Change Climate

Culture’s role in environmental change

This post comes to you from Culture|Futures

The British newspaper The Guardian asks: What have the cultural and creative industries got to do with climate change?

guardian-culture-network

“Climate change is not just about the climate – it will have huge knock-on effects on human rights, economics, democracy, equality and social and civil justice landscapes.The cultural and creative industries already make work that reflects implicitly and explicitly on these issues listed above. We already stir the imaginations, minds, emotions, spirits and souls of audiences on these subjects. So why is environmental sustainability the topic so often missing from the list? The window for averting climate change is narrow. If we want to choose our own path, not have one forced upon us, we need to take responsibility and act now. We must have the courage to programme much more work about environmental issues…”

Guardian Culture Professionals Network – 15 July 2013:
Culture’s role in environmental change The live and digital work of the cultural and creative industries is key to a low carbon transition and future, says Hannah Rudman

Guardian Culture Professionals Network’s Facebook page

Newsletter from The Guardian Culture Professionals Network
Date: 16 July 2013
Subject: Culture’s role in environmental change | Sustainability should be at the heart of our artistic vision 

What have arts and culture got to do with climate change?

“As a sector we are a powerful collective imagination and a trusted voice” – so starts consultant Hannah Rudman in her piece for us on the role the culture sector must play in making positive environmental change. “We must tell stories of hope and warning about what the future holds.”

There’s no doubt about the capability of the arts to create life-changing experiences — and life will change quite significantly if we don’t look after our planet.

The facts and figures might speak for themselves, but the arts can make them speak louder. “Our disruptive, audacious thinking can get people engaged,” adds Hannah. “Our stories about ecological sustainability and greener living will be essential to preparing us all for a new ecosystem. Statistics cannot motivate us in the same way stories can.”

And for more stories on sustainability in the arts, read these from director of Julie’s Bicycle, Alison Tickell: why sustainability should be at the heart of our collective artistic vision; and

why reporting data will give the arts confidence to act.

Matthew Caines | Journalist | matthew.caines@guardian.co.uk

What’s new this week

Culture|Futures is an international collaboration of organizations and individuals who are concerned with shaping and delivering a proactive cultural agenda to support the necessary transition towards an Ecological Age by 2050.

The Cultural sector that we refer to is an interdisciplinary, inter-sectoral, inter-genre collaboration, which encompasses policy-making, intercultural dialogue/cultural relations, creative cities/cultural planning, creative industries and research and development. It is those decision-makers and practitioners who can reach people in a direct way, through diverse messages and mediums.

Affecting the thinking and behaviour of people and communities is about the dissemination of stories which will profoundly impact cultural values, beliefs and thereby actions. The stories can open people’s eyes to a way of thinking that has not been considered before, challenge a preconceived notion of the past, or a vision of the future that had not been envisioned as possible. As a sector which is viewed as imbued with creativity and cultural values, rather than purely financial motivations, the cultural sector’s stories maintain the trust of people and society.

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Agent of Change – James Reed in San Francisco

In 2008, ecoartspace co-curated an exhibition for Exit Art in NYC entitled Environmental Performance Actions, which included a video documentation of Agents of Change, a Unit Earth Agenda project developed by Shelley Sacks and James Reed of the Social Sculpture Research Unit, Oxford Brookes University (UK). Although I was familiar with the work, yesterday I had the opportunity to meet Reed in San Francisco and to experience first hand what it might be like to be an “official” agent of change.

A group of five participants met at noon at the new Intersection 5M gallery, located in the San Francisco Chronicle building at Mission Street and 5th, where we spent three hours in an open discussion on what is agency and sharing personal experiences that catalyzed change in our lives. We then heading down to 4th at Mission Bay where we put on customized Agents of Change life preserver vests and held large wooden measuring sticks that illustrated the depth of several meters of potential water encroachment due to climate change. Each participant stood on their own along the waterway and was encourage to reflect on our own sense of agency in this situation, the site, and to record others concerns. Attached to the life preserver was a booklet where we could register and offer a receipt to passersby, confirming their concerns about climate change.

Reed studied under Shelley Sacks, a former student and collaborator of Joseph Beuys at Oxford Brookes from 2005-2007. It was during this time that they developed the Agents of Change climate change kits and began what has become a series of workshops and public interventions initiated at the Social Sculpture Today exhibition in Basel, Switzerland in April 2007.



Questions this project asks are:

How do we develop a wider personal and philosophical framework that cultivates a deep sense of personal and shared meanings?

How do we develop a culture of transforming our mode of consciousness?

How can we begin to realize our full potential as human beings and work as transformers of the materialist thought systems that shape our world?

How do we excavate the insights of the heart?

Go to EcoArtSpace

ashdenizen: is climate change a zombie concept?

Kellie Payne reports on the Tipping Point event, held earlier this month, where Mike Hulme suggested climate change was a zombie concept:

as a metaphor it has done its work. As a concept, it connects a large swathe of issues combined through the scientific narrative and perhaps there are other ways to make progress.

Much less the as-billed scientific update, the Tipping Point event held on Wednesday 13th April at Kings College, London was a philosophical exploration of the status of our current conceptualisation of climate change.

Hosted by Tipping Point, the arts organisation that seeks to build bridges between artists and climate scientists, the afternoon featured Mike Hulme, UEA climate scientist and author of Why We Disagree About Climate Change, climate change adaptation specialist Emma Tompkins and Greenpeace’s Senior Climate Advisor Charlie Kronick . In attendance were past Tipping Point conference attendees, a mix of artists, academics and a few scientists.

Hulme is a veteran climate scientist whose career has included serving as the founder-director of the Tyndall centre and contributing scientist to UK climate change scenarios and reports for the IPCC. However, writing his recent book led Hulme to take a more philosophical perspective: his interest being more in the positioning of our larger conceptualisations of climate change and interrogating different epistemological constructions of climate change. Moving beyond the merely scientific understanding of climate change, he investigates how climate change is understood in disciplines varying from economics, ethics, politics and humanities. In particular, he argues that climate change is a value laden concept that reflects our views of the world, nature, the economy and ethical frameworks.

Hulme’s presentation was largely an explanation of the four myths he explores in his book: lamenting Eden which draws on a sense of nostalgia, presaging apocalypse based on a sense of fear, constructing Babel (hubris) and celebrating jubilee which builds upon our sense of justice. In essence, what Hulme argues is that every individual brings their own agenda, applying the challenge of climate change to their own problems, that is, climate change is the raw material that is used to work on our individual projects. Hulme suggested we ask ourselves whether stabilising the climate was indeed our ultimate goal or whether stabilising climate was instead a means to an end, and we were using climate change to achieve our other goals.

Emma Tomkins on the other hand bases her work on a belief that climate change is happening and asserts that the government is leading the way on adaptation. Based at Leeds and the Government’s Department for International Development, Tomkins outlined types of adaptation currently being implemented including risk management policies and attempts to build resilience. When Tomkins asked the audience how many were currently taking adaptive measures, it became clear that the line between what constitutes mitigation activities and adaption is often blurred in the minds of many. The government makes a clear distinction between mitigation measures (limiting ones emissions) and adaption (preparing for the impacts of climate change). For instance when asked about what types of adaptation individuals were taking, some audience members mentioned the work of the Transition Town movements, but from the government perspective Transition Town activities would constitute mitigation measures as their main focus is reducing emissions.

Tomkins conducted an exercise to see how we as an audience would allocate adaptation funds, whether we would base our decisions on: equitable distribution of resources, reward mitigators, help those facing the most exposure, help the most vulnerable, or offer developmental assistance. At the moment, current government policy (Adaptation Policy Framework) is based on risk mapping and awareness and therefore has its focus on those who face the most exposure to risk. Tomkins stressed the need to be aware that in any adaptation policy there are a number of decisions to be made about the type of losses we are willing to take and warned that there is a potential to make serious mistakes unless we seriously consider the issues.

Charlie Kronick weighed in with the activist viewpoint, reminding the audience that in the past adaptation wasn’t even considered because to do so would be to accept defeat. Further, he didn’t see the need to separate out adaptation and mitigation as he sees them as one and the same. For Charlie, climate change isn’t about science, or art, but about power politics, ‘the deal makers and takers’ and inequality is a major driver.

Hulme agreed that it’s about politics and our ambitions about what type of society we want to inherit. Hulme suggested that perhaps climate change was indeed a zombie concept, and as a metaphor it has done its work. As a concept, it connects a large swathe of issues combined through the scientific narrative and perhaps there are other ways to make progress.

Kellie Payne is a PhD student in the Geography department at the Open University researching culture and climate change