Yearly Archives: 2020

Tell Us Your Story of Climate Courage

By Chantal Bilodeau

Tell us about your acts of climate courage or those of others – human or non-human – in no more than 100 words.

No one willing to face the reality of the climate crisis can do so without fearing for the fate of the planet and its inhabitants. Yet, day after day, countless numbers of us transcend this fear through acts of courage, big and small. Whether we plant a garden, protest a pipeline, or find ways to adapt to our changing environment, we dare to envision and build a better future. 

Courage (noun): the ability to do something that frightens one; strength in the face of pain or grief. 

In the spirit of the New York Times Tiny Love Stories, and following in the footsteps of our Tiny Coronavirus Stories, we invite you to send us your true story of climate courage, in 100 words or fewer, using the form below.

We’ll publish the most inspiring stories we receive. These will form our Stories of Climate Courage collection – a testament and reminder of what we can do individually and collectively.

We look forward to reading you.

(Photo by Joan Sullivan)

While you may submit more than one story, please wait two weeks between each submission. Accepted stories may be edited for clarity and content. We will contact you if we need additional information.

SUBMIT HERE

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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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Opportunity: PhD studentship

Following a successful joint proposal to the Scottish Graduate School for Arts & Humanities between the University of Glasgow and Creative Carbon Scotland, we are delighted to invite applications for a fully funded PhD studentship.

The interdisciplinary project – “Assessing arts-based interventions for sustainable practice” – will observe a range of creative interventions, critically reflect upon them as both artistic creations and mechanisms for change within an Energy and Environmental Humanities framework, and develop a portable qualitative framework for the design and assessment of arts-based interventions.

The successful candidate will spend time with Creative Carbon Scotland assessing what makes arts-based interventions effective in realising sustainable cultural and social changes at the local, institutional and regional level.

University of Glasgow’s Dr Tom Bartlett from the School of Critical Studies and Dr Richard Williams from the School of Geographical & Earth Sciences will supervise this AHRC Collaborative Doctoral studentship, due to commence in Autumn 2020.

Deadline for applications is Friday 3rd July 2020.

Click here for full details of the PhD project and application process

The post Opportunity: PhD studentship 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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Tiny Coronavirus Stories: ‘Citrus Capitalism’

By Jennifer SandlinMatthew FeinsteinPerry HuntVirginia Dowdell

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

OUT FROM INSIDE

I am used to looking through these four walls, my mind running reels of a real life I can’t afford to slip into. I decide to start a master’s program online, because sometimes you have to borrow money to make money, right? I usually enjoy my own company, but long days alone leave me lonesome. I begin volunteering at a co-working space. I’m settling in. Then COVID-19 spreads. Again, I study from home, but this time I’m not lonely. From inside I used to see people meet in the park. Now nobody does, and I think, “welcome to my world.”

— Virginia Dowdell (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada)

Looking out from inside.

* * *

SINKING INTO MY COUCH CUSHIONS

All we have is time dripping from our window frames, pushing light across our rooms. I wake hoping for the news to say I can go out and play but fearing that news might come too soon. I watch friends thriving in the new normal, taking advantage of new opportunities as I sink further into my couch cushions, overwhelmed by the silence of former employers. I am numbed by Tiger Kings and Office reruns passing the time like a fast forward button stuck on an old VCR. Watching my future fall through the cracks like flour through a sifter.

— Perry Hunt (Chicago, Illinois)

Sinking into my couch cushions.

* * *

WHAT I REMIND MYSELF

When headlines on television screens are a universal sigh, you will try to live again. You will touch your steering wheel for the first time in months. It will radiate warmth. You will wonder if the entire sun is inside it. Your friends will be changed. They will hug you. You won’t remember the last time another body embraced you. You will try to live in moments, not hypotheticals. You will spark conversation with a young stranger one day. They will ask what you have learned from the pandemic. You will say you learned to live… to live well.

— Matthew Feinstein (Tracy, California)

(Top photo: A photo taken by my grandmother.)

* * *

CITRUS CAPITALISM

The corporations tell me they are “here for me” in “these difficult times.” They also urge me to buy “sassy WFH clothes” and celebratory outfits for the moment when we can finally “venture out again.” Meanwhile, I wander my neighborhood, picking citrus from overhanging trees. I trade a dozen grapefruits for a loaf of banana bread from my neighbor. I exchange a bag of oranges for some bath soaks from a friend. I pay for a face mask from a colleague with cash and a pile of lemons. I wonder what capitalism will look like when this is all over.

— Jennifer Sandlin (Tempe, Arizona)

Collecting citrus on a walk.

______________________________

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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Q18 DESCRIBED: FOUR SOLOS IN THE WILD

Lead Editor’s note: We will be publishing excerpts from Q18: dis/sustain/ability, guest edited by Bronwyn Preece, in order to make the content accessible to blind readers with audio screen readers. We’ll also be including audio descriptions of the Quarterly’s original layout designed by Stephanie Plenner, audio described ky Katie Murphy. Please stay tuned for future posts and share widely. In this chapter, Ray Jacobs discusses the process of creating “Four Solos in the Wild.”

Audio Description of Four Solos in the Wild by Katie Murphy

Four Solos in the Wild By Ray Jacobs

I am in a familiar situation — a circle of twelve talented learning-disabled dancers from Arty Party — partaking of the ritual known as warming up. Each performer takes their turn to lead, taking their moment in the spotlight and passing it on to the next performer…     Each performer has a distinct movement language honed through a lifetime of dance and movement based projects, or simply their own indomitable style.

Mervyn (Performers’ names used with permission) begins, with movements and gestures that have power, gravitas and yet they still hold qualities of softness. Graham, who has an incredible graceful sense of wingspan within his arms, beguiles us with his bird-like movement. Erika brings weaves a lightness of moving with contagious joy and laughter to match. Andrew, all angles and emotion, falls into the drama of dancing, daring us to be part of that drama.  Dean adds his twisting, repetitive and darkly comedic movements of subterfuge.

My name is Ray Jacobs, director of performance projects for Arty Party, a learning- disability arts organisation based in Shropshire, England. Four Solos in the Wild, is a touring exhibition of dance solos filmed in ancient wild woods. This is the story of how the project evolved from a moment’s desire, into — two years later — learning-disabled performers sharing their work with the public at the Tate Modern Museum in London. I speak as an observer, a facilitator, a director and a learner in this unfolding process.

The warm-up sparked the initial spark.  During it, I had a growing hunger for this movement to be shared within a landscape that meets the performers incredible qualities and Tycanol Woods came to mind.  I wondered what if the performers were to respond to, be taken up by, and place their movements within the magical Tycanol Woods?  

Months later, seven learning disabled performers and a team of artists arrived at Pentre Ifan Centre in the Woods. After hastily unpacking sleeping bags and choosing bunk beds, we began a ritual of filling water bottles, donning walking boots, cagoules (waterproof jackets), and gathering for adventure. Support, patience, openness and laughter replaced habitual urgency.

The movement solo, especially when created by the performer, is an intensely artistic and personal statement. This, I felt, would be the right channel for the performers to create and have agency over their own work. We would be creating an installation of four film screens, showing each solo continually looped, surrounded by a forest of images of the performers captured by dance photographer Chris Nash.

Movement facilitator, Simon Whitehead, led us through the atmospheric Tycanol Woods, where, like a many-legged creature finding its pace after a long time immobile, we found a rhythm and a pace that suited everyone.  We splashed, splattered, crunched, and slid. There are members of the company who find uneven surfaces challenging, but the group met squelchy mud, slippery rocks and glorious cushions of moss, with creativity, cooperation and laughter. The excitement and group impetus gave energy and verve to everyone. Playfulness is a strong, committed member of the group.

During the walk we stopped at a glade opening, deeply moss covered rocks and oaks in the foreground, an island of oaks on the horizon. The instructions were to walk towards the horizon and find a place to be, within the landscape. Once the first person arrived and settled, the next person was to follow and find their own place in relation to both the landscape and the other performer, and so on. Half the group witnessed the forming of this landscape portrait. The act of walking into an opening, being in a chosen place, alive to the environment, felt like a statement of sovereignty over our bodies, yet at the same time we were supported by each other and the landscape. We returned, one at a time, leaving no physical trace of the group but inhabiting it with memories.

Tycanol Woods is an ancient dark oak woodland, rich in moss, fern and lichen. Towards the hostel is a more recent, lighter part of the woods, with a mixture of beech, oak, sycamore and holly, ideal for bonfires and days when we don’t want to walk quite so far. Gathering the performers around an old fire pit, amongst a group of large beech trees, Simon gave the performers a task in pairs: one person leads, listening, seeing, touching the environment as they walk through the woods. The other follows. The leader is looking for a place that resounds, feels right, invites. Once the right place is found, the leader becomes dancer, spends time connecting with this place and then with eyes closed begins to move. When the dance comes to an end, eye contact is made between the mover and witness and the roles are reversed. Solos are created.

As a group we visit each solo. Graham Busby has chosen some long forgotten dens made of branches. He hides and scurries between the old dens like a hermit crab. His witness, Wren, aids the shell building, covering Graham’s body with leaves and branches. Erika Juniper dances around the base of a big beech tree, a dance of fingers sensing and listening, a powerful connection and longing.

Back in the studio the work was recalled in writing and drawing, and re-enacted, each performer was allocated a mentor who supported this recording process. These tasks of listening, moving and witnessing, and performance immersion within landscape, were all contributing to building the personal stories, the structure and the flavors of each performer’s solo. 

Whitehead shares memories of the retreat:

Slowly, Tycanol entered us, and the dancers became quietly attuned the place and each other…

Real time seemed to drop away and a process of composition, song and observation took us through the falling afternoon light for hours. It was both ‘real’ and sublime. 

I remember a talk by disability activist Petra Kuppers, at a conference in Ilfracombe, during which she stated that there was a strong need in disability performance to present ‘depth, heft and presence.’ This phrase has become an inner mantra and was one of the beacons moving this work forward.

Dance, historically, has been a bastion of the body perfect. An art form based on perfection is like a road ignoring all contours and cutting through the landscape with no regard and ultimately a heavy cost. Inclusive dance, on the other hand, is open to meanderings, diversions, the beauty of curves, twists, and setbacks. 

Facilitating disabled performers to make their own work or collaborating with disabled people is not a separate field, or something adjunct to the mainstream but at the very heart of being human.

Returning to the Woods two weeks later, we had the task of honing the solos, creating music and costume and filming all four solos in five days. The performers were joined by Welsh composers and musicians Ceri and Elsa, supported by mentors, and followed by film makers.

The musicians had researched traditional music composed in the region. Morning movement sessions, led by inclusive dance artist Rachel Liggitt, forged an incredible link between performers and musicians. The musicians learned to respond to the dancers and the dancers, breathing in the notes of harp and fiddle, breathed out beautiful, moving dance. 

“It felt so good being out in the woods by the tree, spending time with it.” – Erika, performer.

Erika’s solo was woven together with the song a Cantref that the musicians had unearthed.  The song is a message from a yearning lover sung to a bird who would relay the message to her heart’s desire. Erika’s dance of whispering, tender strokes and circling the tree sparked our imagination…  Erika, in a flowing purple gown, performs the solo with incredible concentration and presence. The musician’s voices add atmosphere to this scene in the heart of the woods. When Erika reaches out to touch the tree and the haunting Welsh voices begin, it is deeply moving. Performers, camera crew, mentors, and support artists are mesmerized and applaud every take.

“I’m feeling really good today, we did the filming, it was really wicked.” – Erika

Whilst given the space to find their own creativity, the performers were provided with rigorous direction, feedback, mentoring and critique, enabling them to work to the highest professional standard. I remember as a performer in an inclusive touring dance company, during a physically and emotional gruelling devising process, the disabled dancers stated critically that they did not receive the wrath and demands of the director as much as the non-disabled dancers.  Arty Party’s process aimed not to recapitulate inequality. 

One of the ground rules we had been given was to ‘be here and now’… amongst the calls of ravens, rush of streams and flight of the air. Andrew Kelly, one of the performers, initially struggled with this: falling into dramas of ‘another world’: being chased, dodging bullets, breaking down doors. I suggested a simple score of calling out loud the things we feel and the things we see right here: the edge of a leaf, the roughness of lichen, the call of a raven, a distant aeroplane, the snap of a branch underfoot. Opening the door to the present also invites all the things we are avoiding.

Andrew’s dance Letting Go was the last piece to be filmed, on dappled ground under the canopy of a sinuous oak: harpist, fiddle player, film crew and Andrew in spring sunshine, making sense of it all. During an interview, Andrew put his solo into words:

Breaking out from the cage of branches is finding my freedom.

Touching the sapling gently, I remember my Mother’s love.

I break and throw the branches, I feel raw with anger about my mother’s death.

Letting go of the branch is just that, letting go of it all and starting anew.

During the post-production process the films were edited exactly as they were performed, using shots from different camera angles to bring out the best.

Community dance pioneer, Cecilia Macfarlane, once shared during a lecture at Coventry University, that “Every project has a storm, it might happen at any time but I assure you it will.”  The storm happened three weeks after getting back from filming, when we all found out that Dean Warburton and his mother had been killed in a car crash on the way to the workshop.

The remainder of this workshop and others during the following weeks were amongst the most emotionally challenging myself and my colleagues had ever facilitated. Performers and teachers shared so much grief, attempts at running a class regularly breaking down, with the whole group sharing memories and in tears. Attending Dean’s funeral with group members really brought it home. Three weeks before, we were in beautiful woods exploring the idea of burying each other amongst branches, moss and birdsong, with the usual funny, soft, expressive Dean, and here we were at his funeral, Dean’s larger than life body in a wooden coffin being carried gently by his family.

The Four Solos in the Wild opening was to be a celebration of the exhibition and a wake for the life of Dean. It was only upon setting up the four screens, each showing a looped solo, that we realized how beautifully they worked together as a quartet. Many people working at the theatre entered the space and were mesmerized by this quartet of solos – actions, gestures and stories full of presence and connection. Arty Party has a membership of one hundred, many of whom were present. The opening was a beautiful, wild, red carpet event. 

The exhibition toured seven UK venues. At each opening the performers spoke to the public about the project and their solos, each time growing in confidence. When the exhibition was shown locally, it was a chance for the learning-disabled performers to share their work with support workers, family and friends. To hear how people were moved by the presence, qualities of movement, sense of inner story, was music to our ears. The performers grew visibly in stature through the process of sharing their work and the positive public response.

We are currently preparing for the project finale, a sharing of the filmed solos at the Tate Modern Cinema, organised by learning-disability film festival Oska Bright.  Presenters have been Skyping with the performers on a regular basis. The performers will be invited to talk about their work in front of an audience of learning-disabled people, film festival programmers and curators.  From the ancient woods of Tycanol to the South Bank in London, it will be a fitting finale to quite an adventure…

Biography

Ray Jacobs is a UK based artist who uses the mediums of image, film and movement to highlight the beauty, power and presence in the narratives that surround us. Ray works as a director and facilitator, creating imaginative and powerful works with a wide variety of companies, performers and participatory groups in particular collaborating with disabled artists.  He states, “I aim in my work to create movement and image which steps quietly into the human heart”.

His recent multi award-winning short films include The Sea Reminds Me and Bastion.  He is currently developing a new film based project with Arty Party based on the writings of Canadian Sci Fi author Jeff Vandermeer.

Job: Administration and Finance Officer

Creative Carbon Scotland is seeking a technically minded and suitably experienced individual to help with everyday administration as well as financial systems. 

Details of the Administration and Finance Officer role

Hours: part-time (30 hours per week)

Salary: £25,000 pro rata (i.e. £20,000 for a 30-hour week)

Location: Edinburgh

Fixed term role: July 2020 to 31st March 2021 (with a view to extend depending on funding)

Deadline for applications: 5pm, Monday 22nd June 2020

Complete the form below to apply

Download the full job description and person specification

About this new role

Creative Carbon Scotland believes that the arts and culture have an essential role to play in achieving the transformational change to a sustainable future. With the Scottish Government’s strengthened ambition to make Scotland a world leader in addressing the climate emergency and a cultural sector keen and equipped to play its part, we are busier than ever and our growing, committed and friendly team is working on ambitious projects in both the climate change and cultural spheres. Therefore, we are seeking a technically minded and suitably experienced individual to join us to help with everyday administration as well as financial systems to ensure that we are working effectively at this demanding but exciting time.

Key responsibilities

1. Ensuring that our office and remote-working services enable the charity to operate effectively (40%) by:

a) ensuring that our Microsoft Office Sharepoint, Teams, document management, communications and other IT systems are up to date and working at the highest level

b) developing, maintaining and improving office systems, including our contacts database, and ensuring that we comply with GDPR

c) ensuring that equipment and resources are fit for purpose, fully functional and comply with relevant health and safety standards

d) liaising with the Facilities team in our host organisation and supporting team members in effective and safe home-working

2. Maintaining financial systems and other records (20%), including:

a) processing invoices and payments working with the bookkeeper

b) managing online and paper finance files

c) monitoring expenditure and income relating to our IT subscriptions and reporting regularly on these

d) ensuring compliance with funders’ requirements including regular reporting

3. Providing administrative support for all staff as appropriate, including organising CCS meetings (including quarterly Board meetings), travel, events and projects, both face-to-face and virtual, and involving a range of participants from local to national and international (10%)

4. Ensuring internal communication is effective (10%), including:

a) organising and minuting weekly team meetings

b) managing our effective use of Microsoft Teams

c) managing incoming contact via the corporate email and phone

5. Ensuring that all CCS staff understand how to use office equipment, tools and resources, including software, and provide support and training as required (5%)

6. Providing administrative support in the recruitment and induction of freelance and employed staff (5%)

7. Supporting the communications work of CCS (5%)

8. Other duties as required, including ensuring that our Equalities, Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan is considered and acted upon in all the above areas.  (5%)

Person specification

We will use evidence of these skills and experience in your application to select candidates for interview, so please make sure that you fit the requirements and demonstrate this in your answers to the questions on the application form.

NB: due to the fixed-term nature of the role and Creative Carbon Scotland’s circumstances, this opportunity is only open to those who already have the right to work in the UK.

Essential 

  • A high level of organisational, administrative and customer service skills
  • Experience of office and/or home-working management and administration, including practices to reduce the environmental impact of these
  • Excellent knowledge and understanding of best practice in data protection and information security, human resources, and equalities, diversity and inclusion
  • Excellent IT skills including in-depth knowledge of Microsoft Office suite (including SharePoint and Microsoft Teams), virtual and remote working software and tools, wi-fi connectivity solutions and printer/scanner interface
  • Good knowledge of using social media for business purposes
  • Excellent interpersonal, oral and written communication skills
  • A high level of transferable skills, including attention to detail and problem-solving, time management, confidentiality and discretion
  • Flexible and proactive with the ability to prioritise effectively
  • Flair and imagination

Desirable 

  • Experience of providing guidance, both spoken and written, in new administrative procedures, use of IT equipment and software
How to apply

Please read carefully and then follow the instructions in the application form [HERE]. The form will ask you to make clear why you are interested in this role and to demonstratehow your experience and skills match those outlined above.

As part of your application, please complete our Equalities Monitoring Survey. The application form will ask you to confirm that you have done so. NB: This is anonymous and the information provided will not affect your application in any way.

If you would like to discuss the role or have any questions, please contact Alexis Woolley.

The closing date for applications is 5pm on Monday 22nd June 2020.

Interviews will be held remotely on Monday 29th June (and Tuesday 30th June, if necessary)

Download the full job description and person specification

The post Job: Administration and Finance Officer 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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Gas Masks and Honeybees: The Visual Culture of Earth Day

By Thomas Peterson

I’ve never been all that moved or inspired by Earth Day, or at least not by the 21st century Earth Days I’ve known. I have experienced April 22nd primarily as a celebration of aestheticized environmentalism and corporate greenwashing, when I’ve noticed it at all. I’m not alone in these feelings: in a piece in Sierra calling to “Return Earth Day to Its Revolutionary Past”, youth climate activist Jamie Margolin writes that she “hate[s] Earth Day. Or at least the modern-day, Hallmark-card Earth Day.”

The Earth Days I remember have offered sanitized visions of an almost Edenic world – a planet afflicted by a few human messes that might be cleaned up and set right if we were all to plant a tree or look at the internet through an emerald filter once every 365.25 days.

Rather than exposing the dire ecological straits we find ourselves in, the corporate-driven visual culture of Earth Day tends to impose a delusional image of a near Arcadia: cartoon flowers encircling a blotchy turquoise dot, a corporate logo inscribed on rolling green hills, the sun emerging just over the horizon. I’ve always found the saccharine messaging about “caring for our mother” to be cruelly disingenuous when accompanied by no greater action than a green-lettered press release, another twist of the knife of anthropogenic environmental destruction. Corporations have spent the last several decades weaponizing idyllic aesthetics and pristine natural scenes to mask the ecocidal violence they have wrought, and I regret that artists have sometimes been enlisted in crafting the visual culture of this International Day of Greenwashing.

Let’s take Google as a case in point. One of the most powerful and profitable companies in the world, Google has recently come under fire for funding climate deniers, making large contributions to purveyors of politicized climate misinformation like the vaguely-named Competitive Enterprise Institute and the State Policy Network, alongside Koch-funded think tanks like the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute. Google made these donations all while claiming to support global action on climate change.

The most visited webpage in the world, April 22, 2020.

Google also happens to maintain the most visited website on the internet. Each day, all of its pages are graced with a Google Doodle, a little drawing or animation typically celebrating an event, holiday, or anniversary. Earth Day is no exception. Google’s Earth Day Doodle will likely be the most widely seen image in the world this week, the work of art with the single largest audience: Google processes 3.5 billion searches every day.

The internet giant chose to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day with an interactive game: an animated bee flutters next to a cartoon planet, oddly ocean-less and dotted with shrubs. A “play” button pulses on top of the planet, inviting the user to begin.

I click. Flowers bloom in a row and the bee, rendered as a little yellow dot, zooms around the pastel planet, still alarmingly lacking in water. The following text blips across the screen as the anthropomorphized bee zooms up to greet us:

Happy 50th Anniversary of Earth Day! Today we celebrate our planet and one of its smallest, most critical organisms: The bee! Did you know? Pollination by bees makes two-thirds of our world’s crops possible… As well as 85% of the world’s flowering plants! Learn more about our winged friends, and help them in their journey to pollinate a variety of blooms…

No mention of climate change, no allusion to environmental degradation, barely a hint that these bees or the plants they pollinate might be in danger. Tinkly, synth-y music fades in and I begin to mouse my bee through ceaselessly scrolling identical meadows, bumping into flowers that magically multiply at contact. Every so often, I’ll do a particularly good job pollinating one of these determinedly non-specific flowers and an inoffensive bee fact will appear: “drones are male bees!”

Earth Day 2020 Google Doodle: I mouse my bee through ceaselessly scrolling meadows.

Setting aside Google’s failure to mention any environmental risks to bees in this sweet interactive, the designers of this widest-reaching Earth Day image would have been hard pressed to choose a less climate-related environmental problem than the plight of the honeybee. As David Wallace-Wells has reported, the panic over bee colony collapse is essentially a “climate red herring.” While most of the planet’s insects are disappearing due to warming, “colony collapse disorder has basically nothing to do with that.”Commercial honeybees are dying because industrial beekeepers expose them to insecticides called neonicotinoids.

While Google partnered with a lovely organization called The Honeybee Conservancy to create this interactive, the truths omitted by this visual celebration of Earth Day says much more about Google’s priorities than the messaging they’ve chosen to include. On this international day of environmental action, the company with the world’s largest platform marked the day’s passage with a visual representation that makes no mention of the greatest crisis (environmental or otherwise) that humanity has ever faced, instead choosing to highlight an environmental issue that, in fact, has very little to do with our accelerating climate catastrophe.

It all comes down to aesthetics, and Google is not alone. Somewhere along the line, we decided that the visual and artistic language that accompanied Earth Day would soothe and sanitize, coddle and greenwash – rather than expose and motivate.

But Earth Day hasn’t always been like this, and it doesn’t have to stay this way. Earth Day began in 1970 as a day of mass protest and consciousness-raising, and it initiated vital political recalibration in the United States, ushering in a decade of legislative and legal protection for the environment.

Official national Earth Day poster, 1970. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the aesthetics of the first Earth Day were very different. The official national poster showed a clogged highway under an ominous orange sky, the sun blocked by smoke-spewing factories, airplane contrails dusting a tilting Capitol dome. The poster represented environmental reality, not an imagined natural idyll. Dirty industry and fossil fuel-powered transportation were a danger to us all. 

Another inaugural Earth Day poster, created by Robert Leydenfrost and Don Brewster, was even more ominous, a full-face gas mask enveloping a darkened earth in a shadowy void. The message was unambiguous: all life, human and non-human, was endangered by atmospheric pollution.

“Earth Day” by Robert Leydenfrost (designer) and Don Brewster (photographer), 1970.

Eerily familiar now that masks have become de rigueur across much of the United States, the iconography of the gas mask was central to the aesthetic identity of this first Earth Day, which drew 20 million Americans, a tenth of the country’s population at the time. Protestors nationwide wore masks and carried flowers, emphasizing both the stakes of the environmental crisis and the real-time harm done by air pollution.

Earth Day, 1970, Bettmann/Getty Images.

This flower and mask combination was a brilliant visual protest: the masks left no doubt about the severity of the situation. The visual culture of Earth Day in 1970 made it clear that the planet was in crisis and people were in danger; no cartoon forest or paean to Mother Earth would be sufficient. At the same time, the flowers were a persistent reminder of all that might be lost, of the beautiful world worth fighting for, of the hope that such a world might bloom again.

City Hall Park, Earth Day, 1970, AP Photo.

This Earth Day, and for all the Earth Days to come, we must find a way to strike that balance again. The stakes are too high for cute utopianism. Earth Day may have devolved into a corporatized greenwashing opiate, animated flora and fauna masking collaboration in ecocide, but it can become revolutionary again if we pair an unblinkered exposition of the extremity of the crisis with a reaffirmation of our love for life on earth.

We must make images that tell the devastating truth about what is happening to our planet and the life that inhabits it, images so powerful they cannot be sanitized into endless cute bee oblivion. These images must radicalize us, radicalize us with love. Smell the blooming magnolias, in spite of the gas mask. 

(Top image: New York City, Earth Day, 1970. Santi Visalli/Archive Photos via Getty Images)

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Thomas Peterson is a theatre director and researcher whose work focuses on the climate crisis. He is an Artistic Associate with The Arctic Cycle, co-organizing Climate Change Theatre Action. He recently returned from a Harvard Williams-Lodge Scholarship in Paris, where he wrote a thesis on the aesthetic of the sublime in the theatrical representation of the Anthropocene. He created Roy Loves America, a multi-form performance piece about Roy Cohn, and is developing an original adaptation of Ibsen’s The Wild Duck, set on a dying planetHis engagement in climate activism stretches back to high school, when he led a successful fossil fuel divestment campaign.

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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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Dear Earth: I Love You

By Chantal Bilodeau 

Dear Earth, today is as good a day as any to tell you how much I love you. Cooped up in my apartment in New York City, helplessly watching the news as thousands of people suffering from COVID-19 breathe their last breath, I’m reminded of how much you mean to me. And though I’m heartbroken at the pain and suffering of my fellow humans and can’t bring myself to properly celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, I still want to take a moment to express my gratitude.

Gratitude, because every morning, the sun outside my window beckons me to get up, even when I don’t feel like it. And when the evening comes after an aimless day spent in isolation and I don’t know where to direct my attention anymore, you give me the unexpected gift of a newly clear sky filled with a million stars.

I find it amazing that your seasons still march on, from winter to spring and soon to summer, whether we pay attention or not. As the weeks go by, I see flowers bloom and buds turn into leaves, coloring the urban landscape in soft pastels and tender green. I had almost forgotten that you can do all of that without us. And how astonishing that some of your wild creatures – the ones we usually only see from afar because they’re too weary to wander into our towns, the wild goats and the coyotes and the fallow deer – are now visiting the places where we no longer roam! “Hello,” I feel like saying. “Can we hang out? I’m a little lonely over here, separated from my own species. Maybe we can keep each other company?”

And by the way, thank you for putting up with our excesses and our temper tantrums, our greed and our indifference, our honest mistakes and our willful ignorance. You patiently endure our petty in-fighting, our endless politicking, and our deflections. No matter how disruptive our actions are, you continue to hold us in your embrace with great compassion. When the future is so uncertain, your calm and steadiness are comforting.

It’s true that we have a tendency to complain about you a lot. It’s too hot or too cold. Too rainy or too humid. It’s too far, too unpredictable, too dangerous. But don’t pay attention to any of it. Really. We don’t mean anything by it; it’s just how we relate to each other. It’s how we make conversation when we have nothing better to say. Because oftentimes, what we say is less important than the simple act of reaching out and talking to another human being.

You and I have gone on grand adventures over the years. I have been to some of your furthest reaches, and every time, your beauty and sheer magnitude have taken my breath away. In fact, it was those experiences that led me to fight for you. I saw everything that you are, everything that you so generously give, and I felt a responsibility to ensure that no harm was done to you. You have inspired me in ways I can’t even begin to describe and in return, I have vowed to use my artistic gifts to encourage others to honor and respect you.

At the same time, it’s strange that it has taken this falling away of everything familiar to realize how much I miss you. Under normal circumstances, it would be easy to lose myself in the busyness of New York life. It would be easy to think of you almost in the abstract. But in our current slowed-down state, I’m acutely aware of feeling both separated from you and so connected that my day-to-day wellbeing is intimately linked to yours.

Which brings us back to today: Earth Day’s 50th anniversary. A milestone. For 50 years, billions of us have celebrated this day and pledged to do everything we can to keep you safe. Billions of us have recognized that our breath and yours are intimately connected, that our inhale is forever your exhale. And, lest we forget this important lesson, the COVID-19 pandemic is here to remind us with great urgency. It’s here to teach us anew what we already know but often conveniently forget.

Dear Earth, I love you so, so much. One day, like so many people this past month, I will give you my last breath. But in the meantime, I promise to continue to do everything I can to keep us both alive and thriving.

(Top image: Fort Tryon Park in New York City. Photo by Chantal Bilodeau.)

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Chantal Bilodeau is a playwright whose work focuses on the intersection of science, policy, art, and climate change. She is the founder of Artists & Climate Change, and the Artistic Director of The Arctic Cycle, an organization that uses theatre to foster dialogue about our global climate crisis, create an empowering vision of the future, and inspire people to take action.

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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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The Green Rooms: The Earth is Watching… Let’s Act

What it is:

All Green Room events are in English only

As part of its response to the escalating climate crisis – and in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic – NAC English Theatre in partnership with Festival of Live Digital Art (FOLDA), the Canada Council for the Arts, The City of Kingston, HowlRound Theatre Commons and The National Theatre School is bringing together participants for an extraordinary three-day/three-country digital experiment to re-imagine the future of theatre.

Join us for spirited conversations with leaders in fields such as climate activism, ecological economy and environmental humanities, as well as with theatre artists and leaders who have found innovative ways to engage with the climate crisis.

A limited number of active participants will join the event on Zoom, from eight cities across three countries: Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto, Kingston, Montreal, and Halifax, as well as London (U.K.) and New York. In addition, a livestream of the event will be accessible to spectators everywhere.

Please note: If you are not in one of those cities, you can still participate by joining the city closest to you or the one most meaningful to you!

Co-curated by Sarah Garton Stanley and Chantal Bilodeau.


Schedule: (subject to change)

DAY 1: Wednesday, June 10, 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. (EDT)

  • Opening Picnic

DAY 2: Thursday, June 11, 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. (EDT)

  • Climate Despair – 3-4 p.m. (EDT)
  • How Artists Respond – 4-5 p.m. (EDT) 
  • Leadership and Structures for Change – 5-6 p.m. (EDT)
  • Averting Climate Breakdown – 6-7 p.m. (EDT)
  • The Future: What is it? – 9-10 p.m. (EDT) 
  • DJ Syrus Marcus Ware: Dance Like the Earth is Watching – 10-11 p.m. EDT

DAY 3: Friday, June 12, 2:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. (EDT)

  • The Closing Act

How to participate:

The Green Rooms are an online gathering space where we will engage with the climate crisis. There are two ways to get involved:

As an active participant

If you wish to actively participate, experiment and play, send an email expressing your interest to climatechangecycle@nac-cna.ca.

Please note, there is limited availability for active participants. If interested please be in touch at your earliest convenience: climatechangecycle@nac-cna.ca.

During the three-day event, active participants will be called upon to help create an environment of curiosity and play. This multi-layered gathering has never been tried. As an active participant you will be part of creating a raucous space that is part-picnic, part-convening and part co-creation.

As a spectator

Spectators can join the livestream throughout the scheduled times above and witness all the sessions, discussions and performances over the three days.

Watch the livestream here


For more information:

Contact climatechangecycle@nac-cna.ca 

Tiny Coronavirus Stories: ‘Love, like air, must be filtered through face masks’

By Meghan Moe BeitiksNora FryRebecca AndersonSravanthi Mamillapalli 

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

When up is down and down is up

“It’s funny you’ve been telling me to go outside for the past year,” my client laughs. “‘It’s healthy,’ you said. Ready to eat your words?”

“Not yet.” I appreciate the irony.

As a counselor, maybe I should tell my clients: “You were right in choosing video games over face-to-face friendships,” but that doesn’t feel right, even when fresh air is dirty and direct human contact may be deadly. All I can do is accept that it’s okay for me to be confused, my client to be smug, and for anyone else to feel whatever they feel.

— Rebecca Anderson (New Bern, North Carolina)

Now we do therapy in the park.

* * *

Breathe through the confusion

I’m not waking up at 5:30 am anymore. Watching far too many series and movies. I’m up until 2:00 am, easy. Sleep! It doesn’t feel earned. Missing out on the deadlines I’ve set for myself. But I’ve done this before; driven by my heart, the deadlines set by my brain hold no water. Same goes for logic. Logic dictates, “this is how it should be,” but my heart laughs and says, “well it’s okay! Do what your heart says.” But then my subconscious says, “if we know anything about us, this will probably go on.” Just breathe.

— Sravanthi Mamillapalli (Hyderabad, Telangana, India)

(Top photo: Breathe. This too shall pass.)

* * *

Digital Suns

I’ve been doing a lot of studio visits via video conferencing with students. They’ve had to transition their final exhibition for the semester to online social media platforms. One student has been working on a time-lapsed video of a painting she was making: celestial, with deep browns and oranges. I asked if she had seen the hi-res photo of the surface of the sun that came out this year. It served as a useful prompt. In the meantime, I made a gif of its wrinkled, cellular surface, in grayscale. The sun seems very distant, bodily, remote as all other things.

— Meghan Moe Beitiks (Gainesville, Florida)

Based on the Inouye Solar Telescope hi-resolution photo of the surface of the sun.

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Homeschooling: Lessons Learned

Love, like air, must be filtered through face masks. Hugs hold not people, but danger. Home has become a lifeboat on a sea of time with no safe land in sight. We only hope we have enough supplies. A knock must be ignored until the delivery man is far enough away to safely open the door. A sneeze is an assault. A cough is a weapon of intimidation. The unmasked face is now the dangerous one. One man’s right to gather is more important than another’s right to live.

— Nora Fry (McMinnville, Tennessee)

Building something, together.

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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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