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Ben’s Strategy Blog: Fossil fuel companies’ sponsorship of the arts

This post comes from Creative Carbon Scotland

If you scroll to the bottom of the About page of the Creative Carbon Scotland website you’ll find the Fossil Funds Free logo, which shows that we’ve pledged not to accept any funding from fossil fuel companies.

The full statement that we’ve signed reads, ‘We do not take any oil, coal, or gas corporate sponsorship for our cultural work. We call on our peers and institutional partners to refuse fossil fuel funding too.’ A no-brainer, you’d think, for an organisation working on the intersection between climate change and the arts. Well, yes. But nothing is ever that simple in the world of climate change.

Let’s be clear first that it is of course that simple. If we are to limit the global temperature rise to 2°C, let alone the 1.5°C ambition, as the world’s nations agreed in Paris in December 2015, then, in the absence of some magical technology to take greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere (and they haven’t developed it yet to work on any significant scale), there is a limited amount of pollution we can put into the air.

So it is simple. As the Governor of the Bank of England said, most of the fossil fuel reserves can’t be burned. But the fossil fuel companies, and the governments of the UK and Scotland, were thrilled last year when a new oil field was discovered 60 miles West of Shetland. And you can see why: the transition has human costs. In Aberdeen I sometimes stay in a nice B&B which used to be full of contract staff every week: now it’s like a ghost ship.

Our self-destructive addiction

Humans are addicted to energy: we can’t live without it (literally: evolutionary scientists think that it was the discovery that cooking food made it more digestible, and so enabled our brains to grow larger, that enabled homo sapiens to develop into the extraordinary success that we are today). The future, of Aberdeen and the world, is not a fossil fuel one. But the industry’s skills, knowledge, technology and facilities are closely related to those needed for the large-scale, difficult environment renewables that will feed humans’ insatiable appetite for energy.

On the financial side, a UN report estimates that the cumulative global investment required in renewable energy to stabilise atmospheric CO2 concentrations at 450ppm (which wouldn’t keep us below 1.5°) ranges from US$149 billion to $718 billion per year for the decade 2021-2030. It may be depressing, but the energy companies are some of the only organisations able to invest that sort of money.

The oil and gas companies are going to be with us for some time, since we haven’t yet got to the stage where we can do without fossil fuels. But as discussed above, this ‘some time’ needs to be a limited one. And their persistence must not be based on how well they sell themselves and how they persuade people of their importance. Often, they seek to do this through our culture: our arts events and experiences.

So what’s a poor arts manager to do?

I’m conflicted about sponsorship anyway. The arts have always been supported by patronage, religion and, more recently, governments, so I’m not vehemently opposed. But I’ve worked in the arts for over 30 years and because I’ve never led a mainstream organisation doing predictable work (I’ve done a lot of newer work, my happy days freelancing at Pitlochry being the main exception, but there I had nothing to do with the money), any sponsorship that has been available has been pretty minor: it’s the mostly big organisations presenting work that they can confidently describe as unthreatening to the sponsors that get the big cash, especially from larger companies such as energy giants. Let’s not kid ourselves: sponsorship isn’t a replacement for public funding for much of the arts, which is there precisely to address market failure.

Unlike charitable donations, sponsorship is a business transaction. The arts get the money, the company gets a benefit: credibility, tickets for guests, their name on the bus stops on the high street and positive associations in their customers’ (or the Government’s, or their peers’) minds. So it isn’t just a warm glow that’s being offered.

And this is where I get puzzled. If you’re the Tate or the British Museum there’s surely no shortage of big companies out there who might be interested in benefitting from your brand. In this age of divestment, increasing public concern about pollution and environmental change and quite impressive campaigns by Liberate Tate,  PlatformArt Not Oil etc, why would you decide to take the money from a company involved in the most damaging of industries? If they’re offering so much more than anyone else, wouldn’t that suggest that their motivations might be worth examining? (Note that the Edinburgh International Festival and the Tate are no longer supported by BP, so maybe they agree!)

Know the risks

The risks to a cultural organisation of taking dirty cash are many. Public awareness of both climate change and the dodgy nature of some money is growing fast – look at the impact of David Attenborough’s Blue Planet on companies’ use of plastic and the ‘Presidents Club’ furore. So there’s a definite reputational risk, with the added danger that Liberate Tate’s own work might outshine your own! It might make your organisation more risk-averse: you’re now beholden to that sponsor, and if you’re on reduced funding from other sources (perhaps because you’re so good at getting sponsors!) then loss of them might mean redundancies, a thinner programme… Other funders could pull out, either because you don’t now meet their own ethical standards, or because they fear being tainted by association with your sponsor. And how does it look to your main funder, who insists on your having a strong environmental policy and actions?

I can’t say we face this problem at Creative Carbon Scotland – big fossil fuel sponsors aren’t exactly breaking our doors down. But perhaps we do need to engage with the fossil fuel people. We can organise events where artists discuss the future, but the engineers, geologists, finance people etc are also part of that future and many of them share those same concerns about making it a sustainable one. We may not take money from the energy giants, but I don’t think we can ignore them.

Questions of ethics and choice when it comes to how the arts are funded by sponsors (whether that be historic private patrons or more modern corporates) are not new. But in our physically, socially, legally changing world, they are ever-more prominent.

There is much evidence to show that the transition to a fossil fuel free future is underway. The oil and gas companies are going to be with us for some time, since we haven’t yet got to the stage where we can do without fossil fuels. But as discussed above, this ‘some time’ needs to be a limited one. And their persistence must not be based on how well they sell themselves and how they persuade people of their importance. Often, they seek to do this through our culture: our arts events and experiences.

___________________________________

 

Mel Evans’ book ARTWASH – Big Oil and the Arts (Pluto Press, 2015) is a longer and more informed read about this topic. Available not through Amazon here: http://platformlondon.org/p-publications/artwash-big-oil-arts/

 



The post Ben’s Strategy Blog: Fossil fuel companies’ sponsorship of the arts appeared first on Creative Carbon Scotland.



 

Creative Carbon Scotland is a partnership of arts organisations working to put culture at the heart of a sustainable Scotland. We believe cultural and creative organisations have a significant influencing power to help shape a sustainable Scotland for the 21st century.

In 2011 we worked with partners Festivals Edinburgh, the Federation of Scottish Threatre and Scottish Contemporary Art Network to support over thirty arts organisations to operate more sustainably.

We are now building on these achievements and working with over 70 cultural organisations across Scotland in various key areas including carbon management, behavioural change and advocacy for sustainable practice in the arts.

Our work with cultural organisations is the first step towards a wider change. Cultural organisations can influence public behaviour and attitudes about climate change through:

Changing their own behaviour;
Communicating with their audiences;
Engaging the public’s emotions, values and ideas.

Go to Creative Carbon Scotland

Opportunity: 2050 Young Leaders Development Programme

This post comes from Creative Carbon Scotland

Applications for the 2050 Young Leaders Development Programme are now open!

Are you…

  • approx. 18-35 years old and
  • interested in tackling climate change? Or not YET interested in tackling climate change?

Do you have…

  • a desire to develop your leadership skills,
  • a willingness to inspire others,
  • personal drive and energy?

Introducing: 2050 Climate Group’s Young Leaders Development Programme

We need leaders to make Scotland’s sustainable future a reality. Leadership is all about influence. You don’t need to be a chief executive or MSP to have an impact on this world. The aim of the Young Leaders Development Programme (YLDP) is to give young people the leadership skills and climate change knowledge they need to take action on climate change. Now in its third year, we are looking for people like YOU to join the programme. The programme will kick off at the end of May 2018 and will consist of six days of training and workshops spread through the year-long programme. Each event will be held on a Saturday.

As a Young Leader you will:

  • Receive free leadership training from Scotland’s foremost experts
  • Build knowledge of climate change issues and solutions in day-to-day life, business and politics
  • Improve your communication and influencing skills
  • Increase your confidence
  • Build your CV with skills and experience
  • Be part of a growing network of a diverse range of young people
  • Be able to inspire others to actively contribute towards taking action on climate change

Programme structure

We believe that in order to help lead the way to a successful, sustainable future, there are three spheres of influence that must be addressed: personal, professional and political.

Throughout the programme, there will be a focus on developing your own actions, for example persuading your mum to take the bus more, getting your local supermarket to stock more low carbon food and getting your local council to build a heat network!

The Leaders Network

On successful completion of the programme, you will have the opportunity to join our network of Young Leaders from previous programmes. This is a space for networking, collaboration and taking action and will be supported by training and development opportunities.

We think that the Young Leaders Development Programme is a fantastic programme, but don’t take our word for it – here’s what participants said about last year’s Programme:

  • “Without a doubt one of the best experiences of my life.”
  • “Amazing programme and would highly recommend. Can’t believe it’s free as well! Thank you!”
  • “Honestly the best and most rewarding and inspirational experience of my life. It is such an amazing programme and it really enables you to take action and feel like you can do things. Before the programme I would sit and despair about how little I could do and how small I felt but the YLDP has changed that massively, so thank you so much!!”

Sounds good…tell me more! To find out more about 2050 Climate Group, the Young Leaders Development Programme and the application process, check out the 2050 Climate Group website or get in touch via contact@2050.scot.

Deadline Monday 7 May



post Opportunity: 2050 Young Leaders Development Programme appeared first on Creative Carbon Scotland.



 

Creative Carbon Scotland is a partnership of arts organisations working to put culture at the heart of a sustainable Scotland. We believe cultural and creative organisations have a significant influencing power to help shape a sustainable Scotland for the 21st century.

In 2011 we worked with partners Festivals Edinburgh, the Federation of Scottish Threatre and Scottish Contemporary Art Network to support over thirty arts organisations to operate more sustainably.

We are now building on these achievements and working with over 70 cultural organisations across Scotland in various key areas including carbon management, behavioural change and advocacy for sustainable practice in the arts.

Our work with cultural organisations is the first step towards a wider change. Cultural organisations can influence public behaviour and attitudes about climate change through:

Changing their own behaviour;
Communicating with their audiences;
Engaging the public’s emotions, values and ideas.

Go to Creative Carbon Scotland

News: Green Crafts Initiative

This post comes from Creative Carbon Scotland

Celebrating Scotland’s makers who are committed to a more sustainable craft sector.

Launched in 2014, the Green Crafts Initiative supports and celebrates makers with environmentally sustainable practices. We have recently re-launched our Make it Green journal series, with in-depth interviews with eco-friendly makers from our Craft Directory and useful tips for makers on reducing their carbon footprint. This series aims to inspire and educate makers on how important sustainability is for the future of the craft sector, and how they can contribute through responsible material sourcing or managing the impact of their process.

Green Crafts Initiative

A growing community

We are thrilled to see more sign-ups for the Green Crafts Initiative, and with the positive response from the craft community. Plus, this promotion has encouraged a great article in the Times newspaper on Scotland-based makers who are reducing the environmental impact of their practice.

We welcome new members to join the growing Green Crafts Initiative which we run with Creative Carbon Scotland.

The post News: Green Crafts Initiative going from strength to strength appeared first on Creative Carbon Scotland.

 


Creative Carbon Scotland is a partnership of arts organisations working to put culture at the heart of a sustainable Scotland. We believe cultural and creative organisations have a significant influencing power to help shape a sustainable Scotland for the 21st century.

In 2011 we worked with partners Festivals Edinburgh, the Federation of Scottish Threatre and Scottish Contemporary Art Network to support over thirty arts organisations to operate more sustainably.

We are now building on these achievements and working with over 70 cultural organisations across Scotland in various key areas including carbon management, behavioural change and advocacy for sustainable practice in the arts.

Our work with cultural organisations is the first step towards a wider change. Cultural organisations can influence public behaviour and attitudes about climate change through:

Changing their own behaviour;
Communicating with their audiences;
Engaging the public’s emotions, values and ideas.

Go to Creative Carbon Scotland

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Opportunity: Go Wild Photo Competition

This post comes from Creative Carbon Scotland

Photographers of all ages and experience are invited to submit entries to the Go Wild competition

A new photo competition, aimed at capturing images of wildlife on the National Cycle Network in Scotland, has been launched by Sustrans Scotland.

Photographers of all ages and experience are being invited to submit their entries to the Go Wild competition, which is supported by Scottish Canals and Scottish Wildlife Trust.

The free competition forms part of Sustrans Scotland’s Greener Greenways project, which is part-funded by Scottish Natural Heritage, and aims to improve and enhance biodiversity on traffic-free sections of the Network that are home to a variety of animals and plant species.

Entrants will compete for a selection of prizes, including the opportunity to have their image displayed along the Union Canal, during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Sustrans Scotland Volunteers Coordinator, Laura White said: “We hope Go Wild will help encourage more people to get out by foot or bike to explore their local National Cycle Network routes and discover some of the wildlife on their doorstep.

“The National Cycle Network plays a vital role in supporting and promoting a wide variety of wildlife in Scotland and is a fantastic place for people to experience some of the rich biodiversity that Scotland has to offer.

“We hope it will inspire more people to take part in our wildlife volunteering and record[ing], something that is vital to the future health of wildlife in Scotland.”

There are approximately 2,371 miles (3,815 km) of National Cycle Network routes in Scotland, including 644 miles of traffic-free routes which use a mix of railway path, canal towpath, forest road, shared-use path, segregated cycle lanes and re-determined rural footways. It plays a vital role in helping people to travel by foot, bike or public transport for more every day journeys and can act as a green corridor for wildlife.

Deadline for entries to the Go Wild competition is Monday 18th June with winners being announced on Monday 17th July. Visit www.sustrans.org.uk/scotphotocomp18 for more information.


The post Opportunity: New photo competition to capture wildlife on National Cycle Network appeared first on Creative Carbon Scotland.


 

Creative Carbon Scotland is a partnership of arts organisations working to put culture at the heart of a sustainable Scotland. We believe cultural and creative organisations have a significant influencing power to help shape a sustainable Scotland for the 21st century.

In 2011 we worked with partners Festivals Edinburgh, the Federation of Scottish Threatre and Scottish Contemporary Art Network to support over thirty arts organisations to operate more sustainably.

We are now building on these achievements and working with over 70 cultural organisations across Scotland in various key areas including carbon management, behavioural change and advocacy for sustainable practice in the arts.

Our work with cultural organisations is the first step towards a wider change. Cultural organisations can influence public behaviour and attitudes about climate change through:

Changing their own behaviour;
Communicating with their audiences;
Engaging the public’s emotions, values and ideas.

Go to Creative Carbon Scotland

Opportunity: Showcase at Bright Beauly Fair

This post comes from Creative Carbon Scotland

An opportunity for any organisation or small business in Arts, Crafts, Music & Food in Highlands & Islands to have stall, host a workshop or demonstration, sell your products and promote your business at Bright Beauly Fair.

Bright Beauly Fair is on Saturday 18 August 2018 in Beauly, Inverness-shire

The aim of Bright Beauly Fair is to reinstate the historic marketplace in Beauly with an annual one-day event, showcasing and celebrating the BEST of the Highlands and Islands Arts, Crafts, Music and Food.

We’d love any organisation or small business in the Highlands & Islands to apply to be part of the fair via our website www.brightbeaulyfair.com/apply/

Closing date is Friday 1st June

All applicants will be informed via email if their application has been successful or not by Friday 8th June

Pitch fees (inc. VAT)
£150 – Stalls are 2.5m x 1.8m each.
Should you not require the entire stall, there is an option to share with another trader at £75

Please email info@brightbeaulyfair.com to enquire further.

The post Opportunity: Showcase Arts, Crafts, Music & Food at Bright Beauly Fair appeared first on Creative Carbon Scotland.


 

Creative Carbon Scotland is a partnership of arts organisations working to put culture at the heart of a sustainable Scotland. We believe cultural and creative organisations have a significant influencing power to help shape a sustainable Scotland for the 21st century.

In 2011 we worked with partners Festivals Edinburgh, the Federation of Scottish Threatre and Scottish Contemporary Art Network to support over thirty arts organisations to operate more sustainably.

We are now building on these achievements and working with over 70 cultural organisations across Scotland in various key areas including carbon management, behavioural change and advocacy for sustainable practice in the arts.

Our work with cultural organisations is the first step towards a wider change. Cultural organisations can influence public behaviour and attitudes about climate change through:

Changing their own behaviour;
Communicating with their audiences;
Engaging the public’s emotions, values and ideas.

Go to Creative Carbon Scotland

Opportunity: Ice-Themed Writing, Art & Music

This post comes from Creative Carbon Scotland

Artists, writers, scientists, travelers, and musicians are invited to submit work that explores ice.

Artists, writers, scientists, travelers, and musicians are invited to submit work that explores ice-related themes to the new art project Black Coffee & Vinyl Presents. We are seeking work that features the physical and spiritual beauty of our world’s ice, explores the life of the people and cultures that are connected to the ice from the Arctic Circle to Antarctica, and addresses important political issues related to ice.

Climate change effects

As climate change affects the weather and composition of our planet, our ice is melting. Black Coffee & Vinyl Presents wants to address the importance of ice; focus on its beauty; and learn from the people who study, live near, and love it.

For literature, please submit only works in English. For other work (visual art or music), please submit an English translation. Artists with selected work will be provided with a $50 (U.S.) honorarium. All payments will be made by PayPal. Recipient must be able to receive payments via PayPal.

Where the work will be published

Accepted works will be published online and in a print version of the publication. Artists will be asked to grant permission for publication with Black Coffee & Vinyl Presents (both online and in print), and will thereafter retain copyright of their work.

Visit Black Coffee & Vinyl Presents for full details and how to apply

Submission deadline: May 31, 2018.



The post Opportunity: Ice-Themed Writing, Art & Music appeared first on Creative Carbon Scotland.



 

Creative Carbon Scotland is a partnership of arts organisations working to put culture at the heart of a sustainable Scotland. We believe cultural and creative organisations have a significant influencing power to help shape a sustainable Scotland for the 21st century.

In 2011 we worked with partners Festivals Edinburgh, the Federation of Scottish Threatre and Scottish Contemporary Art Network to support over thirty arts organisations to operate more sustainably.

We are now building on these achievements and working with over 70 cultural organisations across Scotland in various key areas including carbon management, behavioural change and advocacy for sustainable practice in the arts.

Our work with cultural organisations is the first step towards a wider change. Cultural organisations can influence public behaviour and attitudes about climate change through:

Changing their own behaviour;
Communicating with their audiences;
Engaging the public’s emotions, values and ideas.

Go to Creative Carbon Scotland

Opportunity: Create Development Worker with WHALE Arts

This post comes from Creative Carbon Scotland

WHALE Arts are recruiting for a Development Worker to help address food insecurity and connect people creatively with dignified food provision, skills development and their community, working with the Living Well Wester Hailes partnership. 

Funded by the Aspiring Communities Fund, which is supported by the European Social Fund and Scottish Government, ‘Tasting Change’ is an exciting project that seeks to respond to local priorities and aspirations in order to support community development and empowerment in Wester Hailes, Edinburgh.  To achieve this, the project will develop and deliver sustainable community-led solutions that tackle deprivation levels and inequalities created by food insecurity.

Tasting Change is being delivered through the Living Well Wester Hailes partnership which includes local organisations, GPs and CEC colleagues. The partners in Tasting Change have signed a consortium agreement that lays out how they will work together across a number of integrated project strands including the Create programme which will be delivered by WHALE Arts.

Working with local people, the Tasting Change project team, and other community partners, the Create Development Worker will be responsible for the development and delivery of activities that connect people creatively with dignified food provision, skills development opportunities and their community.

The Create Development Worker will be a key member of both the WHALE Arts staff team and the multi agency Tasting Change project team.  Excellent communication and a collaborative approach will be central to the success of this innovative role which blends creative programming and community development with project management.

Visit the WHALE Arts website for further information and to find out how to apply. 

Applications should arrive at WHALE Arts Agency no later than 12:00 (midday) on Monday 23rd April. Interviews will be held Monday 30th April.


The post Opportunity: Create Development Worker with WHALE Arts appeared first on Creative Carbon Scotland.


 

Creative Carbon Scotland is a partnership of arts organisations working to put culture at the heart of a sustainable Scotland. We believe cultural and creative organisations have a significant influencing power to help shape a sustainable Scotland for the 21st century.

In 2011 we worked with partners Festivals Edinburgh, the Federation of Scottish Threatre and Scottish Contemporary Art Network to support over thirty arts organisations to operate more sustainably.

We are now building on these achievements and working with over 70 cultural organisations across Scotland in various key areas including carbon management, behavioural change and advocacy for sustainable practice in the arts.

Our work with cultural organisations is the first step towards a wider change. Cultural organisations can influence public behaviour and attitudes about climate change through:

Changing their own behaviour;
Communicating with their audiences;
Engaging the public’s emotions, values and ideas.

Go to Creative Carbon Scotland

Opportunity: Green stories short story competition

This post comes from Creative Carbon Scotland

Writing a better future: writing competition

Enter a free writing competition to solicit short stories (<3500 words) set within a sustainable society. There are prizes and opportunities for publication, and the deadline is 19th April 2018. Details are on www.greenstories.org.uk.

Why we are doing this

We are currently living beyond our means – if everyone lived as we do in the UK we’d need 3 planets, so the aim of sustainable development is to find ways of living where there is less wasteful distribution of resources. We need to work out ways that we can all have what we need using fewer resources and be just as happy. The necessary societal transformations to sustainable societies require profound systemic changes across social, cultural, economic, environmental, political and technological domains. But to imagine how all aspects can come together within one society is more the domain of creative fiction. Therefore this competition aims to harness the creative visions of writers to imagine sustainable societies.

Why we ask for a positive view

Stories are powerful means of inspiring positive change. The Black Mirror series reflects anxieties about our future, and climate change discourse further creates fear and avoidance. What we really need are some positive visions that allow potentially transformative solutions to be showcased and played out. The difficulty in promoting sustainable behaviours is that they are often seen negatively as ‘doing without’ and the typical fear-based discourse can turn people off. This matters as in turn, political parties tend not to see environmental issues as ‘vote winners’ which limits potential for green policy making.

Just as some books/films product place products, we aim to ‘product place’ sustainable attitudes behaviours products and policies. The story doesn’t have to be specifically about climate change or catastrophic shortages, it can be any kind of genre – rom com, crime drama, legal drama, children’s book, sci fi etc. as long as it showcases sustainable technologies, practices, products or ideas in the background. Or another acceptable approach could be to focus on characters. Currently characters in fiction who are green/ethical are often portrayed as priggish or aggressive, we’d like to see attractive characters behaving in sustainable ways.

Future competitions

This is a small-scale competition just asking for short stories. But the hope is to run a competition on a much larger scale next year, with more formats (film, screenplays, radio plays, tv series, full-length novels etc.) and larger prizes and media involvement. We hope this will create a cultural body of work showcasing sustainable solutions. Entering this competition will not affect entry into the follow-up competition.



The post Opportunity: Green stories short story competition appeared first on Creative Carbon Scotland.



 

Creative Carbon Scotland is a partnership of arts organisations working to put culture at the heart of a sustainable Scotland. We believe cultural and creative organisations have a significant influencing power to help shape a sustainable Scotland for the 21st century.

In 2011 we worked with partners Festivals Edinburgh, the Federation of Scottish Threatre and Scottish Contemporary Art Network to support over thirty arts organisations to operate more sustainably.

We are now building on these achievements and working with over 70 cultural organisations across Scotland in various key areas including carbon management, behavioural change and advocacy for sustainable practice in the arts.

Our work with cultural organisations is the first step towards a wider change. Cultural organisations can influence public behaviour and attitudes about climate change through:

Changing their own behaviour;
Communicating with their audiences;
Engaging the public’s emotions, values and ideas.

Go to Creative Carbon Scotland

News: A living understanding of nature

This post comes from Creative Carbon Scotland

Exploring the space between contemporary art and ecological science to understand our natural world.

An enquiry into the possibility of a contemporary art practice to hone our sensory and intuitive capacity that we might gain an experiential understanding of our natural world. Picking up on Goethe’s plant studies and the desire of the Deep Ecology movement to value all life this short dissertation explores the ability of land art, environmental art, and ecological art to show us nature as it is so that we might experience it with our senses and contemplate our place within it. The focus of this enquiry is on plant growth and the soil that supports it. The document can be accessed at http://artdotearth.org/tina-scopa/and the Artplantae website.



The post News: A living understanding of nature appeared first on Creative Carbon Scotland.



 

Creative Carbon Scotland is a partnership of arts organisations working to put culture at the heart of a sustainable Scotland. We believe cultural and creative organisations have a significant influencing power to help shape a sustainable Scotland for the 21st century.

In 2011 we worked with partners Festivals Edinburgh, the Federation of Scottish Threatre and Scottish Contemporary Art Network to support over thirty arts organisations to operate more sustainably.

We are now building on these achievements and working with over 70 cultural organisations across Scotland in various key areas including carbon management, behavioural change and advocacy for sustainable practice in the arts.

Our work with cultural organisations is the first step towards a wider change. Cultural organisations can influence public behaviour and attitudes about climate change through:

Changing their own behaviour;
Communicating with their audiences;
Engaging the public’s emotions, values and ideas.

Go to Creative Carbon Scotland

TEDx Talk: Why Culture is the Key to Climate Change

This post comes from Creative Carbon Scotland

Creative Carbon Scotland’s Green Arts Project Manager Catriona Patterson was invited to present a TEDx talk at the TEDxUniversityofStrathclyde on February 17 2018. We’re sharing her talk below for World Poetry Day 2018, we’ll share the video once it is available.

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate: Rough winds do shake the …

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date

Sonnet 18, William Shakespeare

This quote is from Sonnet 18 by William Shakespeare: potentially one of the most famous sonnets from one of the most famous writers in the world. Shakespeare calls upon our physical environment to woo his lover…I’d probably be convinced.

However, I’m also a bit of a cynic, and I spend a lot of time thinking about climate change. In the future, ‘summer days’ might not be quite so lovely: climate change predictions for the UK range around hotter and more stifling temperatures, and much more rain. In Scotland, we’re already receiving 27% more rain than we did in the 1960s. The ‘rough winds’ of May he’s talking about? Much more likely to be all year round, and much more extreme. 2011’s ‘Hurricane Bawbag’ doesn’t quite have the same romantic, poetic flair to it, but it might be a more contemporary (and accurate) reference point for those looking to impress me nowadays.

I show this to demonstrate just how ingrained are our culture and our climate, and how often the two are inextricably linked. I’m not here to convince you that climate change is real: we haven’t got time for that (not today, and actually not at all). But I am here to convince you that we can’t just consider issues of climate change to be something confined to scientists and policy makers.

Climate change is happening, and will continue to happen. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (the IPCC, a international collaborative project, which combines the research and knowledge of 800 climate researchers to identify and publish expected trends), has said that:

  • Since the 1950s, the speed of the changes have been unprecedented, with increased temperatures, less snow, and sea levels rising.
  • Many aspects of climate change and associated impacts will continue for centuries, even if anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are stopped tomorrow.
  • The risks of abrupt or irreversible changes increase as the magnitude of the warming increases.


Climate change is a huge physical threat to “the planet” (cute polar bears included), but mostly it’s a huge social, political and cultural threat to humans, to our society and to our way of life: our culture! Culture encompasses everything from our history, our homes, our language, our food, our architecture, our traditions: that which makes us people above all else. My concentration within this is on the arts: the visual, oral, audible manifestation of culture. Otherwise known as: TV, theatre, music, books, film, poetry.

I argue this: climate change is the biggest problem we’ve got, and we need to throw everything at it. The arts are an essential part of that. I’m going to give you a whistle-stop of tour why that’s the case, what’s happening already, and why “all the world’s a stage” should be taken more seriously.

The arts have always been central to how our society grows, shapes and develops, and this should, can and is extending to the biggest single issue of our time: climate change.

Art can show us where we’ve come from, and where we have been: 19th century romantic landscape painting was all about the aesthetics of the sublime – creating a picture-perfect view of rolling hills and dramatic valleys: imagery which we still use to describe the UK internationally. Our societal obsession and expectation of having a white Christmas can basically be traced back to Charles Dickens writing the weather into all of his novels.  Our whole cultural identity has been shaped by the words we read, write and listen to, and by the images and expressions we see reflected back to us from the walls of museums and galleries.

The arts can help us understand how we got here.

Art can explore the alternative realities and futures that we might face under new world conditions. Consider how George Orwell’s 20th century novel 1984 has been the warning and the prediction of the dystopian and tyrannical state which may result from surveillance and censorship. It still informs debates around data protection, net neutrality and the rights of the individual. It may be an extreme example of climate-disaster fiction (yes, it’s a genre!), but Hollywood blockbuster The Day After Tomorrow did play out climate change impacts for the general population. We know that climate change is unlikely to happen quite that quickly, but it put climate change front and centre at the box office.

The arts can help us play out what might happen under different conditions.

Art can reflect our present, and the turmoil we currently face. It helps us make sense of the world around us – and sometimes more subtly than we expect. At the Edinburgh Festival Fringe last year, there were 61 shows about Brexit (including a musical, cabaret, theatre and comedy), helping everyone figure out quite what is going to happen – socially, at least. Skip a few verses into Rabbie Burns’ most famous poem, and you get straight into the existential questions around humans and their impact on the planet:

I’m truly sorry Man’s dominion
Has broken Nature’s social union,
An’ justifies that ill opinion,
Which makes thee startle,
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
An’ fellow-mortal!

To a Mouse, Robert Burns

The arts can clarify and crystallise the issues of now.

Art is not merely a passive agent, serving to educate by translating concepts and science and make them more digestible. Art is an active agent of change, and we should consider, recognise and encourage this when we see it.  It’s a total cliche, but I might not be here today, were it not for Al Gore’s climate change documentary ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ and the Scottish Government making it mandatory viewing in all Scottish high schools in the late 2000s.

The arts can catalyse people’s lives.

There are already lots of examples where artists, writers, storytellers and others are explicitly tackling climate change head-on…

…in visual art. 

Jason deCaires Taylor’s ‘The Rising Tide’ combines images of the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse (borrowing from historic cultural references), with the skeletal machinery of the oil industry. The sculptures were flooded twice a day with the ebb and flow of the tide of the Thames – a rise and fall which will become ever the more extreme as sea level rise impacts the capital.

…in literature.

There are novels, essays, short stories and poems dedicated to issues and concepts of climate: an issue where traditional scientific communication has failed, or actually turned people away from an issue that seems too difficult or too distant. Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ – about a  scenario in which environmental concerns have created dystopia – was written in 1985 and adapted into an award-winning TV show. Jackie Kay, the National Poet for Scotland (our Makar) had her climate change poem published in the Guardian alongside 21 others from internationally renowned poets (her poem itself paraphrased another cultural reference point, riffing off The Wizard of Oz but talking about extinction: “No lions, no tigers, no bears!”).

Wizard Of Oz Bears GIF
 
…as figureheads in our culture.

Leonardo DiCaprio: arguably one of the biggest film stars of our time, upon finally receiving an Oscar for best actor, used his speech and his wider celebrity to talk about the urgency of climate change. More people listen to bigger voices.

“I am consumed by this…there isn’t a couple of hours a day where I’m not thinking about it. It’s this slow burn. It’s not ‘aliens invading our planet next week and we have to get up and fight to defend our country,’ but it’s this inevitable thing, and it’s so terrifying.”

…in our homes, through our televisions.

Blue Planet 2 was the most-watched TV programme of 2017, and although not explicitly about climate change, one of the episodes did feature a similarly complex environmental problem: plastic ocean waste. Since the episode has been broadcast:

  • Michael Gove, the UK’s Environment Secretary, said he was ‘haunted’ by the images;
  • Ullapool has banned plastic straws;
  • the Scottish Government has committed to banning plastic cotton buds;
  • hundreds of thousands have people have petitioned the UK government to take action on reducing ocean plastics and,
  • the Prime Minister has announced a 25 year plan to eradicate all plastic waste..

But the thing is…ocean plastic is not news! We’ve known about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch since the mid-1980s, but it’s taken an emotional, artistic and accessible presentation of the impacts to prompt this change to our wider culture. Moral of the story: get ‘national treasure’ David Attenborough to say it on a Sunday night to the great British public, they will take action!

These are just a tiny fraction of the countless examples of how our arts and wider culture are already taking on the mantle of climate change, but it’s still not enough. As audiences, consumers and producers of culture, we need to demand that our culture stares climate change in the face. 

Here are a few way that you can start to make this happen:

We need to celebrate and share examples of great work. It was a book that started the whole environmental movement – Rachel Carson’s 1962 book ‘Silent Spring’ – and both Al Gore and David Attenborough have cited it as influential to their work – but when was the last you heard about a great climate change book? With the advent of social media and ‘shareability of culture’, can you imagine if people recommended climate change art as they do that which focuses on romance or war? Could good climate change art go viral?

We need to challenge narratives that omit climate change. It’s irresponsible to ignore the existence of climate change, and it’s irresponsible to ‘leave it out’ of our current art forms and wider culture. Start asking questions of those art form you engage with:

  • Are there recycling bins in TV mockumentary ‘The Office’?
  • Are those electric cars they are driving Cars 3?
  • Is the protagonist in your crime fiction novel sipping on their black coffee from their re-useable coffee cup?
  • When the next sci-fi film comes out showing ‘the future’, is it a realistic depiction of what life will look like 1.5 degrees warmer?

We need to demand climate change be addressed more. Next time you’re watching a film – perhaps the next Avengers installment (filmed partly in Scotland: a country with some of the most stringent climate change targets in the world), see if, among the superhero technology, the superhero stunts, and the superhero morality…you can spot the concern for a very real threat to our species.

And so. I’d like to end at the beginning; back again with the bard:

So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Sonnet 18, William Shakespeare

Climate change is the biggest problem we are facing as a species.
Culture and the arts are what make us human: they ‘give us life’.
Culture is the key to climate change.



The post TEDx Talk: Why Culture is the Key to Climate Change appeared first on Creative Carbon Scotland.




Creative Carbon Scotland is a partnership of arts organisations working to put culture at the heart of a sustainable Scotland. We believe cultural and creative organisations have a significant influencing power to help shape a sustainable Scotland for the 21st century.In 2011 we worked with partners Festivals Edinburgh, the Federation of Scottish Threatre and Scottish Contemporary Art Network to support over thirty arts organisations to operate more sustainably.We are now building on these achievements and working with over 70 cultural organisations across Scotland in various key areas including carbon management, behavioural change and advocacy for sustainable practice in the arts.Our work with cultural organisations is the first step towards a wider change. Cultural organisations can influence public behaviour and attitudes about climate change through:Changing their own behaviour;
Communicating with their audiences;
Engaging the public’s emotions, values and ideas.

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