be historic private patrons or more modern corporates) are not new. But in our physically, socially, legally changing world, they are ever-more prominent.

There is much evidence to show that the transition to a fossil fuel free future is underway. The oil and gas companies are going to be with us for some time, since we haven’t yet got to the stage where we can do without fossil fuels. But as discussed above, this ‘some time’ needs to be a limited one. And their persistence must not be based on how well they sell themselves and how they persuade people of their importance. Often, they seek to do this through our culture: our arts events and experiences.

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Mel Evans’ book ARTWASH – Big Oil and the Arts (Pluto Press, 2015) is a longer and more informed read about this topic. Available not through Amazon here: http://platformlondon.org/p-publications/artwash-big-oil-arts/

 



The post Ben’s Strategy Blog: Fossil fuel companies’ sponsorship of the arts appeared first on Creative Carbon Scotland.



 

Creative Carbon Scotland is a partnership of arts organisations working to put culture at the heart of a sustainable Scotland. We believe cultural and creative organisations have a significant influencing power to help shape a sustainable Scotland for the 21st century.

In 2011 we worked with partners Festivals Edinburgh, the Federation of Scottish Threatre and Scottish Contemporary Art Network to support over thirty arts organisations to operate more sustainably.

We are now building on these achievements and working with over 70 cultural organisations across Scotland in various key areas including carbon management, behavioural change and advocacy for sustainable practice in the arts.

Our work with cultural organisations is the first step towards a wider change. Cultural organisations can influence public behaviour and attitudes about climate change through:

Changing their own behaviour;
Communicating with their audiences;
Engaging the public’s emotions, values and ideas.

Go to Creative Carbon Scotland