Artists and Climate Change

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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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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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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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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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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.

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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.)

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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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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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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.

* * *

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…

* * *

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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Tiny Coronavirus Stories: ‘I never wanted to be here again’

By Caridad SvichCecil CastellucciGary GarrisonSally Moss

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

WINDOW

this is how it started the rush of feeling the quick disdain the aching bleeding thingness of being seeping through all, all this now is different, deferred, but here, and in this here we wonder what here is this, blanketed in anxiety, stirred in its own fear, stoked by unease, yet also here, still, the ever present solace of you, still here, and you on the other side light on wondering how you manage these days to get up. perhaps we will gather here like this for a long time. window to window. a look passes through us. still. here.

— Caridad Svich (New York, New York)

A look out the window to other windows.

* * *

ALL POSSIBLE WORLDS

All possible worlds have come a-courting…

Hell is visiting the dying or bereaved, tapping shoulders in medical wards and theatres of war. Despair is bedding in where abusers sleep, and in quarters missing houseroom or headspace.

Meanwhile, heaven swears blind we still have options – a chance of world-neighborliness, and a shot at jamming ecocide back in the box Pandora cracked open.

For now, I live a scaled-down life and give thanks, bonding and blending with the girl who read alone in her bedroom decades ago, trying to tell what she makes of it all.

— Sally Moss (Liverpool, United Kingdom)

Distanced.

* * *

THERE’S LIFE IN MY KITCHEN

I’ve been a lifelong plant killer. But riding this shelter in place solo as I am, I have turned to cooking and not wanting to waste anything. Somewhere deep inside me, an ancient almost witchiness arose. Looking at my kitchen scraps I see potential. So, making use of abandoned pots from plants I’d previously killed, I clear a space in the garden and start nurturing seeds and regrowth. With all this time to really care for them, and plenty of sun, life springs forth. There is growth, as much for them as for me. We are saving each other.

— Cecil Castellucci (Los Angeles, California)

(Top photo: The seedlings on my window sill.)

* * *

HERE AGAIN.

I never wanted to be here ever again. I never wanted to give terrifying power to the words negative and positive again. I never wanted to feel that fear again when you heard a friend was positive, was isolating away, was not being seen, was frightened for their future. I never wanted to see doctors or nurses at a loss again. I never wanted to see a President turn his face away from all that was fact again. I never wanted to experience so much loss. I never wanted to be here again, but… here we are.

— Gary Garrison (Provincetown, Massachusetts)

To begin.

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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.

———-

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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Tiny Coronavirus Stories: ‘The gaps feel smaller’

By Grace GelderKristina HakansonMadeline Snow TypadisMark Rigney

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

A CENTURY LATER, WE UNDERSTAND

Her grandchildren complained when their YiaYia nagged them to wear a sweater and socks, even in the summer. “You’ll get cold,” “be careful,” and “stay home,” she would say worriedly.

She was four when her mother and a quarter of her village in northern Greece died of the “Spanish Flu.” She was with her mother when she died, begging her to wake up.

For her, there was a direct link between catching a cold and potentially dying.

A hundred years later, when a cough or sneeze fills us all with dread and fear, we finally understand.

— Madeline Snow Typadis (Newton, Massachusetts)

YiaYia Nia’s handiwork.

* * *

DRIVE TIME

I begin a three-day road trip from Evansville to Rochester (and back) in order to retrieve my older son (and all his collegiate stuff). Along the way, I stop to visit my parents. I refuse to go inside their house. I insist that we not hug. We visit via a long walk, instead. The Hampton Inn I stay at that night, three stories high, has all of five cars in the parking lot. Overhead interstate signs read “Stop the Spread: Save Lives” and “Stop the Virus: Stay Home.”

— Mark Rigney (Evansville, Indiana)

Even highway signs have their transitional moments.

* * *

REMOTE TEACHING

Week four of the quarter and I’m teaching remotely because of the virus. But today I’m driving to school to retrieve my office chair. I could drive this in my sleep and that’s the problem – we’ve all been sleeping, all been profoundly disillusioned. Empty parking lot. Keycard, hum, greenlight, in. Mild disinfectant. Floors! Shiny blue, like the sky in the wrong place. Here’s 204, my eerie empty classroom, and my black office chair. I should go but I don’t. I linger, staring at my posters of Shakespeare and Jack London, literary terms in a row above my whiteboard: metaphor, irony, paradox.

— Kristina Hakanson (Scottsdale, Arizona)

Home office with cat.

* * *

FARAWAY FRIENDS ARE CLOSER

I call my new Indian friends on WhatsApp. We aren’t all busy like we said we would be, and we didn’t expect to still feel so close to each other. We anticipated distance after I finished my residency, but now we know where each other are; all sharing an experience – a common fear. I tell them about my walks, how I swapped peacocks for pheasants and vampire bats for buzzards, how I have to wear jumpers to go outside now. They laugh. We have different concerns, but we can all agree that it’s a good time for making art.

— Grace Gelder (Ironbridge, Shropshire, United Kingdom)

(Top photo: The gap feels smaller.)

______________________________

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.

———-

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

Powered by WPeMatico