Yearly Archives: 2018

Climate Week NYC: When Women Lead

This post comes from the Artists and Climate Change Blog

The Persistent Acts series continues its synthesis of Climate Week NYC, focusing on this recent week of events around solutions, optimism, and positive stories.

Last week, I recapped the Drawdown event presented as part of the tenth anniversary of Climate Week NYC. Drawdown kicked off a week of panels, concerts, exhibitions, and beyond, running concurrently to the UN General Assembly, all to encourage climate action across sectors. Another galvanizing event I attended was Women in Sustainability.

Organized by Women in Global Affairs (WIGA) and hosted at CUNY Graduate Center, Women in Sustainability brought together women from myriad disciplines to explore the challenges and opportunities within the field of sustainability. WIGA, whose mission is “to assist in bringing intelligent young women together both with their counterparts from across the country and with role models who wish to help mentor a generation of up and coming leaders,” curated panels about sustainability in academic and professional fields.


On the academic front, three women spoke to the institution of academia at large, and presented on their specific areas of research. Laxmi Ramasubramanian, Associate Professor, CUNY Graduate Center and Hunter College, discussed how women have been kept out of leadership positions in traditional academic settings, in part because of the limited scope of the career ladder metaphor. She offered an alternative mode of thinking, replacing the ladder with a more nimble trellis, broadening institutional notions of how to build a career.

Sara Perl Egendorf, PhD Student, CUNY Graduate Center and Brooklyn College, shared her process for mitigating lead exposure through soil, and her ongoing research with participating New York City Housing Authority residents. Sara outlined the scientific and social components of her research, indicating how community members can become more involved in their local green spaces after lead-free soil from other parts of the city has been mixed into the contaminated soil in an area.

Jennifer Cherrier, Professor, CUNY Graduate Center and Brooklyn College, also discussed science in action, through her expertise on waterways. In the age of climate change, as rain storms become more frequent and severe, Jennifer is researching how the city may better handle rainwater, especially when it surges during storms. She is working not only on how to better the gray infrastructure of New York City’s water system (the pipes and pumps), but also on how to incorporate green infrastructure into the way the city manages rain water (through existing and new green spaces).

wiga_womeninsustainability

WIGA hosted Women in Sustainability on September 27 as part of Climate Week NYC.

The second part of the evening focused on a panel of women in the field of sustainability, moderated by Laetitia De Marez, Director of the New York City branch of Climate Analytics. Laetitia posed questions about success and career trajectories to an all-star panel: Sarabeth Brockley, Partnerships Coordinator at Business for Social Responsibility; Dr. Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg, Director of African Women in Agricultural Research and Development; Vlada Kenniff, Director of Sustainability at the New York City Housing Authority; and Bhakti Mirchandani, Managing Director at FCLT Global.

The conversation covered instances of sustainability in both public and private sectors, and in the fields of business, agriculture, and public interest. The women spoke about their mentors and career paths – why women must continue to be more and more a part of scientific, political, and financial decisions locally and around the globe – and instances of positive change when women ascend to leadership roles within various companies.

The tone that resonated with me throughout the evening was realistic optimism. As an artist, I felt the power of positivity in the room, especially since there are so many negative forces in our country right now. These scientists, and business and public sector leaders, know the weight and urgency of the climate crisis, and they tackle systems of oppression in various ways through their jobs. In spite of this (and because of it), they continue to do their work toward a more sustainable existence for us all. I spend so much time in my own silo of theatre, I don’t often hear the sustainability accomplishments in other sectors. We need to hear more about these positive outcomes across disciplines. This evening was an instance of palpable collaboration and camaraderie, which I try to emanate in my own creative endeavors.

The evening was broad, covering topics related to each woman’s expertise, and also went deep in connecting the issues to the roots of our problems – namely, colonialism, patriarchy, capitalism, and individualism. These systems of oppression will not self-destruct. With this Climate Week event as an example, when women come together, we proliferate alternative ways of being, and collectively pave more pathways for each other – that is a power which oppressive systems cannot take away.

LiftEachotherUp_libbyvanderploeg

Lift Eachother Up illustration by Libby VanderPloeg.

There’s More
Among many other change-making folks at the WIGA event, I met Jordana Vasquez, who runs the blog Urban On Site, for “exploring, exposing and experimenting with sustainability” – Check it out!
(Re)Visit the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
Peruse the candidates for the Euro-Mediterranean Center on Climate Change’s 2018 Best Climate Solutions Award.
Visit Chantal’s post Exorcising Harveys about tackling gender equity onstage in the Arctic.

This article is part of the Persistent Acts series which looks 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? The series considers questions of this nature to motivate conversations and actions on climate issues that reverberate through politics and theatre.

______________________________

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 Asylum, Honest 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, The UPROOT Series, 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

Guest Blog: Thoughts on a nation in flux (part 2)

This post comes from Creative Carbon Scotland

Contemporary artist and researcher Sonia Mehra Chawla writes about the research she undertook in Aberdeen in June 2018 to inform an upcoming residency with Edinburgh Printmakers.


India’s struggle with climate change and the battle to balance economy, energy and environment


 

On the frontline of climate change

India’s climate is warming up at a very fast rate.  Already one of the most disaster-prone nations in the world, India is at the frontline of nations expected to be worst affected by the adverse effects of climate change.

India will soon become the most overpopulated country in the world. Lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty remains the priority of India’s policy. In addition, the country is embarking on one of the fastest rural-to-urban transitions in human history, and as infrastructure develops, energy demands will escalate intensely in the years to come. At the same time, there are still critical gaps in the provision of water and energy infrastructure, housing, sanitation, safety and jobs.

Detail from Sonia Mehra Chawla’s work, ‘(Under) Currents & Crosswinds’. Image credit: Sonia Mehra Chawla.

The impacts of climate change and environmental degradation are already deeply and acutely felt in the country. Unchecked global warming will hit India hard, intensifying extreme weather conditions, extreme heat waves, and the floods that claim thousands of lives every year, and brutally affecting the monsoon upon which Indian farmers depend. The vulnerable and poor communities of India are worst affected.

The rising Agrarian crisis in India is a broad and complex phenomenon linked to inefficient government policies and management. Suicides of nearly 60,000 Indian farmers can be linked to climate change as crops fail. According to experts, future climate change will negatively affect crop production, increasing the risk of food insecurity for vulnerable communities and the poor.

There are still severe issues in the country related to water and air pollution, management of plastic and solid waste, felling of trees and rampant deforestation at alarming rates, along with unabated and unrestricted ground water extraction and over-exploitation. India’s rivers are dying, and the National Green Tribunal is flooded with cases related to the cleansing and rejuvenation of important rivers Yamuna and Ganges.

The challenge India faces is to come up with dynamic measures to cut the nation’s high carbon footprint, while not endangering its economic growth prospects. India’s energy sector is a substantial contributing factor. India relies on coal for over 60 percent of its total electricity generation, and fossil fuel remains an important element in the country’s energy strategy. India is the third largest carbon polluter in the world, and emissions are likely to double as its economy grows and develops. The country therefore, needs to ensure that it generates as much of that energy as possible from renewable sources. This would be crucial to limiting catastrophic global temperature rise.

The crucial question- How can India bridge the challenges of development and climate change mitigation?

To diversify its energy mix and reduce its reliance on coal, the Indian government has been actively promoting renewable power sources and advancing strategies, and ambitious targets have been set. India is emerging as a key player in the global renewables market. There are signs of hope driven by astounding drops in the prices of renewable energy in the past few years. In fact, last year, renewable energy became more cost competitive than conventional power.

The last two years will be remembered as a watershed period in the history of energy sector reforms in India. India is running one of the largest and most ambitious renewable capacity expansion programs in the world. The goal for India is to ultimately source forty percent of its electricity from renewables and other low-carbon sources by 2030.

The Indian solar sector has massive potential. One of the world’s largest solar power park is located in the Kamuthi, in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Spread over 10 sq. km, it consists of 2.5m solar panels, and is estimated to make enough power for 750,000 people.

The Solar Energy sector has got more than half of the funds allocated for centrally sponsored renewable energy schemes and projects in the 2018-19 Budget. However, it is clear that there is a temporary loss of momentum in this area, and future targets will not be met if efforts are not accelerated. According to Mercom India, ‘the new budget for the coming financial year has, in most parts, turned out to be disappointing for the renewable energy sector. To the industry’s dismay, no specific incentives, subsidies or grants were announced for the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE).’

In spite of these hurdles, what is clear, is that renewable energy in India has a bright future ahead of it. Short term obstacles and challenges still remain for the growing green energy sector, which needs improved and enhanced frameworks, and the government’s continued and unfailing commitment. On a positive note, the Indian state of Karnataka recently became the leading Indian state in green power, overtaking leading nations like Denmark and Netherlands. What made this possible was record low bids for renewables’ tenders and policy support from the State Government.

Grave economic issues make measures to reduce emissions extremely complex, and the path India takes is likely to be paved with harsh challenges, and, in spite of several compelling reasons for India to follow a green path into the future, severe hurdles remain.

Details from Sonia Mehra Chawla’s work ‘(Under) Currents & Crosswinds’. (2018) Project collaboration & support: Khoj International Artists’ Association + Wellcome Trust UK/ DBT India Alliance. (Department of Biotechnology, Government of India). Image credit: Sonia Mehra Chawla.

The artistic project at Edinburgh Printmakers (2018-2020)

I was invited to undertake the research arm of an artistic project with Edinburgh Printmakers in Aberdeen in June 2018. This research will inform an intensive print residency at Edinburgh Printmakers in spring 2019, and the outputs from this residency will be presented as part of a solo exhibition at Edinburgh Printmakers beautiful new home at Castle Mill in 2020.

Edinburgh Printmakers will transform the former North British Rubber Company HQ- Castle Mills, into a vibrant new creative hub opening to the public in 2019.

Choosing focus areas

I hope this artistic project will serve as a platform and starting point for dialogue and conversations around some of the significant and pressing issues of our time such as the future of energy, the future of our oceans and marine life, society’s dependence on fossil fuels, just transitions, the global challenges of energy transitions, carbon reduction goals, as well as the human dimension of crisis.

National Green Tribunal Act, 2010, is an Act of the Parliament of India which enables creation of a special tribunal to handle the expeditious disposal of the cases pertaining to environmental issues. It draws inspiration from the India’s constitutional provision of Article 21, which assures the citizens of India the right to a healthy environment.

Ministry of New and Renewable Energy or MNRE is a ministry of the Government of India. The Ministry is mainly responsible for research and developmentintellectual property protection, and international cooperation, promotion, and coordination in renewable energy sources such as wind powersmall hydrobiogas, and solar power. The broad aim of the ministry is to develop and deploy new and renewable energy for supplementing the energy requirements of India.


End of Part II


 

Sonia Mehra Chawla is a contemporary Indian artist and researcher. She completed a Master’s Degree in Fine Arts from College of Art, New Delhi in 2004-05. Her artistic practice explores notions of selfhood, nature, ecology, sustainability and conservation. Sonia works in a variety of media including photography, printmaking, drawing, painting and video.

Sonia is a British Council India & Charles Wallace India Trust (CWIT) scholar, and was invited to the United Kingdom in 2014 for a research based project in printmaking. She is currently the recipient of an International ‘Art+Science’ Grant Award, instituted by Khoj International Artists’ Association India & the Wellcome Trust UK/DBT Alliance for 2017-18. She has recently been awarded a Fellowship from the Akademie Schloss Solitude in Germany for the Art, Science and Business Program for 2019-20. Sonia’s works have been exhibited at the Institut Fur Auslansbeziehungen, Germany (Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations, IFA), Tate Modern, London, Essl Museum of Contemporary Art, Austria, Museum of Contemporary Art, Yinchuan, China, Goethe Institut, Mumbai, India, CSMVS Museum, Mumbai, India, ET4U Contemporary Visual Art Projects, Denmark, and Today Art Museum, Beijing, China.

The artist lives and works in New Delhi, India.

____________________________

Acknowledgements

I am grateful for conversations and interactions with Dr. Prof. M S Swaminathan, Prof. Colin Moffat, Dr. Leslie Mabon Sass, Alison Stuart, Erik Dalhuijsen, Nicola Gordon, Dr. James Howie, Gemma Laurence and Dr V.Selvam.

I am grateful to Edinburgh Printmakers. I extend my warmest thanks to Sarah Manning Shaw, Alastair Clark, Judith Liddle, and the brilliant team of Edinburgh Printmakers for their unfailing support, and look forward to a significant and meaningful collaboration over the next two years.

Further reading and information:

The artists’ official website: http://soniamehrachawla.in/

Edinburgh Printmakers: https://www.edinburghprintmakers.co.uk/

On Turning Toward: ‘Critical Membrane’ by Sonia Mehra Chawla, Heather Davis looks at the work of Sonia Mehra Chawla, as part of her look into Four Figures of Climate Change, July 2017

http://theo-westenberger.tumblr.com/post/162458052219/on-turning-toward-critical-membrane-by-sonia

Down To Earth, https://www.downtoearth.org.in/

‘The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable’, Amitav Ghosh. Published by Penquin India.

‘Everybody Loves a Good Drought’, P.Sainath. Published by Penquin India.

‘Ecology without nature: rethinking environmental aesthetics’, Timothy Morton. Published by Harvard University Press.

‘Soil, Not Oil: Environmental Justice in an age of Climate Crisis’, Vandana Shiva. Published by Penguin Random House.

‘From Green to Evergreen Revolution: Indian Agriculture, Performance & Challenges’, Prof. M S Swaminathan. Published by Academic Foundation.

‘In Search of Biohappiness: Biodiversity and food, Health and Livelihood security’, Prof. M S Swaminathan. Published by World Scientific.

‘Oil Strike North Sea’, Mike Shepherd. Published by Luath Press.

‘The Klondykers’, Bill Mackie. Published by Birlinn, Edinburgh (2006)

‘Old Torry and Aberdeen Harbour’, Rosie Nicol & Particia Newman. Published by Stenlake Publishing Ltd, UK.

Contact:

soniamehrachawla.in

soniamehrachawla@gmail.com

admin@edinburghprintmakers.co.uk

 


The post Guest Blog: Thoughts on a nation in flux (part 2) 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

Opportunity: ArtRoots Fund

This post comes from Creative Carbon Scotland

A community fund for artistic and aesthetic improvements to the National Cycle Network in Scotland.

The ArtRoots fund is a community fund for artistic and aesthetic improvements to the National Cycle Network in Scotland.

The fund enables and empowers communities to make improvements to the National Cycle Network (NCN) for the benefit of place quality, enjoyment and active travel.

2018 is the Year of Young People and this year the ArtRoots fund will target schemes that encourage opportunities for young artists. The fund supports local enterprise and culture, whilst also showcasing talent, intergenerational co-operation, expression, and creating a platform for youngsters to be heard through their arts. It also encourages young people to participate in shaping their local environment and increase their levels of physical activity.

Who can apply for a grant?

This fund is for constituted community groups based in Scotland. We will also consider applications from non-constituted groups.

How much can be applied for?

Grants of up to £5,000 are available.

How do you apply?

Completed expression of interest forms should be submitted by Monday 5 November 2018 at 17:00. The closing date for full applications for the current funding round will be Monday 19 November 2018.

Find out more on the ArtRoots fund web page.

____________________________________

Main Image: An ArtRoots awarded project in the Highlands saw the creation of this fantastic artwork which is both beautiful, intriguing and practical. This artwork made of wood was commissioned to mark the 300th anniversary of the bridge in Carrbridge, the oldest stone bridge in the Highlands

 


The post Opportunity: ArtRoots Fund 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

Climate Week NYC: Scales of Performance

This post comes from the Artists and Climate Change Blog

This month, the Persistent Acts series focuses on Climate Week NYC, synthesizing a week of events around solutions, optimism, and positive stories.

There is plenty to be pessimistic about. It is easy to doubt, to spot alternative reasons and proofs at every turn. However, in these polarizing times, there’s Climate Week NYC. Organized by The Climate Group and in its tenth anniversary, “Climate Week NYC is the time and place where the world gathers to showcase amazing climate action and discusses how to do more.” Taking place in late September, “Climate Week NYC is one of the key summits in the international calendar and has been driving climate action forward since it was first launched by The Climate Group in 2009.” This global event is in coordination with the United Nations and the City of New York, and happens annually during the UN General Assembly. The event series that comprises Climate Week involves panels, concerts, exhibitions, and beyond, all to encourage climate action across sectors. I participated in a slice of Climate Week, and during the handful of events that I attended, positivity, collaboration, and sustained action were the refrain.

My Climate Week kicked off with some powerhouses of today’s U.S. environmental movement. Held at the New York Society for Ethical Culture, Drawdown’s Climate Week event featured headliners Bill McKibben and members of Project Drawdown, as well as panelists to engage in the local and global climate conversation. Given the nature of the event, I didn’t expect much art, so I was pleasantly surprised when I entered the Ethical Culture’s large theatre to hear a choir singing “Here Comes the Sun!” This brief opening act set a high-spirited tone, as New Yorkers gathered for the highly-anticipated main event. As the house lights lowered, an introductory video glowed, with clips about each of the night’s speakers: Lynne Twist of Pachamama Alliance, Dr. Katharine Wilkinson and Chad Frischmann of Project Drawdown, food justice advocate Karen Washington, Chief Climate Policy Advisor at the Mayor’s Office Daniel Zarrilli, and Lauren Zullo of Jonathan Rose Companies. I realized I wasn’t simply at a lecture or panel, I was at a climate conversations concert.

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The Street Tones Choir – DRAWDOWN: The most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming, presented at the New York Society for Ethical Culture on September 24, 2018. Photo by Erik McGregor.

Our host, Bill McKibben, noted the “rapid disintegration” that he had witnessed in Greenland over the summer, and now in North Carolina. Then McKibben pivoted to the positive, the reason everyone was gathered: Drawdown, “a project without parallel.” In scientific terms, “Drawdown is that point in time when the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere begins to decline on a year-to-year basis.” As the tagline of the Drawdown book states, this is “the most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming.” The entire evening was rich with inspiring messages – I won’t try to replay it in this post. I will share some of my takeaways on the potential of Drawdown in local and national contexts:

  • For Lynne Twist of Pachamama Alliance, Drawdown was “like water to the desert.” Twist spoke passionately about flipping the narrative on climate change: climate change is not happening to us but for us, and is serious, urgent, comprehensive feedback for a species that has lost its way.
  • Following suit, Katharine Wilkinson of Drawdown outlined the history of the project as a way to map the path forward on a different (positive) side of the climate change story. Based on extensive research, including rates of carbon emission, sequestration, and dollar cost, Drawdown ranks solutions to climate change that humans are already doing, to contribute to the reversal of climate change – so that we might take an evolutionary leap toward a more vibrant, equitable, and resilient living world.
  • Karen Washington reminded us to keep pressure on institutions and to take responsibility for knowing our representatives, so that they know that they work for us. Dan Zarrilli and Lauren Zullo commented on some key transformations happening in New York City, including building retrofitting, sustainable design, and the city’s divestment from fossil fuels in favor of investments in climate solutions.
  • McKibben slid in: to reverse climate change, jobs one, two, and three are to get rid of the Trump Administration. In the meantime, Twist suggested that we shift conversations, because when we share the positives, our ways of living shift.
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DRAWDOWN: The most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming, presented at the New York Society for Ethical Culture on September 24, 2018. Photo by Erik McGregor.

Throughout the panel discussion, I was playing out reasons for the arts to participate in the climate conversation, as is my habit as an artist. I can see a role for artists around Twist’s suggestion of shifting conversations – I am constantly investigating how a performance-based event might spark the types of positive discussions the panelists proffered. Zarrilli also spoke about the future of New York City with a focus on imagination, on how the city can reinvent itself. In the hands of artists, these imagined possibilities are endless. While the arts were not an explicit part of this Drawdown evening, I couldn’t help but pick up on how many different sectors, whether city planning, real estate, or climate science, share values of consideration, imagination, and positive transformation with the arts sector.

The concert concluded with a video from Pachamama Alliance. The word that resonated for me most throughout the evening was “love” – love for self, locality, human and non-human neighbors, and our planet itself. As we left, we took tangible action, signing postcards to urge the New York State Comptroller to follow the city’s lead and divest from fossil fuels. In the way that marches instill a buzz of collective power, I felt energized at the start of Climate Week because 1) we Americans have a lot of work to do, and 2) tools for just, equitable change are in each of us.


Take Action
Call on New York State to divest from fossil fuels
Learn more about a fossil fuel free world
Participate in the Live Stream of Drawdown Learn on Friday, October 19

This article is part of the Persistent Acts series which looks 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? The series considers questions of this nature to motivate conversations and actions on climate issues that reverberate through politics and theatre.

______________________________

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 Asylum, Honest 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, The UPROOT Series, 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

Last Chance: Designing for Climate Futures at Loughborough University UK

Fri 19 October, 6:00pm – 7:00pm

Venue: MHL 1.17a/b, Martin Hall

FREE

Book Tickets

This conversation brings together three practitioners to explore what roles design might play in collective responses to climate change. Taking in a variety of methods, approaches and forms of design – from permaculture to architectural design; from transition design to design fictions – it will explore design as a tool for collective organisation. What can design do in the here-and-now of our warming world? What might design do in a more ecologically just world? And how might it help us get from here to there?

There’ll be plenty of chance for the audience to ask questions and there will be free refreshments and snacks.

PANELLISTS

JOANNA BOEHNERT is an environmental communicator, designer and educator. She’s a Lecturer in Design and the Creative Industries at Loughborough University and is the founding director of EcoLabs, a studio visualising complex environmental issues. Her book Design, Ecology, Politics: Towards the Ecocene was published by Bloomsbury earlier this year, and has been praised as ‘a must-read for everyone interested in design, ecology, communication and politics.’
https://ecolabsblog.com/

ANNE MARIE-CULHANE is an artist whose work across a number of forms seeks to catalyse collective organisation to reduce the harm being inflicted on the planet, to increase understanding of our place in the world, and to bring to life positive visions now and for the future. She works closely with the University’s Sustainability team as the founder of Fruit Routes, a project that saw the planting of fruit, nut trees and edible plants along footpaths and cycle paths across the university campus. It creates a spring snowfall of blossom and an autumnal abundance of fresh fruits and berries for harvesting, foraging, eating and distributing.
https://www.amculhane.co.uk/

BIANCA ELZENBAUMER combines design research methods with critical approaches to education, conflict mediation and DIY making to explore how designers can contribute to create ecologically and socially just economies. Together with Fabio Franz she founded ‘Brave New Alps’, who have instigated a number of acclaimed projects that instigate, as well as explore, alternative ways of organising our lives. These have involved collaborative working with refugees, workers’ rights groups, artists and place-based communities. Bianca is also a lecturer at Leeds Art University. http://www.brave-new-alps.com/

The conversation will be chaired by DAVID BELL, Radar’s Programme Co-Ordinator. He is also a member of Out of the Woods, a writing collective exploring the forms of sociality and struggle required to survive and thrive in the face of climate change.

This event is part of the annual Fruit Routes Harvest programme, organised by the Sustainability team at Loughborough University. Across the 19th and 20th of October there are a number of events taking place on campus. For more information please visit http://www.lboro.ac.uk/services/sustainability/biodiversity/fruit-route/.

An Interview with Novelist Cai Emmons

This post comes from the Artists and Climate Change Blog

Fall is officially here in New York City. For many on the East coast, and especially in the Carolinas, the season has been devastating. Evacuations are still taking place in parts of South Carolina a week after Hurricane Florence due to historic flooding. Scientific evidence predicts that climate change will cause storms like Florence to grow larger and more frequent in the years to come. Climate change communication efforts are therefore more important than ever, and the artists and writers I profile here are taking part in those efforts.

This month I have for you an exclusive interview with novelist Cai Emmons. Her novel Weather Woman hits shelves in October. It follows the story of 30-year-old Bronwyn, who drops out of her doctoral program and takes a job as a TV meteorologist. After being dumped by her boyfriend, she discovers that she has the ability to affect the weather. Weather Woman is a beautifully written and deeply engaging novel that had me hooked from page one.

Your novel has a fantastical element in that the protagonist, Bronwyn Artair, can directly affect the weather. But the novel is also rooted in reality with its references to climate-related phenomena like wild fires, extreme weather patterns, and the effects of Siberian methane field emissions on the atmosphere. What inspired such a rich and interesting story?

A novel idea crystallizes for me when two persistent thoughts dovetail. Since I was a small child in New England, I have always been fascinated by weather, extreme weather in particular. On many occasions I have wanted fervently to change the weather, to favor activities like swimming or trick-or-treating. As an adult, when I awoke to a downpour on my wedding day I desperately wanted to stop it. This idea connected with one of my favorite books as a child, Oliver Butterworth’s The Trouble with Jenny’s Ear, in which a young girl realizes she can read people’s thoughts. At some point along the way a what if sprang up in my mind: What if a person really could change the weather? That premise led to a consideration of what such a person could do in terms of changing the climate.

Are you concerned about climate issues beyond what you write about in your fiction?

Perhaps because of having been attuned to the weather, I have been obsessed with climate change for years. To my mind the warming planet presents an enormous threat to human survival, particularly because it gives rise to a host of other life-threatening circumstances such as drought, fires, floods, famine, disease, mass migration, war, etc. It is incomprehensible to me that this threat has not given rise to hysteria and a massive remedial effort in response. I am interested in the work of sociologist Kari Norgaard who has attempted to understand the general malaise regarding climate change, especially among people who acknowledge both that it is happening and that it is human-caused.

I, too, feel largely helpless in the face of the changes I see. The fires raging across the planet this summer are on my mind now. I support 350.org, I go to climate rallies, I try to ride my bike as often as possible, but I often feel that I come up short in terms of having significant impact. I try to guard against despair, but I confess to frequently feeling very bleak about the subject when I awake in the wee hours.

Weather Woman brushes up against how climate change is addressed (or not) in the press, both in the character of tabloid journalist Matt and Bronwyn’s own experiences. The question of how the American press in particular reports on climate change haunted me as I read. What are your thoughts on the subject?

I have read some excellent coverage of the climate crisis in The New York Times and The New Yorker, along with various other publications (The Washington Post, National Geographic, etc.). Some of these articles have been very informative, others have been deeply alarming. But I am always acutely aware of the limitations of journalism in a culture that is so heavily polarized as ours now is. I may be drawn to every article I see about the unfolding climate disaster, but are these articles reaching people who know nothing about how dire the situation is, or those who actively oppose the idea that a problem exists. I doubt it.

I ask myself when it might be appropriate for journalists and scientists who are well-informed about what is happening to become advocates for action. I have watched my friend, Jason Box, glaciologist and climate scientist, struggle with this question as he tiptoes in the direction of advocacy.

In some ways, Weather Woman is about personal responsibility. Bronwyn has the supernatural power to affect the weather, but looked at a different way, so do we all. Climate change has been brought about because of anthropogenic activity, and we’ve only begun to see the effects of that activity. The presence of this theme suggests that this is something you’ve thought a lot about. Would you discuss your artistic process for coming up with this theme and how you teased it out?

I think a lot about what the path forward is in addressing climate change. I see the U.S. as deeply crippled by the cultural attitude that prizes individual rights over the needs of the community. This prevailing ethos means that we tend to view solutions to climate change in individual terms. I live in a small liberal Oregon city whose residents (many of them) pride themselves on being good custodians of the Earth. People here recycle, drive hybrid cars, ride bikes, eschew meat. This is all laudable, and it makes people feel good about themselves, but the impact is minor and does not address the problem head-on. We need large-scale collective action to change laws, regulate emissions, ban human practices that are deleterious to the environment. Only when we act together will our actions be consequential.

At some point in the writing of the novel I realized I did not want Bronwyn to be a singular heroine of the climate crisis, letting the rest of us off the hook. This is what she comes to understand near the end of the novel. Even with her considerable power she is not capable of saving the planet alone. This is what the Arctic fox tries to tell her when he says: Where are your people? 

Throughout the book Bronwyn has to deal with skeptics. How do you deal with skeptics? 

Skeptics, OMG! This was actually a fun element for me to work with as a novelist, particularly in terms of who was going to believe in Bronwyn’s power. She is aware of moving in a world in which she is unlikely to be believed. A few characters like Nicole and Earl believe in her power immediately, but others—most notably her mentor, Diane—are hard to convince, even after they’ve seen her at work. I wanted to feature diverse reactions to make readers wonder how they would be likely to react.

I mostly feel that it is a waste of time to try to convince people to believe in something they are dead set against, whether it is a superpower or climate change. My brother-in-law does not believe in man-caused climate change, but to engage with him about this is to bring on a shouting match. People rarely change when they feel bullied or threatened or humiliated (I don’t think I bully or threaten or humiliate, but I think even a rational conversation can bring up those feelings). If people are going to change it is usually a process that happens over time, in private, when they have been exposed to new information and feel free to consider things differently without being judged.

What do you think fiction can show or teach us about climate change that, say, scientific reports can not?

I think novels can be stealthy in a way that it is hard for journalistic or scientific work to be. The questions a novel raises piggyback on the lives of characters with problems and emotions readers recognize and participate in. If we, as readers, have stepped into the shoes of a character we can often embrace experiences and feelings, and even thoughts and opinions, that are antithetical to our own. I think most of us have had the experience of discovering a friend thinks differently about something than we do. Usually, rather than dropping the friend, we reevaluate our own position. Novels can, at their best, have the same impact.

Weather Woman hits shelves in October via Red Hen Press.

This article is part of the Climate Art Interviews series. It was originally published in Amy Brady’s “Burning Worlds” newsletter. Subscribe to get Amy’s newsletter delivered straight to your inbox.

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Amy Brady is the Deputy Publisher of Guernica magazine and Senior Editor of the Chicago Review of Books. Her writing about art, culture, and climate has appeared in the Village Voice, the Los Angeles TimesPacific Standard, the New Republic, and other places. She is also the editor of the monthly newsletter “Burning Worlds,” which explores how artists and writers are thinking about climate change. She holds a PHD in English and is the recipient of a CLIR/Mellon Library of Congress Fellowship. Read more of her work at AmyBradyWrites.comand follow her on Twitter at @ingredient_x. 


 

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

Imagining Water #12: One Year Later

This post comes from the Artists and Climate Change Blog

It is a full year since I began writing this monthly series on artists who are focusing on the topic of water – water pollution, melting glaciers, rising tides, plastic in the seas and killing drought. What I have learned from the extensive research I’ve conducted and the many artists I’ve contacted is that there is a groundswell of poets, painters, musicians, architects, filmmakers, craftsmen, sculptors, public artists, playwrights, dancers, spoken word artists, novelists and installation artists all over the world with passion, energy and determination to address and educate the public through art about the very real threats to our most precious natural resource.

Like poet Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, these artists come from the Pacific Islands, where the tides already “gnaw at the shoreline, chew at the roots of your breadfruit trees, gulp down rows of your seawalls and crunch your island’s shattered bones.” They come from the Northern regions of our planet, like Islandic/American artist, Roni Horn and Danish artists, Bjornstjerne Christiansen, Jakob Fenger and Rasmus Nielsen, where glaciers are melting at a rapid pace. In tribute, they are building monuments – a permanent library of water containing samples from all of the regional glaciers (Horn) and even a mock McDonald’s restaurant flooded with water to show what happens when “a rising tide caused by global warming claimed the very thing that contributed to it.” (Christiansen et al.)

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Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, Marshall Islands poet.
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Roni Horn, Icelandic/American visual and spoken word artist.
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Danish artists/filmmakers, Rasmus Nielsen, Jakob Fenger, Bjørnstjerne Christiansen of the Collective Superflex.

The artists also come from lands where there is not enough water or enough clean water for a viable future, like the 10 prominent musicians from Cape Town, South Africa who took on the challenge of creating 2-minute shower songs to help the local population limit their water use during a severe water crisis; or like Indian artist Vibha Galhotra, who used the thick sludge from the toxic river Yamuna as a medium for her paintings in order to stress how dangerous the river water is to the health of the New Delhi population.

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Vibha Galhotra, New Delhi conceptual artist.

They are innovators like Peter Thiel and Patri Friedman, who are designing seasteading colonies that offer a new way of living on the sea itself; and like Ben Morison, Ali Skanda and Dipesh Pabari, who developed the know-how to build the first traditional Swahili dhow in Lamu, Kenya, entirely out of plastic waste. And speaking of plastic, there are scores of artists like Karen Hackenberg, who are incorporating images of discarded plastic objects in their paintings to emphasize the significance of plastic in our contemporary culture and to call attention to the billions of tons of plastic that are choking our oceans and polluting our shores.

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Peter Thiel, American entrepreneur and co-founder of the Seasteading Institute.
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Ben Morison (left), co-founder of The Flipflopi Project and Ali Skanda, Kenyan boatbuilder.
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American painter, Karen Hackenberg.

Some artists engage the public as integral components of their work, like Native American Uncí Carole, whose annual river walks honor and attempt to heal threatened waterways for the sake of the “seven generations to come;” like Dutch artist Daan Roosgaarde, whose “Waterlicht” light installation provided visitors all over Europe with the visceral experience of rising seas overtaking the city; and like me and my fellow artist Elena Kalman, who along with thousands of participants from all walks of life and from cities and towns throughout the United States, are making a literal Wave, piece by piece, that emphasizes how we are all connected by our mutual need for water and by our mutual responsibility to protect our vital water sources.

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Uncí (Grandmother) Carole, founder of Water is Life walks.
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Daan Roosegaarde, Dutch artist and innovator.
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American public artists Elena Kalman and Susan Hoffman Fishman, co-founders of The Wave, an interactive, public art project.

What If?

All of the artists I’ve covered this past year give me hope that we will ultimately win the battle to clean our rivers and oceans and make progress on mitigating the impact of climate change. They and an army of others are working hard to reach citizens and policy makers all over the world – to engage their hearts, minds and senses, which hopefully in turn will translate into caring and action.

But what if these individual artists weren’t operating alone in their own studios, in their own cities and countries? What if they came together in one place to create interdisciplinary projects with each other that then dispersed and reached millions all over the world? Theatrical productions with dramatic music, lighting, dance and scenic imagery held on a plastic stage that traveled the seas from port to port on a plastic boat? Or a poem created by thousands and thousands of poets and other artists that was broadcast globally? Imagine an international festival of art, the mother of all artist residencies, devoted entirely to addressing water pollution, melting glaciers, rising tides, plastic in the seas and killing drought – a movement of artists working in the same place at the same time that would create a “storm” of public art the likes of which we have never experienced. Who was it that said, “if you build it, they will come.?” Let’s build it.

(Top image: Three of the 10 South African musicians who created 2-minute shower songs.)

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Susan Hoffman Fishman is a painter, public artist, writer, and educator whose work has been exhibited in numerous museums and galleries throughout the U.S. Her latest bodies of work focus on the threat of rising tides caused by climate change, the trillions of pieces of plastic in our oceans and the wars that are predicted to occur in the future over access to clean water. She is also the co-creator of two interactive public art projects: The Wave, which addresses our mutual need for and interdependence on water and Home, which calls attention to homelessness and the lack of affordable housing in our cities and towns.


 

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