Yearly Archives: 2019

Imagining Water, #16: Chanting the Waters

by Susan Hoffman Fishman

Craig Santos Perez, a native Chamoru (Chamarro) from the Pacific Island of Guam, is a poet, scholar, editor, environmentalist and activist. The author of two spoken word poetry albums, four books of poetry and the editor of three anthologies of Pacific literature, Perez is also an Associate Professor in the English Department at the University of Hawai’i, Manoa where he teaches creative writing, eco-poetry and Pacific literature. It was clear when I spoke to him by phone recently that Perez is a devoted advocate for environmental justice and for the inclusion of indigenous voices in the climate change conversation.

Growing up on Guam, a small island where the ocean and the rainforest are an ever-visible presence, the environment was always an important part of Perez’s life. Indigenous values and wisdom infused him with a belief that “the environment was sacred and should be revered and because all living beings, all the dead and all the future generations, are all related, we should act as if all of our actions affect everyone else.” It was only when Perez was older that he became aware of the impact that climate change was having on the environment of his homeland: an increase in severe storms, rising seas, and temperatures, plastic and waste pollution, die-off of marine species, military testing and training in the waters off the island, coral bleaching and ocean acidification.

Perez’s poetry, which he began writing in college, became his means of personal and political expression about these growing, existential threats. His powerful Praise Song for Oceaniais an example of his lyrical use of words and his ability to combine personal, political and ecological references and emotions in one poem, which is both an ode to the past, present and future of the ocean and a prayer for forgiveness and mercy on behalf of us all. Praise Song for Oceaniawas written for World Water Day 2016, then adapted into a video by Hawaiian filmmaker, Justyn Ah Chong in 2017. It was screened at film and eco-film festivals in Australia, Barbados, Germany, the United Kingdom and across the United States and was also featured on the United Nations World Oceans Day online portal, sponsored by the Intergovernmental Oceanic Commission.

In an interview for the portal, Perez stated that his inspiration for Praise Song for Oceaniawas “my deep respect for the ‘blue continent.’ In my native culture, the ocean is our origin, our source, our ancestor. I also wrote the poem because as an environmentalist I am deeply concerned about the current crises facing the ocean.”

To support the Standing Rock protest (April 2016 – February 2017), which was conducted by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and others to fight the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, Perez wrote Chanting the Waters: In solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe & all peoples protecting the sacred waters of the earth (2016). The pipeline was to pass under the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers and Lake Oahe in the Standing Rock Reservation. The thousands of participants who protested knew the pipeline would contaminate the region’s waters and damage ancient burial grounds.

As climate activist and hip-hop artist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez described the gathering, it was the largest mobilization of Indigenous peoples ever held. For that reason alone, even though they ultimately failed in halting the construction of the pipeline, the event was an enormous success An audio version of Perez’s poem can be found below, followed by an excerpt from the poem, which reflects the author’s frustration and anger with corporate greed, his personal associations with water and his mesmerizing, rhythmic language.

Chanting the Waters (excerpt)

water is life because we can’t drink oilbecuz water is the next oil
becuz we wage war over gods & water & oil
water is life becuz only 3 percent of global water is freshwater
becuz the water footprint of an average american is 2000 gallons a day
becuz it takes 660 gallons of water to make one hamburger
becuz more than a billion people lack access to clean drinking water
becuz in some countries women & children walk 4 miles every day to gather clean water
& carry it home
becuz we can’t desalinate the entire ocean
water is life becuz if you lose 5 percent of your body’s water you will become feverish
becuz if you lose 10 percent of your body’s water you will become immobile
becuz we can survive a month without food but less than a week without water
water is life becuz we proclaim water a human right
becuz we grant bodies of water rights to personhood
becuz some countries signed the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea
becuz my wife says the Hawaiian word for wealth, waiwai, comes from their word for water, wai
water is life becuz corporations steal, privatize, dam, & bottle our waters
becuz sugar, pineapple, corn, soy, & gmo plantations divert our waters
becuz concentrated animal feeding operations consume our waters
becuz pesticides, chemicals, oil, weapons, & waste poison our waters
water is life becuz we say stop, you are hurting our ancestors
becuz they say we thought this was a wasteland
becuz we say stop, keep the oil in the ground
becuz they say we thought these bones were fuel
becuz we say stop, water is sacred
becuz they say we thought water is a commodity
becuz we say we are not leaving

During our conversation, Perez and I discussed the difference between eco-poetry and poetry on nature in general. He explained that eco-poetry, a relative new poetry subgenre, addresses the natural world but is also suffused with a sense of environmental justice, responsibility, ethics and urgency about climate change. Perez acknowledged that undergraduate classes on eco-poetry are “not too common” but that his students connect to it because they are “noticing the changes happening around them as they enjoy the outdoor life in Hawai’i and they feel anxiety.” He ends his class each semester on a hopeful note. He asks students to write their own visions for a sustainable future and emphasizes the fact that poetry can be a form of activism. What gives Perez enormous satisfaction is when he sees his students and former students showing up at climate marches and other environmental events.

Much of the power and accessibility of Perez’s poems on climate change and its impact on the waters is due to the fact that he often uses poignant moments from his personal life to gently help the reader connect to what can be an overwhelming topic (see Without a Barrier Reef printed in full below). Artists of all genres who choose to address climate change in their work know that it is always a struggle to create a balance between a message they want to convey and an appealing artistic expression of that message. Craig Santos Perez is a master in finding that balance.

Without a Barrier Reef

I hold my wife’s hand during the ultrasound.
“That’s your future,” the doctor says, pointing
to a fetus floating in amniotic fluid. One night
a year, after the full moon, after the tide touches
a certain height, after the water reaches the right
temperature, after salt brines, only then will
the ocean cue swollen coral polyps to spawn,
in synchrony, a galaxy of gametes. We listen
to our unborn daughter’s heartbeats; they echo
our ancestors pulsing taut skin drums in ceremony
and arrival. The buoyant stars dance to the surface,
open, fertilize, and form larvae. Some will be
eaten by plankton and fish, others will sink
to substrate or seabed, root and bud. “She looks
like a breathing island,” my wife says, whose
body has become a barrier reef.

The weather spawns another hurricane above
Hawaiʻi. Rain drums the pavement as flood
warning alerts vibrate our cellphones. In bed,
we read a children’s book, The Great Barrier Reef,
to our daughter, who’s snuggled between us.
“The corals have mouths, stomachs, and arms,”
we tell her, pointing to our matching body parts.
“They form families, like us. They even build
homes and villages.” She loves touching every
picture of tropical fish and intricate corals;
I love that the pictures never change
(and isn’t that, too, a kind of shelter). We close
the book, kiss her forehead, and whisper:
“Sweet dreams.” She is our most vulnerable
island, and we are her barrier reef.

A few years from now, maybe we’ll go snorkeling.
The water will drum against our skin. The ocean
will be warmer, murkier. No fish, anywhere.
All bleached and broken. When we return
to the eroded shore, she might ask: “Daddy,
are the corals dead?” Maybe I won’t tell her
about dredging, pollution, or emissions; maybe
I won’t tell her about corals struggling to spawn,
frozen in vaults, reared in labs and nurseries.
“Don’t worry,” I might say: “They’re just
sleeping.” Maybe she’ll look into the water
and whisper: “Sweet dreams,” as the surface
of the sea closes like a forgotten book.

(Top image: Craig Santos Perez.)

This article is part of Imagining Water, a series on artists of all genres who are making the topic of water a focus of their work and on the growing number of exhibitions, performances, projects and publications that are popping up in museums, galleries and public spaces around the world with water as a theme.


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 and has been awarded numerous grants and awards. 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. Fishman is also the co-creator of two, large-scale 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

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Wild Authors: Ali Smith

by Mary Woodbury

This month we’ll look at Ali Smith, who is not a new author, but whose “Seasonal” quartet I just began reading. Smith is a Scottish author, playwright, academic and journalist. See a complete bibliography at Wikipedia.

For the purposes of this article, I will focus on her Seasonal series. The first novel, Autumn, was published in October 2016. The next novel, Winter, came out in November 2017. While Autumn has been described as the first Brexit novel, The Nation has a beautiful article by Namara Smith titled “Omens of Disaster: Ali Smith’s new novel examines the ecological and political disintegration at the center of our world,” which goes into the climate change aspects of the books.1

The Nation argues that, first, novels depicting climate change often borrow from the disaster genre, which has a rigid narrative. And that, second, viewing climate change as a disaster event limits it to something that is a technical issue, something that can be managed. The article points out that climate change storytelling often depicts one or more apocalyptic events, when, in reality, global warming is a “war of attrition whose consequences have accumulated slowly enough to be almost imperceptible and through the repetition of millions of individual actions.” And, instead of looking at the disaster as something technical, it is really “an existential question that concerns us all.”

Ali Smith’s Seasonal series rises above the problematic genre symptoms by having “ordinary” events, as The Nation says.

Rather than large-scale catastrophe, Smith is interested in the dissonant moments that break into the awareness of people whose lives are not immediately threatened by environmental disaster: plants flowering out of season, winter days that feel like spring, the steady creep of coastal erosion.

The article also points out that these changes caused by climate change are becoming common in contemporary fiction. My take-away from this is that it’s interesting to see how authors are writing about global warming, but to try to prescribe one genre for climate change novels is tough. As with every literary and ecological parallel in the past, global warming tropes and themes become so commonplace that they begin to spill over into everything else – just like climate change has done and will continue to do so.

I was drawn to the novel for two reasons: the idea of seasons becoming out of whack has been a focus of mine for a while, especially after seeing changes firsthand where I live. Another is that in the novel an old man, Daniel Gluck, is facing death, and his time spent in a nursing care facility – where he has endless dreams in which we think he is probably reliving past events – reminds me of my dad somewhat.

When approaching the idea of climate change in fiction, when I published the anthology Winds of Change: Short Stories about Our Climate, I contributed a short story, under pen name Clara Hume, called “The Midnight Moon” (available at the Dragonfly Library for free). This was a take on a Twilight Zone episode called “The Midnight Sun” and featured an autumn in Chicago, where two women reflect on life cycles. Writing this short story was based upon real observances of variable plant changes where I live, specifically one summer where a rowan tree blossomed very early, but I had also recently talked with Emmi Itäranta about her novel Memory of Water, which looked at the disappearance of cultural and ecological continuity in our years of changing climate.

I could identify too with the old man, 101-year-old Gluck, in Ali’s novel. I had a similar circumstance in real life, often sitting with my dying dad in the nursing home. My dad was a brilliant man who developed Parkinson’s, which ravished his genius mind. He began signs of dementia a couple years before his death, and at some points could not distinguish dream from reality. Almost hauntingly surreal were the dreams he relayed to me in vivid detail, which were bizarre on every level, and which quite frightened him. One dream was even about a beach, but instead of seeing drowned refugees float up to the shore (as in Smith’s novel), my dad saw bloody heads hanging from the “ceiling” (the sky).

When my dad’s mind was all there, he was a math teacher as well as a writer, and he loved poetry. When we grew up, he would read the great poets to us, and I specifically remember him talking to me about Keats, and how dad was entering the autumn of his year. The Autumn novel starts out with Keats’ famous ode.

Smith’s novel touches close to home, not only personally for me but at a level that is wide-reaching to all humans on this Earth. The Nation states:

An epigraph informs us that, due in part to the severe floods of the past several years, so much topsoil has been eroded that “Britain may have only 100 harvests left.” Brexit, which now looks like the opening shot in a prolonged period of global instability, has marked not only the end of Britain’s partnership with an integrated Europe; it has also cast doubt on the possibility of addressing climate change within our existing economic and political system.

The idea of 100 harvests left is one way to look at climate change. Smith’s wit and non-linear (collage) writing style also help us to perceive climate change at an intimate level. It is not far out there. It is now. It has been. We can view it in every perspective, past and present and future. It becomes more real with each passing generation. And 100 harvests puts a time-stamp on continuity. It’s an extinction of ritual, both ecological and cultural. When I think of it, I feel a slow burn and think of my own father and the way he taught us to be outside, to celebrate the elements, the wild, the seasons. I see time passing fluidly, quickly, like quicksand. Yet on a daily basis, it is slow and sometimes tedious.

The novel explores time, and even no-time, as well. The Guardian states, “Autumn begins in a wild region of no-time, as Daniel Gluck dreams that he is young again, or dead.” Elisabeth Demand, another main character in the novel, is reading Adolph Huxley’s Brave New World,waiting in a post office. The clock on the wall is broken. No-time. The Guardian says:

The clock has stalled; miserable people queue alongside her, staring into space. “COMMUNITY, IDENTITY, STABILITY”, thinks Elisabeth, citing Huxley. Inevitably, when she reaches the front of the queue, her application is rejected. Her photograph is “the wrong size”, the man says. “He writes in a box … HEAD INCORRECT SIZE.” Then, he “folds the Check & Send receipt and tucks it into the envelope Elisabeth gave him with the form … He hands it back to her across the divide. She sees terrible despondency in his eyes. He sees her see it. He hardens even more.”

The relationship between Daniel and Elisabeth crosses time as well; they met when she was a child, and she has since adopted him as a surrogate father. In between these nearly three decades, they have had occasions to reunite a few times. The things along time come and go: “Ignored. Lost. Rediscovered years later. Then ignored. Lost. Rediscovered again years later. Then ignored. Lost. Rediscovered ad infinitum.” Time is the essence of mortality, but it can be slow or fast. It can eclipse. It can end.

What’s next? Winter. The Goodreads description sounds fascinating:

Winter? Bleak. Frosty wind, earth as iron, water as stone, so the old song goes. The shortest days, the longest nights. The trees are bare and shivering. The summer’s leaves? Dead litter. The world shrinks; the sap sinks. But winter makes things visible. And if there’s ice, there’ll be fire.

(Photo downloaded from Topping & Company Booksellers.)

This article is part of our Wild Authors series. It was originally published on on April 10, 2017.


Mary Woodbury, a graduate of Purdue University, runs and, sites that explore ecology in literature, including works about climate change. She writes fiction under pen name Clara Hume. Her novel Back to the Garden has been discussed in Dissent MagazineEthnobiology for the Future: Linking Cultural and Ecological Diversity (University of Arizona Press), and Uncertainty and the Philosophy of Climate Change (Routledge). Mary lives in the lower mainland of British Columbia and enjoys hiking, writing, and reading.


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

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My Saga: Making Art for the Environment

My saga to make art to help address climate change has been four years – but really a lifetime – in the making. I don’t know if it will penetrate the collective consciousness the way I hope, but trying to explain to my daughter over the years the magnitude of what I fear her generation will confront has been so wrenching that I was compelled to try. For me, the change that is needed, for her sake, requires more than cutting down on single-use straws or switching to LED lightbulbs. It requires a large shift on a global scale. Science has convinced me of that, but science needs help from the arts to bring this change about.

My first inkling that something was amiss came at the San Diego zoo, when I was about four. I asked my father if the animals were happy in such small cages, and while he offered reassuring words, I was not convinced (I doubt he was either). About the same time, as my mother and I waited at a stop light, a truck belched exhaust into the air. My mother reassured me, “there is plenty of sky.” Unconvinced. Years later, I noted the ever-cool Sting campaigning for the rainforests, and in college I listened to a professor say we were driving full-speed toward a cliff.

As the youngest of four, I also spent a fair amount of time drawing, undoubtedly from my parents’ desire for some peace and quiet. In high school, painting entered my consciousness when my copy of Brave New World featured a painting by Lyonnel Feininger – one of the most haunting depictions of the future I had ever seen.

Writing came later. The youngest of four has to spin stories quickly to get through the bedlam. Putting stories into writing was another thing altogether. Read a story for my 5thgrade class. Go to a school writing competition. Convince some professors to let me do fiction instead of essays.

These interests didn’t really come together, though, until some years later, when I realized that the science wasn’t resonating enough to shift the public. I started looking to the arts, and being of the Star Wars generation, my first stop was Sci-Fi. I found smatterings and hints, like Blade Runner, Mad Max, Elysium, Interstellar. Further back, Soylent Green nailed it (“It’s people!!”), but most went too far – or not far enough. Too many involved nuclear holocausts, alien invasions, space escapes, or dealt with the climate aspects cursorily. There is quite a bit more in literature. But I wanted something realistic and gritty.

So I decided to write a novel. I should say, I noodled on the idea of a novel. But it was always eclipsed by the pace of life with a job, a child, and all the things people do. As my daughter began to get older, though, and the world she was going to inherit was so clearly degenerating, the dawdling started to wear on me.

Then one day, my father spontaneously bought me a laptop and said simply, “write your book.”  Guilt from the zoo incident? More likely, he saw what I saw: an opportunity to leverage my skills (feeble as they may be) to try to do something. A few hours later, with the blessing of my wife – who couldn’t have had any idea what she was signing up for – the quest began.

It started with a torrent of pent-up prose. That bit in A Christmas Story about the words “pouring from my penny pencil with feverish fluidity”? That was me.

Very soon, I realized it had to be a saga. Not just because the story was practically writing itself, but also because a saga speaks to what I think we are really dealing with: a problem that won’t start and finish like a normal book. The earth isn’t going to warm up a few degrees, cause some problems, and be done. It is going to get warm, and it is going to stay warm for a very long time. Decades. Maybe centuries.

During those years, it will unleash a lot of pain, and that will put stress on people. We have seen how humanity responds to stress, and it often hasn’t been pretty. It will also affect different people in different ways. Urban and rural, rich and poor, American and foreign, etc. The story had to capture this too, so I committed to writing a multi-character road novel akin to Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead.

I later realized that the cover had to be special too. It had to deliver the same deep and seductive unease I felt when I first saw Feininger’s painting. I next found my painting, always heavily influenced by Feininger’s, starting to shift toward more climate-oriented (and darker) motifs.

As I enter the home stretch of this saga, I confront challenges I hadn’t anticipated when I started. Sagas are long, and publishers don’t like long books, at least not from new authors. Getting a “buzz” going, so the book actually reaches an audience, is inextricably linked to social media – a different saga in itself. I decided to “crowd-source” the cover, stemming the risk of getting “Boaty McBoatface” by limiting choices to my own artwork, but heightening the risk of not using a professional cover-designer. I also realized that the aesthetic I love – at least as I have implemented it – doesn’t lend itself to sexy novel covers, and yet the darker climate themes now in my paintings may never generate another buyer again, but I don’t think I can go back.

I found some luck when I reached Dan Bloom, the man who coined the termed “Cli-Fi” for Climate Fiction. He agreed to read an early daft and urged me on. My friends helped too, including one who agreed to edit the first draft for only one bottle of Prosecco.

Most importantly, I have enjoyed the patience and encouragement of my wife and daughter, whose support was nearly boundless. I jest sometimes that they maybe benefited from my many hours of absence, but in truth, this saga would have ended much sooner were it not for them.

In February 2019, I will complete part 1 of my saga, entitled Embers: Ruin and Wrath, once the cover-selection vote on SurveyMonkey ends. Book 2 is already underway, because despite the challenges and frustrations of the trek, I believe that art must join ranks with science. For my daughter’s sake, I will stay in the fight, so the saga will continue.


Born and raised in Southern California, Matthew Taylor earned a bachelor’s degree and two master’s degrees in San Diego before moving to Arlington, Virginia in 1999. Now a senior executive, he is an avid writer, music lover, and artist. More importantly, he is a devoted father and husband. His debut novel, Embers: Ruin and Wrath, will be published on in early February 2019. He can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


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

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How do YOU do Green Arts? Get planning for #GreenArts Day 2019: Thursday 14 March

How do you do #GreenArts? Get set to join in with #GreenArts Day 2019 on Thursday 14 March to share your work, find out about what’s happening in the cultural sector, what sustainability in the arts looks like, and how we all can contribute to a better and more sustainable Scotland.

#GreenArts Day was held for the first time in March 2018, it was an exciting day of stories from across Scotland’s cultural sector and beyond, reaching an audience of over 1 million people! This year we hope you’ll join us in making it even bigger and better.

What can I expect from #GreenArts Day 2019?

  • Inspiration, humour and community
    We were overwhelmed with the huge number of organisations and people who got involved with #GreenArts Day 2018 across all sorts of different channels, you can get a sense of the day from the #GreenArts Day 2018 twitter moment.
  • The launch of the Green Arts Initiative Annual Report
    As part of their membership of the community, our Green Arts members report each year on the actions they’ve taken, and the ambitions they have for their environmental sustainability efforts. This year we’ll be live publishing the report during #GreenArts day, pulling out key activities, insights and member successes. For an idea of previous annual reports, and to get a sneak peak of what might be in this year’s edition, take a look at the Green Arts Initiative Annual Report 2017.
  • The showcasing of the Green Arts member community
    Our Green Arts community is driven by the amazing members from all corners of Scotland. We’ll be highlighting those taking strides on sustainability from different art forms, different locations, and different situations.
  • Exciting announcements by the Green Arts community
    #GreenArts Day is a great moment to announce new initiatives to achieve even more ambition in creating a better, sustainable Scotland (and world). #GreenArts Day 2018 saw the Scottish Government supported announcement of HebCelt’s ban on single-use plastics.
  • Questions to prompt your own green arts thinking
    Over the course of the day, we’ll also be posing key questions that the Green Arts community is working with, challenging the cultural sector and those participating in it to develop the ideas which underpin all our efforts towards a sustainable Scottish cultural sector.

What is the Green Arts Initiative?#GreenArts Day: Wednesday 14th March 1

The Green Arts Initiative is a community of practice of cultural organisations in Scotland, committed to reducing their environmental impact. We are working on this in a huge variety of ways – everything from reducing the emissions of harmful greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change, to programming artistic work which directly tackles the issues for Scottish and international audiences.

It is free for any cultural organisation in Scotland to join and participate in the Green Arts Initiative. To find out more, and to become part of the community, head on over to our project page. We currently have 220 members from across Scotland, and we guarantee you’ll spot some you already know on our interactive map.

How can I get involved?

  • Use, like and retweet the hashtag #GreenArts
  • Connect with Creative Carbon Scotland on TwitterInstagram and Facebook.
  • If you are a Green Arts member, think about what you could share during the day:
    • Could you introduce your Green Champion or Green Team to the world?
    • Have you got a good sustainability story to share?
    • Are you launching a new sustainability initiative?
    • Can you show off your environmental policy?

If you have something you are planning to share as part of the #GreenArts day, or if you have any questions, please do get in touch with Catriona on

The post How do YOU do Green Arts? Get planning for #GreenArts Day 2019: Thursday 14 March 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

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2019 College Green Captain Prize Now Open for Submissions

The Broadway Green Alliance is pleased to once again offer the College Green Captain Prize to an outstanding college student who has helped his or her campus theatre department become greener. The deadline for all applications is March 4, 2019.

Winners will have brought innovative, creative, and/or widely-applied greening and energy-efficiency methods into the design and/or production of theatre to their campuses. Entries from this year’s finalists will be displayed at the BGA booth at the United States Institute for Theatre Technology, Inc. (USITT) Annual Conference & Stage Expo, which runs from March 20-23, 2019 in Louisville, Kentucky. 

The winner will be selected by a panel composed of members of the Broadway Green Alliance and will be announced at the USITT Expo. He or she will receive tickets to the Broadway production of Hadestown and, subject to availability, a professional backstage tour of the production or a meeting with a current Broadway Green Captain.

For more information on how to apply, please visit the BGA website by clicking here. Entries can be sent to Students or faculty/staff members interested in helping to green their theatre departments are encouraged to sign up to be a College Green Captain.P

Let There Be Puppets – and a Green New Deal

by Julia Levine

Persistent Acts kicks off a second year at the intersection of performance, climate, and politics, with a look at Bread & Puppet Theatre’s recent tour to New York.

As 2018 came to a close, I had the privileged of seeing a Bread & Puppet show at New York City’s downtown Theater for the New City. On tour from rural Vermont, in the off-season of the farm, they presented their new opera Or Else, written by Bertolt Brecht, composed by Hans Eisler, and directed by Peter Schumann. What I knew of B&P was large puppets, bread, and that my friend Paul was in this show. I’ve encountered B&P’s puppets before, like at the Women’s March in 2017.

As we assembled into the sold-out house, I took in the shower curtain with “Or Else” written on it; the tight rows of papier-mâché puppets hanging from the grid; the traveling-salesman-type trunk with a suit hanging off the edge; large-scale beast-like puppets; rows of cardboard buildings and Schumann, the founder of B&P himself. He blew the whistle and the show began, with a man appearing behind the trunk, dropping an ice cube on a row of spoons, which fell onto a drum. This ice played out differently than it may have when the show was created, during the summer in a barn, but the implication was similar – ice melts, turning to water, which drips. Elsewhere on the stage, the buildings and beasts are pulled to the wings. What unfolded during the show was a series of movement-based, object-based, and musical moments. The music was performed by Pi Ensemble, and included brass, piano, and violin, and two singers who wove in and out of the stage action. A description of the stage action and its potential meanings can be found in Wonderland, from when the piece was performed over the summer at the farm.

As the ensemble cast of word-less actors maneuvered the puppets and objects around the stage in choreographed synchronicity and through the music, I made a similar meaning to Wonderland writer Greg Cook: Or Else “is a show about dark times in the land, channeling a national sense of things gone dangerously wrong, of wicked people in charge who dictate cruel punishments and arrests and violence. It’s a show full of forebodings of the forces of fascism and torture coming awake.”

How is this show different than what’s on the news? What is elucidating about this performance? The cast manipulate puppets, gather as a crowd, and dance in pairs – depicting life of what seemed to me a version of Marx’s proletariat. The show is abundant with metaphor, starting with the puppets themselves: A number of human-shaped puppets, of varying sizes, make appearances as anonymous individuals. We see the actual humans who manipulate the puppets; they are also anonymous. These people – as humans and puppets – act out scenes of labor, through varying levels of industrial support. And in one scene, after dirt has been poured on the rows of stationary puppets, humans clean up the mess.

What is resonant to me about Or Else is both in the making-of and in the witnessing. From what I saw onstage, a group of people came together to make something out of nothing – the human touch is viscerally clear when looking at the puppets. By centering the puppets, I felt even more of a connection to my fellow humans because, though I could see the actors manipulating these puppets, I could ascribe my own meaning to their actions. I felt a connection to my species that is less tangible in this hyper-digital time. When the puppets moved together, it was like magic. I made my own meaning of the scenes as a whole, based on my experiences and inclinations. I have the luxury of time and space to really chew on a piece like this, but as the play seemed to echo: freedom and individuality are not to be taken for granted. At the same time, this piece highlighted the potential of a group of humans. By the end of the show, the ensemble had raised a giant human-shaped puppet up to the tall grid of the theatre, which I took to represent the rise of a fascist dictator. Finally, the scene returns to how it was at the beginning, with the large puppet looming in the background.

In B&P fashion, bread and aioli were brought out after the curtain call (rye bread and garlic grown on the farm), for a full sensory experience. I left with many potential meanings to a given scene, and continued questions about the state of our country. What happens in an absolute dictatorship? What are the alternatives? With the stage returning to its original state, it feels like the events of the play are on loop, a cycle that perpetuates – “or else” a different direction is imagined and pursued.

We are already seeing the hard-hitting effects of our current economic and political systems on our climate: the IPCC’s report lays out what the negative “or else” consequences could be in twelve years. Fueled by this, some Democrats in the current U.S. Congress are envisioning “what else”: a Green New Deal, rooted in decarbonizing the economy and justice for those communities hardest-hit by climate disasters. As my friend Blake iterated in our year-end post What Gives You Hope?, there is momentum around this platform, especially amongst youth who won’t take the cycle of “or else” anymore. Until there are concrete policies enacted, I feel cautiously optimistic about this GND, and propelled to stage more “elses” in this year to come.

(All photos: Bread and Puppet Theater performs Or Else in the troupe’s Paper Mâché Cathedral in Glover, Vermont, Aug. 17, 2018. Photos by Greg Cook.)

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 the Marketing Manager at HERE 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

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Opportunity: Platform : 2019 Open Call at Edinburgh Art Festival

PLATFORM: If you are an early career artist ready to showcase your work, Edinburgh Art Festival would like to hear from you!


Founded in 2004, Edinburgh Art Festival is the platform for the visual arts at the heart of Edinburgh’s August festivals, bringing together the capital’s leading galleries, museums and artist-run spaces in a city-wide celebration of the very best in visual art.

Each year, the Festival features leading international and UK artists alongside the best emerging talent, major survey exhibitions of historic figures, and a special programme of newly commissioned artworks that respond to public and historic sites in the city.


If you are an early career artist ready to showcase your work, we’d like to hear from you.

We are delighted to announce the call for proposals to participate in Platform: 2019. This will be the fifth edition of our annual initiative designed to provide a dedicated opportunity for artists at the beginning of their careers to participate in the Festival.

Between 3-4 artists selected through the Open Call, will be invited to present their work in a group exhibition as part of the 2019 Festival. Selected artists will receive an artist’s fee, a dedicated budget to support the production of new work, and will be supported by the Festival team, with opportunities for individual mentoring throughout the development of the exhibition.

Platform: 2019 is part of the Platforms for Creative Excellence (PLACE) programme, launched in November 2018 by the Edinburgh Festivals, the City of Edinburgh Council and the Scottish Government.


Applicants must:

  • Be based in Scotland and have been living here for a minimum of 2 years
  • Have graduated with a BA in Fine Art, or closely related subject, a minimum
    of 2 years ago and not more than 10 years ago *
  • Have not yet had a significant solo presentation within a public institution, or
    achieved representation by a commercial gallery

* We will also consider applications from artists who have not followed a formal fine art
education route, where they can demonstrate that they have developed an independent
professional practice for a minimum of 4 years, including a track record of exhibitions,
studio membership etc.
* Current students will not be eligible.

If you have any queries about the above criteria, please 


To apply, please use the Platform: 2019 Proposal Form on the Edinburgh Art Festival website to tell us about your practice, and propose a project you would like to develop for Platform: 2019 (including information about the likely costs).

Submissions will be reviewed by a panel comprising Edinburgh Art Festival Director, Sorcha Carey and artists Toby Paterson and Monster Chetwynd who have previously been commissioned by Edinburgh Art Festival. The panel will select works on the basis of their eligibility and individual quality, with a view to forming the strongest collective presentation.

The selection panel can only assess applications on the basis of material submitted. It is therefore essential, and in your interest to supply the highest quality visuals possible that fully represent your work. Please be aware that while a website portfolio can provide good supporting documentation, the dedicated images or links to specific material for your project requested in the form will be the key materials reviewed by the panel.

Work in any medium will be considered, and the production budget should include any costs related to your proposed activity. Collaborative proposals may be considered, but the limitations to the fee and budget offered should be taken into consideration within any collaborative proposal.

Due to the high volume of proposals received we are unable to offer feedback to proposals that are not selected.


  • Deadline for proposals (to be received no later than midnight) Sunday 3 March
  • Notification of decision to successful applicants Week of 18 March
  • Detailed planning of final exhibition May/June
  • Exhibition install to commence Early July
  • Launch of Edinburgh Art Festival 2019 Thursday 25 July
  • Opening preview of Platform: 2019 Friday 26 July
  • Festival closes Sunday 25 August
  • Deinstall Week of 26 August



Successful candidates will be invited to participate in a group exhibition, with the following support offered for the production and installation of work:

  • Provision of a city centre space, branded as a Festival venue and invigilated by staff for the duration of the Festival
  • Artist’s fee of £1,000
  • Dedicated production allowance for each participating artist (up to a maximum of £2,000), to include any external production fees, expenses and related costs, materials, equipment, etc.
  • Mentoring support to be agreed with selected artists according to their individual needs
  • Technical support with installation
  • Exhibition interpretation panels, leaflet, vinyls and labels
  • Dedicated launch event
  • The exhibition will documented by a professional photographer and resulting images will be shared with the exhibiting artists


Platform: 2019 will be included in all of Edinburgh Art Festival’s promotional materials:

  • Festival Print Platform: 2019 is listed in the Festival Guide, with text, images and artist biographies. The Festival Guide will be distributed widely throughout Edinburgh and the rest of Scotland, to partner galleries and cultural venues. Exhibition signage and an information booklet will also be produced for Platform: 2019.
  • Website Exhibition details, artist information and related events will be added to a dedicated section
    at Information will also be sent via our weekly festival enewsletter, giving subscribers up to date information on the latest exhibitions and events.
  • Social Media Festival content is promoted via Facebook, Twitter & Instagram. Artists will be encouraged
    to share relevant content on their own pages to highlight to wider audiences.
  • Festival PR Our appointed PR agency will target a large range of local, national and international press
    and media outlets to promote Edinburgh Art Festival.


Completed proposals should be received by midnight, Sunday 3 March 2019.
Please email to with the subject line Platform: 2019.
Emails should be no larger than 5MB. For attachments or large files, please use a file sharing facility such as WeTransfer.
For any queries please contact us: 0131 226 6558 |

The post Opportunity: Platform : 2019 Open Call at Edinburgh Art Festival 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

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