Yearly Archives: 2020

Wild Authors: Nancy Burke

By Mary Woodbury

Thanks to Nancy Burke, author of Undergrowth (Gibson House Press 2017), we travel to 1960s Brazil to explore the historical problem that continues to repeat itself today: the logging of forests and catastrophic environmental and cultural conflicts that follow.

In 1960s Brazil, an indigenous group is on the brink of a tragedy, the dimensions of which they are only beginning to grasp. A small band of disaffected government agents, academics and visionaries is determined to fight for their cause. Among them is James who, along with his nephew Larry, travels to Pahquel, a village in the crosshairs of an environmental showdown. When James dies en route, Larry is left to decide: Should he attempt to escape his own personal demons by immersing himself in a completely foreign culture? Or retreat and resume his disaffected life in the U.S.? What costs will he bear if he chooses to press forward?

In this luminous first novel, Nancy Burke gives voice to the complexities of social, anthropological and environmental forces. Melding poetry with touches of magical realism, here is a page-turner of an adventure story that rests upon deep and unsettling layers of undergrowth. As stated in Booklist:

This densely packed debut novel…demands that readers set aside their preconceptions about society and civilization and immerse themselves in the world of this small band of renegades, whose personal journeys are every bit as dark and dangerous as any voyage into Brazil’s wilderness.

CHAT WITH THE AUTHOR

What kind of environmental showdown is happening in your novel, and does it reflect real-life happenings?

An issue I often talk about when I do readings is my experience of a struggle – one that many authors face – regarding the question of how to allow myself the space to write fiction while still respecting the integrity of my book’s setting. The concern is even more acute when the setting has, in life, deeply affected people in traumatic or tragic ways. And absolutely, in 1960s Brazil, where my book is set, there was a catastrophic confrontation between the indigenous tribes and the government, and the environment was hanging in the balance. 

Many aid organizations today, Amazon Watch and Survival International are two of these, recognize that partnering with indigenous groups is generally the best way to preserve the forest, and problems arise when ecologically focused groups try to intervene over the heads of those who best know the land and whose lives are at stake. My novel highlights the reckless and dehumanizing ways in which the “Indian problem” was handled by many during that period, when some who were hired supposedly to protect the tribes exploited them instead because of the monetary value of the natural resources upon which the tribes were sitting. Attitudes toward the tribes and towards the land go hand-in-hand; a failure to respect one amounts to a failure to respect both. Historically, after the double-rape of the tribes and the land by SPI was exposed, awareness was raised to some extent, but I’m sad to say that with the recent election in Brazil, we’re returning to the bad old days and worse.

I was scheduled to do a presentation at Amazon Watch just days after the election, and I honestly debated about cancelling just because I didn’t think I could speak without weeping, though I was glad I went, because I needed to be with people who appreciated the extent of the disaster. Bolsonaro promised on the campaign trail to roll back both environmental and tribal protections, will certainly slash the already devastated budgets of the government agencies that protect the tribes and their lands, and has given a sense of impunity to individuals, families and especially companies that the forest’s riches are theirs to harvest.

Thanks so much for your work on this and bringing these problems to light, both in fiction and in real life. You’ve been compared to Gabriel Garcia Marquez (one of my favorite authors!) and Isabel Allende, and have a touch of magical realism. Can you tell us more about this?

I sure am happy and honored (though a bit bewildered) to be placed in their company, by anybody ever! Their words and visions are profound, transformative, and their magic isn’t confined just to their talents for making stuff up. I used a bit of magical realism with great trepidation in my book, because I wanted to get across how temporally fragile these tribes become the minute they come into contact with the so-called civilized world. I had started before I knew what the book would be about with thoughts about pets, how strange it is that we witness their entire lifespans, from youth to death, which is not how we experience people. Animals show us the transience of our lives. It’s true what Joyce said – we don’t deserve them.

Can you tell us more about how you were inspired to build your characters, your world?

The book began with an image, and it just took hold and grew. I sat in on a class with an extraordinary professor when I was in graduate school and remembered him showing us a film about his work with the Kayapo, talking to a group of Kayapo men as he waved a book of revolutionary theory in the air. The image was compelling, and from then on, it expanded into a world I walked around in in my head for years. I did research, of course, but then just put it all aside and focused on capturing the world in my mind, speaking that made-up language to myself, and forgetting the Chicago winters as best I could.

Comparing the 1960s to now, what ecological crises are similar or have changed?

There’s that old proverb: May you live in interesting times. We’re in one now, for sure, because never in recorded history has there been such a deep appreciation of people and experiences that are “other,” on the one hand, and then such a political/ economic/ technological engine of destruction on the other hand to steamroll that sensitivity.  Both multi-nationals and governments represent authoritarian regimes of such power as has never been seen before, and their yield of climate change means that the destruction of Earth is now possible in a way that it wasn’t before.

Anything else you want to add?

Just that I wasn’t intending to be such a downer! The world is full of beauty and small, miraculous kindnesses, and poetry, and we must never give up on those gifts. They’re what we live for, and that’s as close to immortality as we’re going to get. As they say in one of my favorite songs (“Mayfly” by Dolly Varden), we are lucky, and the story is not over yet.

You’re not a downer. In fact, we need to have a multi-faceted approach to recognizing and fixing our problems, which includes some hope and appreciation as well as some dire and blunt warnings. Thanks so much, Nancy, for your time and interesting information about Undergrowth.

BRAZIL TODAY

They say history repeats itself, and progress means taking one step forward and two steps back. In Brazil’s recent election, hard-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro – similar to the president in the United States – campaigned on rollbacks that had been set in place to protect the environment. This worries people everywhere but particularly indigenous people at ground zero. According to National Geographic, Beto Marubo, a native leader from the Javari Valley Indigenous Land in Brazil’s far-western borderlands, stated:

We are very worried, based on what the president-elect has stated. If what he has promised comes to pass, there will be chaos and upheaval in the Amazon. Many brothers tell us there are invasions, people entering the territories with no regard for the rules and no fear of the authorities.

Some facts on the ground:

  • Brazil once had the highest deforestation rate in the world.
  • Since 1970, over 700,000 square kilometers have been destroyed.
  • Between May 2000 and August 2006, Brazil forest loss was an area larger than Greece.
  • Forest loss includes deforestation for cattle ranching, development, hydroelectric, mining, soybean farming, and logging activities.
  • Rainforests are needed for the critical carbon dioxide exchange process to help mitigate global warming.
  • Brazilian rainforests are one of the most biodiverse in the world.
  • Indigenous people are the most affected by this disaster.
  • Other problems include pollution, diminishing water supply, soil degradation, and local temperature variations.

Source: Wikipedia

This article is part of our Wild Authors series. It was originally published on Dragonfly.eco.

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Mary Woodbury, a graduate of Purdue University, runs Dragonfly.eco, a site that explores 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 Magazine, Ethnobiology 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.

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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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Water Wars: The Postponement of Ecological Issues in a Pandemic Crisis

By Ian Rowlands

Water Wars is an eco-thriller that takes as its premise Steven A. LeBlanc’s position in Constant Battles: Why We Fight: “the consequences of environmental stress will be scarce resources and the consequences of scarce resources will be warfare.” Set in a “heated” future, the action of Water Wars, my latest play, takes place in Wales, a nation that sees its fair share of rain. However, it happens to be situated next to England, a nation that even at the turn of the twenty-first century was experiencing water stress. According to Fred Pearce in When the Rivers Run Dry, “in Southeast England summer rainfall is expected to halve by mid-century and evaporation rates from reservoirs could increase by a third…the echoes of Ethiopia and Sudan suddenly seem not so fanciful.”

Put simply, in order to protect its own ecology, Wales is forced to cut the water pipelines connecting it to England. The historic Other responds in the only way it has ever known, not through negotiation but through negation: an invasion. While political at heart, a strand of Water Wars is domestic: the betrayal of a family by a father. “How could you have compromised us for that woman?”, an ex-wife asks her husband (Eben, an officer in the Eco-force). “You wouldn’t betray this ecology, so why did you betray us? Ecology starts with family, Eben, the smallest sustainable unit.” But describing the play’s plot is beyond the remit of this short reflection.

What is of immediate interest is that rehearsals for the production began on Monday, March 9. On March 11, the markets rallied 1.5% and I remained confident we would open. However, the following day, they dropped over 7%. I recall a government advisor who began a TV interview talking of the epidemic. Then, a small slip mid-conversation and the epidemic turned into a pandemic, the first time I’d heard it termed as such. From that moment on, so it seemed to me, the production was destined to be shelved. By Friday the play was fully blocked and the producer was eager to record it for webcast before any threat of lockdown. However, on the Sunday, the production designer self-isolated and events overtook our best intentions.

There are countless other productions around the globe held in similar abeyance. Many of those will be about ecological issues; postcards from what was the front. However, another front has opened up and the battle for the world’s ecology is relegated to column inches on page seven. The currency of ecology has been devalued.

But everything is ecology, for all is family. Searching for feelgood stories during the pandemic, our media lists the positive impacts that this current calamity has had on the environment: Jalandhar residents awake to a view of the Himalayas for the first time in 30 years, people can breathe in the streets of Beijing, and car use in Britain has returned to levels not seen since the 1950s.

In this time of crisis, when the cult of celebrity is shown to be the vacuous shibboleth it is, ecology has taken up its frivolous role: a diversion from the real. I realize that I am being glib, but, as a fellow theatre maker in Iceland recently wrote, “everything has changed, and nothing has changed.”

Soon, Trump will open up the United States economy, regardless of the human consequences,  for the markets profit from both life and death. To paraphrase Homi Bhabha, in an emergency, there is only the emergence of financial opportunity: new billions to make. And make no mistake, people are on the make, and this is what concerns me. The bull market will trade more viciously after this pandemic. While the emphasis will be on economic recovery, the human and ecological cost will be weighed and found wanting, as will democracy, I fear, and anything else that stands in the way of liberal economics.

The cast rehearsing the play with the director, producer and stage manager in Cardiff.

After six weeks on lockdown, I now wonder whether Water Wars will ever be realized. Not that it is unrealizable – the set is constructed, the soundscape gathered, the light plot drafted, the lines learnt, the text proofed for printing, the desire to stage, great – rather, I wonder whether the people will have any interest in it (and all eco-theatre) when they emerge traumatized from this time of fear? A shame, for I think they should. How many will draw the line between the pandemic and ecology?

And yet, in order to rebuild, we (for we are all complicit) will further compromise our planet (the desire for that latest iPhone, stag parties in Prague, strawberries in December) and in so doing, we shall run backwards into the future yet again. We are all Benjamin’s Angel of History, progressing blindly, heedless of further destruction.

Zoonosis – the transmission of pathogens between non-human and human (the probable cause of this pandemic) – is an ecological issue, for all is ecology. Ecology is not a feel-good story in a time of stress, it is the only story. The line must be drawn.

Script-in-hand reading in Carmarthen with the cast. From the left: Dick Johns, Gwyn Vaughan Jones, Bethan Ellis Owen and Russell Gomer.

Out of this tragedy, theatre must emerge stronger, more committed. It will emerge because it has to. For theatre presents us with opportunities for dissensus; that is, to quote Jacques Rancière, “a practice that invents new trajectories between what can be seen, what can be said and what can be done.” We will need our theatre. We will need it to see for us all, to say for us all, to invent, even demand, a better future for us all. I hope that Water Wars (and all eco-texts) will be seen at some point in the future, and that it will open up its own small dissensual space that can, along with other such spaces, allow the dreaming of new trajectories as we emerge out of this mess.

(Top image: Ian Rowlands directing actors Gwyn Vaughan Jones and Russell Gomer in Water Wars.)

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Ian Rowlands is a Wales-based director and dramatist. His short play Bottoms Up was included in Where is the Hope? An Anthology of Short Climate Change Plays, published by the Center for Sustainable Practice in the Arts. Water Wars will soon be published in book form; see the Cwmni Pen Productions website for updates.

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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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Open call: Reimagining Museums for Climate Action

In the lead-up to COP26, Museums for Climate Change invite concept and design proposals that radically reimagine the museum as an institution to help shape meaningful climate action.

Eight competition winners will be awarded £2500 each to develop their ideas for an exhibition at Glasgow Science Centre ahead of and during COP26.

What can museums be?

This competition invites you to think about how new approaches to the design, organisation and experience of museums can amplify and accelerate climate action in diverse contexts and at various scales, enabling museums and society to move farther, faster, together to a net-zero or zero-carbon future.

The organisers, Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Heritage Priority Areaand Glasgow Science Centre, particularly welcome proposals that address the following two priority themes: climate justice and green futures.

Important dates

Registration deadline: 31st July 2020

Submission deadline: 15th September 2020

Winners announced: 8th October 2020

Exhibition opens: March 2021 (dependent on rescheduled COP26 dates)

For more information and to download the full brief, visit Reimagining Museums for Climate Change.

The post Open call: Reimagining Museums for Climate Action appeared first on Creative Carbon Scotland.

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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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One Planet, Many Names

“How inappropriate to call this planet Earth, when clearly it is Ocean.”

Arthur C. Clarke

In English, earth means ground, soil, and land, but it also means our world – Planet Earth. From Hebrew to Spanish, to Zulu, to Cree – this dual meaning is common in many, if not most, of the world’s 7,000 languages. In many cultures, it also takes on a more spiritual meaning. Think of the Norse goddess Jörð, the Hindu goddess Bhumi, or the Greek goddess Gaia and her Roman equivalent Terra – all humbly named for dirt. It’s perhaps not surprising when you consider that in the evolution of language, the word for land predates organized religion and planetary science. This planet might be 71% water, but we are a terrestrial species. The surface beneath our feet, which we may or may not worship, is earth.

Many languages, however, have separate words for earth and Earth. Often, the planet bears a maternal name, as in Nabgwana meaning mother of abundance in Kuna, or Nahasdzáánmeaning our mother in Navajo, and in many other cultures that feature Father Sky and Mother Earth deities.

Throughout the Muslim world, the planet’s name is a reflection of the theological belief that Earth is the land of the living, while heaven is the home of the divine. The Arabic name, Dunyā, translates to lower place, as opposed to heaven, the higher place. Meanwhile, earthas in ground or land is called ʾarḍ in Arabic. In Indonesia, the predominately Muslim Sundanese people call it Marcapada – the mortal place.

To an alien visitor, it might be surprising that we have so many names and understandings of our own planet, but that’s just the human way. Observing it from space, one might just call it as Carl Sagan did – the Pale Blue Dot. But for us humans here on Earth, it is the sacred ground, the holy mother, the land of life.


One Planet, Many Names (opaque text version) by Jordan Engel

Mapped here are some of the many names for our planet. 250 languages are represented in all.

The map itself is Pacific-Centered (150°E) and South-Up. It uses the Equal Earth projection, a beautiful equal-area projection developed in 2018.

As always, Decolonial Atlas maps can be reused under the Decolonial Media License 0.1. Feel free to print them yourself, and send us your photos of them out in the real world!

(Top photo: One Planet, Many Names (translucent text version) by Jordan Engel)

Originally posted on The Decolonial Atlas

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

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

Go to EcoArtScotland

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Ben’s Strategy Blog: Navigating a future for our arts post-COVID-19

Implicit in much of the discussion about the COVID-19 lockdown is an assumption that we will exit from this pandemic and return to some sort of ‘normal’, albeit possibly a ‘new normal’. However, there is a small but real chance that there is no end in sight for social distancing and that our society, economy and cultural activity is enormously changed. How do we go about thinking through this possibility in order to prepare?

Scotland’s cultural sector is in terrible pain and filled with uncertainty about the future. Artists and freelancers have seen their work dry up completely whilst companies have had to cancel performances, exhibitions and events through to the summer, with a second wave of cancellations now beginning. Film and TV production has all but stopped and cinemas are closed, even if streaming is booming. Edinburgh’s festivals from Easter through to the August jamboree have all been cancelled and tens if not hundreds of others across Scotland will follow suit. Individuals and organisations are facing a massive loss of income, despite Creative Scotland’s re-allocation of its funding and support. Many staff have been furloughed. Meanwhile, audiences across the land are missing the thrill and inspiration that comes from seeing and hearing live performances and events and experiencing works of art up close and full size.

Social not-distancing

The whole of the European performing arts tradition is based on people gathering together in a space, usually a building, for a shared experience. In this experience the audience plays an important part: a feedback loop between the stage and the audience energises both parties; the audience member’s experience is changed and heightened by their sharing it with other audience members; the performance changes with the presence of the audience as they see or hear and respond to what happens on stage, which influences, in real time, the performers’ interpretations and delivery. Part of the experience of participating in culture is also the social element: the mingling beforehand, seeing friends, enjoying (or not) the event as a group. Accordingly, the very architecture of cultural buildings and the work they put on are designed for people not social distancing. Like the best parties, the best theatre, music and dance takes place when as many people as possible are squeezed into slightly too small a space.

When will the lockdown end?

In the media the discussion is all about when the lockdown will end but, in the absence of a vaccine, the infamous herd immunity or COVID-19 for some other reason fading away (as other coronaviruses such as SARS admittedly have), performing arts events at least seem unlikely to restart for some time. A vaccine needs to be proven safe and then produced in massive quantities and the experts are talking about some time next year at the earliest – if one can be developed, which is not a given. The chances are that there will be some loosening of restrictions before a total relaxation but bringing large groups of people together in enclosed spaces is likely to be last on the list. As a leader in The Economist (free, but you need to register) says: ‘Managing [a part-locked-in, part-let-out world] depends on testing… It will not be available on a truly mass scale for many months’.

Time for difficult thinking – but how do we do it?

The UK’s status as one of the worst countries in dealing with the virus demonstrates why it’s important to prepare and think about difficult problems in advance. Although it’s hard and upsetting, while some of the cultural sector’s effort should be directed to working out how to get back to work, there also needs to be some thinking about what we do if that simply isn’t possible, at least for some years. But, how do we go about thinking about such an enormous change?

COVID-19 has provided us with an unwanted rehearsal for many of the issues that global heating raises (this article provides a take on this and it is interesting to read just three weeks after it was posted, when some of the more outlandish things it discusses have already come to pass) and there is a useful link with the way in which some people are thinking about adaptation to the impacts of climate change.

Creative Carbon Scotland is part of the Clyde: Re:Built project (a Deep Demonstration Project co-funded by EIT Climate-KIC) developing a transformational adaptation strategy and implementation plan for the Glasgow City Region. One of the project partners has done a review of the literature about what transformation actually means and what the barriers to achieving it are. The review isn’t published yet, but I’ll summarise some key points which may be helpful.

What is transformation – and why is this relevant?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change defines transformational adaptation as changing the fundamental attributes of a system in response to climate and its effects, so it’s easy to see the link with the situation we’re in: the system of cultural production and consumption needs to respond to a fundamental change in the environment we’re working in. Transformation is often described as ‘doing different things’ as opposed to ‘doing things differently’. There is also a common theme of moving from incremental adaptation, where effectively you change only as much as is necessary to keep things stable, i.e. doing the same things differently, to transformational adaptation, where you make bigger changes to the fundamentals, i.e. changing the system and doing different things.

Of course, doing different things is riskier and a greater step into the unknown, but it does also provide the opportunity to do better things. We know that the current system of cultural production is rife with inequalities in terms of who creates the work, who attends or benefits from it, the power structures and systems it represents and replicates.

In Scotland, it is (I generalise) largely white, older, educated and wealthy people who consume much of the subsidised arts and culture that we produce and those who produce it and work in the industry tend to be from the same demographic – except that often they are younger, female and ill-paid. (Hmm. Notice any links with the pandemic?) Why would we change the system simply in order to replicate the problems of the current one? The Scottish Government has adopted the Sustainable Development Goals and integrated them into its National Performance Framework. Maybe if we are going to ‘do different things’ we can genuinely address questions of social and environmental sustainability by shaping the new system differently. (This aligns with Creative Scotland’s focus on Equalities and Climate Change in its connecting themes, which I understand are increasingly important to the agency’s current funding review.)

What are the barriers to transformation?

The review also identifies some common barriers to adaptation. They fall into three categories:

  • Economic and financial: These might include the availability of finance to plan and make any changes as well as the risk that the changes simply make the organisational plan and budget unworkable. We might want to do better things, but the additional costs might make our work too expensive for audiences or other purchasers.
  • Policy, institutional and governance: Funding policy or agreements might not align with a changed approach (I experienced this at Contact in Manchester when I was told that the drama department of Arts Council North West wouldn’t fund a youth arts centre, which was effectively what I was proposing. That later changed, but not until the theatre had burned down and I had left!). Governance issues might apply when existing decision-making processes aren’t able to handle radically new ideas or ways of working that may involve different groups, cross-cutting themes or competing priorities. (Another problem I experienced at Contact, which interestingly now has young people operating at board level and participating in key decisions.)
  • Social and cultural: Emotional, cultural, psychological and cognitive factors can shape decision making and hinder change both in individuals and groups, such as boards or staff teams. Change is difficult and worrying, particularly when the potential changes are high risk or radical. Our habits may make change harder to achieve. We may be reluctant to cede more power to other people or to focus on different audiences that are not like us.

These aren’t all completely relevant here but are useful to consider. And crucially, uncertainty about the future underlies them all: should we spend money on something that may happen more slowly or not at all? What if the policy- and rule-makers don’t make the relevant changes, or move in a different direction? And we, our boards, staff members and audiences will almost inevitably find change more difficult if we aren’t certain about the need: maybe everything will be back to normal by September!

Interestingly, the literature review notes that sometimes barriers to incremental adaptation are themselves triggers to more fundamental transformation. Because it’s difficult to make the small changes necessary to maintain the status quo, particularly in a given time period, more radical change may become necessary, more possible or even more attractive.

Lessons for the cultural sector

As I indicated above, some of the lessons from the world of transformational adaptation echo my personal experience and could be useful for cultural policymakers and organisations, and maybe also for individual artists and freelancers. Addressing each of the barriers leads me to suggest the following, particularly for the boards of our cultural organisations and our policymakers:

  • Financial: It isn’t going to be enough to simply cushion ourselves sufficiently to get through the next few months or even years. We may well need to explore different financial and organisational models for a different world. These will surely involve different ways of bringing cultural work to the public, particularly digital ones, but this itself may not be sufficient. We need to be cleverer and think differently, perhaps radically re-imagining what it is that we do, what we are for: cultural organisations are social ones too. This applies as much to individuals as to companies, and funders and policymakers may need to rethink their support mechanisms accordingly.
  • Policy and governance: Building on this, are the boards of our cultural organisations stocked with the right people to do this clever thinking, with the right information and experience to hand? Contact solved some of its problems after the devastating fire by genuinely involving young people in its governance – it’s now thriving in a way that seemed impossible under the previous board (the chair for much of my time at the young-people focused theatre was 76…). Now’s a good time to think about who we will need to help steer and take responsibility for the long-term sustainability of our cultural organisations in this different future.
  • Social and cultural: Habits die hard and change is challenging. We may need help in changing our thinking, not just doing the usual sort of ‘revisioning’ and post-it note exercises, but addressing the emotional and cognitive biases that we all have. Funnily enough, artists (in the broadest sense) are quite good at helping with this. Let’s get them in (and pay them for their work).

Those who know me know that I call myself a long-term pessimist but a short-term optimist. I know that ultimately I’m doomed, but I wake up every morning thinking that I’ll do what I can today to make the world a better place. COVID-19 presents us with enormous problems, but we’re trying at Creative Carbon Scotland to find the opportunities in this situation: how can what we learn from the pandemic be applied to our work on climate change, and how can the necessary changes make the cultural sector a better, fairer one?


Image by Magda Ehlers from Pexels via Canva.

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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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Tiny Coronavirus Stories: ‘New snow has fallen’

By Harriet ShugarmanKristjan UrmMaggie ZieglerSara Bir

Reader-submitted stories of the COVID-19 pandemic, in no more than 100 words. Read past stories hereSubmit your own here.

Letter from far away

The email is from Bangui, steamy capital of the Central African Republic. I’ve been twice to this suffering place, wrecked by French colonialism and corrupt leaders. Alain writes that patient zero is an Italian priest returning from leave in Italy and that panic grows: westerners leaving and the wealthy emptying supermarkets for their pandemic hibernation. The rest dread confinement, fearing hunger more than the virus.

Looking up, I see my garden, my comfortable shelter-in-place life and an image, blurred by tears, of Alain, activist-citizen who loves his country. Then I reply that I will share his news.

— Maggie Ziegler (Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, Canada)

Above Bangui.

* * *

Pandemic Phone Boyfriend

In art, it’s called continuous narrative. That’s the chat window blipping on and off throughout the day. He messages me about his dog. I text him a photo of my lunch. We discuss artificial intelligence and humans becoming obsolete.

We met before the pandemic and had plans to see each other, but of course had to cancel. Now our weekly FaceTime dates go on for hours. Are we assigning too much significance to this, I wonder? Is it mostly an escape from the leaden impossibilities that drag down our days?

“I’m glad we met,” he says. I am, too.

— Sara Bir (Marietta, Ohio)

Herb windowsill.

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The Other “C” Word

Once you know the truth, it’s devastating. The mental anguish of the reality at hand can feel paralyzing and overwhelming. The storm is upon us. Understanding clearly that the outcome may not be okay – for me, my community, and my family – is both angst and grief-provoking. It is incredibly frustrating to see friends, colleagues, and those “in charge” downplay the facts; particularly when science and mother nature are telling us we must act with urgency and that we are out of time. A lifetime of climate emergency warnings and lessons – momentarily overtaken by another “c” word – Coronavirus.

— Harriet Shugarman (Wyckoff, New Jersey)

Just before the fog lifts…

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Clean Territory

The virus was transmitted to humans from bats. According to scientists, the pandemic could have been prevented by letting the bats have their territory.

On Easter Day, new snow has fallen. Everything looks open and clean, like new space has been created outside.

Let’s consider corona as nature’s warning. Ever since the spread of agriculture, man has been conquering new territory, at a terrible cost at times.

Snow symbolizes hope. We can still reconsider our relationship to each other, to land, and to other creatures on Earth. Let’s leave to each one the territory they need and deserve.

— Kristjan Urm (Turku, Finland)

(Top photo: Clean territory, view from the artist’s window.)

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This series is edited by Thomas Peterson. One of the editors of Artists & Climate Change, he is also a theatre director and researcher whose work focuses on the climate crisis.

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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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Please Support Black Lives Matter Toronto

We’re taking a pause from our scheduled feed of projects, opportunities, and ideas about the intersection of sustainability and arts practice to direct your attention elsewhere on this Blackout Tuesday.

We don’t have a long statement. We don’t want to hold your attention while black lives are in true crisis.

We, instead, would like to encourage you to support Black Lives Matter in whatever way you can. We’re linking to BLM Toronto specifically for a host of reasons, but will just share this quote from a leader in that organizations:

” The root of my activism is to make changes to ensure an intersectional sustainable future, which means showing up for the communities that are the most vulnerable.”

You can donate here: https://blacklivesmatter.ca/donate/

A Building for Your Community

A Building for your Community is a free online series of information.

A Building for your Community is a free online series of shared information, ideas, questions and answers surrounding community-led built asset development. The series is designed for community members, groups and organisations looking to learn how to best approach the transformation and improvement of community-led buildings and other built assets.

Beginning April 16th 2020.

– Week one: A Building for Your Community
– Week two: Where’s the money? Navigating funding, ownership and asset transfer
– Week three: Do you speak architect? Translating your community’s needs into an architectural brief
– Week four: From Community to Client

Sign up on the “A Building for Your Community” web page.

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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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