Monthly Archives: September 2020

Q29: Silence

When words and sounds fail, silence has the potential to both open up space for listening, and serve as an oppressive force. This issue will examine Silence in various practices and processes, as both a facilitator of healing and a catalyst for trauma. Artists are silent, question silence, are empowered through and threatened by silence, listen in silence, stew in silence. This issue is a quiet one, but it is by no means without agency.

Green Tease Reflections: Are we COPing?

Tuesday 8th September 2020. This event, organised in collaboration with Climate Art and game designer Matteo Menapace, brought together participants to play an online game, designed to provoke considerations around how to effectively engage with COP26 coming to Glasgow in November 2021.

How the Game Works

The game was played using a set of Google Slides that remain accessible online. To play the game, participants work in groups of 4, coming up with ideas to respond to Challenges submitted in advance of the event. These challenges were concerned with the different goals people might have for COP26 and included:

  • How might we inspire and bring about real changes which reduce Scotland’s emissions and have a lasting impact?
  • How might we engage local communities in COP?
  • How might we develop approaches to collaboration between the arts and civil society that can be replicated in the future?

Each member of the group produces an idea and pitches it to the rest of the group. These ideas aim to fulfil the overall success criteria that determine whether they are ‘winning’ the game:

  • Policy Influence: Our ability to affect decisions made as part of the COP negotiations or leverage the presence of COP to affect UK, Scottish, local government or sector policy.
  • Public engagement: Our ability to reach and involve members of the public to consider climate change, adopt behavioural shifts, and take steps to change broader society.
  • Capacity: Our ability to keep our work around COP26 going, including time, resources, money, and avoiding burnout or negative environmental consequences through our actions.
  • Community Building: Our ability to create effective connections and collaborations across a broad array of demographics, sectors and geographies that will yield long-term benefits.

The team votes for their favourite idea and submits it to a ‘Fortune Teller’, which predicts whether the idea is likely to succeed. They then update their ‘success trackers’ to see where they are making progress and where they are struggling. You can watch Matteo’s video about how to play the game below.

What were the outcomes?

Some of the favourite ideas presented were:

  • How might we challenge the transport industries to go greener via the arts? Installations in heavily congested areas of detectors that would emit sounds of various kinds in response to high pollution levels.
  • How might we make sure that different practitioners and organisations are aware of each other’s plans? Collaborate with a web designer and SEO experts to create a catalogue of activity which is easy to navigate and has clear and distinct criteria. People can also post things they need, resources/expertise etc and people can nominate themselves to contribute.
  • How might we learn about nature based solutions from skilled practitioners of contemporary arts and crafts around the globe? Set up pairings bringing together Scottish based craftspeople with craftspeople based in areas on the frontlines of climate change. These pairings communicate via online platforms and produce work in dialogue, responding to sustainable making advice that they offer each other. These will be exhibited in the lead-up to COP26 in Glasgow.
  • How might we challenge the transport industries to go greener via the arts?Workshops and events with artists addressing green issues held on board public transport (such as train carriages) travelling to Glasgow that is ‘commissioned’. Report the impact to transport companies.

Each team played a few rounds of the game, coming up with new ideas to tackle new challenges and continually updating their progress on the ‘success trackers’. We then came back together to discuss our experiences and share our favourite ideas. Some thoughts that emerged from the discussion were:

  • Capacity was the criterion that all teams struggled with the most as actions that advanced the other aims tended to reduce our capacity. Teams found that in later rounds they had to focus more on developing ideas that would regenerate or sustain their capacity.
  • People from differing backgrounds had highly contrasting ideas of what constituted effective ‘policy influence’ or ‘public engagement’. It was commented that this discussion alone could form a whole day event.
  • A number of participants said that they would like for there to be more spaces to discuss and develop the ideas that they came up with as part of the game and that there should be more opportunities for this kind of discussion.

The workshop was run on a participatory document/slideshow that remains accessible online. You can explore the slides to see more ideas and feedback that came up during the event.

Image of the game's success trackers. 4 rows numbered 1 to 10 and labelled Policy Influence, Public Engagement, Capacity, and Community Building. A cube is positioned at one number on each row, indicating the team's score.
The success trackers used by players to tell whether they were winning the game. Created by Matteo Menapace.
Next Steps

You can find out more about our co-organisers at:

Further resources for planning for COP26:

If you are reading this before the 12th of October 2020, you can come along for some more discussion about COP26 at the October Green Tease Online Meetup.

For more information or guidance on COP26, please get in touch with

Example Gameplay Slide
One of the interactive slides used for gameplay during the event. Created by Matteo Menapace

The post Green Tease Reflections: Are we COPing? 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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American Climate Artists: For the Next Fifty Days, We Must Work on the Election

By Thomas Peterson

As I write this on the morning of Saturday, September 12th, the Air Quality Index for Berkeley, California, the town in which I grew up and which friends and family call home, reads 183, on the high end of the Environmental Protection Agency’s “unhealthy” category. This is the best air quality Berkeley has seen in days. 

In many places across California, Oregon, and Washington, the AQI is above 400. The EPA describes any reading above 301 as a health warning of emergency conditions. More than four million acres have burned in Oregon and California, tens of thousands of people have been forced to evacuate, hundreds of thousands more may follow, and at least 17 people are dead, with dozens missing. We are facing the climate emergency, it is happening now, and it is happening everywhere. If this is what one degree Celsius of warming looks like, imagine two or three.

In fifty days, on November 3, 2020, several thousand votes in a couple of these United States will have a decisive impact on the course and extremity of the climate crisis, not just as experienced by American citizens, but by billions of people worldwide who nevertheless have no say in this election. 

In the words of the climate journalist David Wallace-Wells

it sounds like hyperbole to say electing Joe Biden, and defeating Donald Trump, is of planetary significance, but the rate at which global warming has accelerated shows it is also true: one third of all carbon emissions have come since 2008, 40% since 2000, half since 1992. 

David Roberts writes in Vox that 

if Donald Trump is reelected president, the likely result will be irreversible changes to the climate that will degrade the quality of life of every subsequent generation of human beings, with millions of lives harmed or foreshortened. 

The stakes are extremely high. We Americans cannot inflict another Donald Trump presidency on the world. 

In dramatic contrast, Joe Biden is running on “the single most comprehensive and ambitious climate plan ever advanced by a major presidential nominee” as described by Sam Ricketts, co-author of Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s trailblazing climate plan. Marine biologist and climate activist Ayana Elizabeth Johnson recently offered an accessible walk-through of some of the key points of the Biden climate plan. (If you are considering the Green Party, I’d encourage you to read Bill McKibben’s explanation of why, though he advocates for Green parties in other countries, US election laws make it impossible to do so at the federal level here without perversely benefitting climate deniers.) 

Passing any of these critical and urgent policy measures requires not only defeating Donald Trump, but also winning the Senate. If Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell continues to control the body, he will, in his own words, be “the Grim Reaper when it comes to things like the Green New Deal.” Democrats must win at least five of the twelve competitive Senate races this fall if we are to have any chance at passing necessary climate legislation. 

As American artists concerned about the climate crisis, we have a moral imperative to do everything we can to win the presidency and at least five of those Senate seats. We owe it not only to ourselves, but to the billions of other people in the world who have no say in this election but who will nevertheless suffer the consequences.

We artists are powerful and creative communicators. We must put those skills to work strategically for the next fifty days. Turn out environmental voters. Make phone calls or write letters. Donate if you can. Make climate propaganda. Become a poll worker. Make sure your friends and family are registered and have plans to vote. I’m organizing on the must-win, tossup Senate race in Colorado email me if you’d like to join me, I’d love to work together. 

Let’s make these fifty days count. We will never have this opportunity again. 


Thomas Peterson is an organizer, writer, and director whose work focuses on the climate crisis. He is an Artistic Associate with The Arctic Cycle, with whom he co-organizes Climate Change Theatre Action, and a field organizer with Green Corps. He graduated summa cum laude from Harvard College and was a Williams-Lodge Scholar in Paris. He has written about theatre and locality, climate propaganda, the aesthetic of the sublime in climate theatre, and about the cultural history of the infamous lawyer Roy Cohn. He is currently developing The Woods Avenge Themselves, an original adaptation of Ibsen’s The Wild Duck.


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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What We Talk About When We Talk About the Arts and Climate Change in Higher Education

By Clare Fisher 

And. It is a small word, an ordinary word, a word “used to join two words, phrasespartsof sentences, or related statements together.”

And. I imagine you are here because you’re interested in the arts or climate change. I find it difficult to imagine someone typing into the search box merely an and.

But I have, this past month, been finding out more about what the and that joins arts and climate change consists of. More specifically, I’ve been speaking to some of the academics, artists, and educators who submitted courses and programs in response to our call out for degree programs, courses, and syllabi that integrate arts with the study of climate change. How does that integration work? What is its function? Where might it go next?

And. If the word’s meaning rests on its ability to join together other words, we skip over it, the way we might skip a red light, in our rush to reach whatever this particular sentence’s beginning has led us to believe will be its final destination. But what if we just – stopped. What if we climbed out of the car, if we stuck our head out of the ever-narrowing tunnel of our particular academic or artistic discipline. What might we see?

And. What struck me most while conducting this research was how willing those teaching and running these programs were to see just how much their individual discipline couldn’t – or wouldn’t – see. They were scientists who wanted to reach across to the arts and artists who wanted to reach across to the sciences, or who simply refused the assumption that they are separate. Working with whatever resources were available in their home institutions, they weren’t scared to explore the between-spaces, or to make mistakes. 

The Center for Environment and Development Studies (CEMUS), Sweden 

Indeed, some initiatives, such as the student-initiated Centre for Environment and Development Studies at Uppsala University and Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Sweden, came from this premise, as explained by Malin Östman, educational coordinator of CEMUS at large: “We started from the idea that climate change is too complex to tackle from only one angle; we need to work together to find solutions.” Although homed in the Earth Sciences – “you’ve got to put it somewhere!” – the Centre adopts an interdisciplinary approach across all its courses, drawing students from a wide range of academic backgrounds.

Similarly, Alan Boldon, Managing Director at Dartington Trust, set up his Arts and Place MA at Dartington College of Arts in the UK out of a desire to bring together a diverse network of artists, activists, and academics working with place who, keenly aware of their own discipline’s limitations, wanted to learn together. Open to creatives in any discipline, the residency-based program offers the opportunity to engage with the Dartington Hall estate and surrounds from the perspective of a wide range of different specialists, ranging from activists to artists to mycologists. 

Dartington Arts School, England

Although climate change is not an explicit focus of the program, Alan found that if you pay careful enough attention to the place in which you’re embedded, it is difficult not to see it. Students, he found, are sometimes best placed to reconcile the different and often contradictory modes of knowing that result from these enquiries: “experts are often so immersed in their particular method, they can’t always look at how to reframe it or to put it into relationship with other practices.”Here, interdisciplinarity is an and which places teacher and student, expert and professional, on a more even playing field.

“What we need,” say Ingrid Horrocks and Laura-Jean McKay, leaders of the Eco-fictions and Non-fictions undergraduate course at Massey University of New Zealand, “are narratives capable of holding multiple threads and scales – the global as well as the everyday and the domestic.” For them, good writing, and good eco-fiction and non-fiction in particular, leads to a natural interdisciplinarity: an and that is unafraid of its own awkwardness.

Yet and can also be awkward at a practical level: not all departments of institutions are supportive of interdisciplinarity, partly because it is expensive in terms of teaching hours, it often requires different materials of facilities. Horrocks and McKay have found, ironically enough, that the subject’s disciplinary slipperiness – its deliberate lack of discipline – means that it is often regarded, from the outside, as “niche.” Constantly defending and justifying the approach can be exhausting. COVID-19 has brought additional challenges, particularly as so many of these programs build their and by focusing learning around the body, face-to-face interaction, bodily and experiential learning, and interaction with specific physical environments. The pandemic has made the need to find new ways of being, working, and thinking together more urgent and apparent than ever.

Massey University, New Zealand

And can also, Boldon points out, be intellectually and artistically disorientating: “my experience of interdisciplinarity is that you’re often thrown back to your discipline. It’s often disorientating in a quite brilliant way, you think: How did I come to know this? How did I end up with this way of working?” And, then, is a between-space which, if we can sit with the uncertainty of it long enough, becomes a journey of its own, and one that allows us to see new pathways toward and away from wherever it is that we call home.

And can also be a way of recalibrating our relationship to home once we are in it. Ian Garrett, at York University in Canada, instigated, alongside his Design for Performing Arts MFA program and related courses, a weekly seminar for people from across the institution who were interested in sustainability as it pertained to the campus environment. “I wanted to start a more immediate meta conversation about where we were all working and what systems of sustainability looked like there.” It was really well-met by people in the facilities department who became great allies. “They were interested that people were interested in what was happening on the campus and how it was managed.”

York University, Canada

Garrett’s approach, and his obvious comfort in inhabiting the and between disciplinary approaches, stems largely from his interdisciplinary career background. He trained as an architect, thinking he might design theatres before he “went too far” and moved into scenography, where he noticed that the sustainability issues that architects were discussing as a matter of course were completely absent from theatrical design theory and practice. He began to ask specific questions about the sustainability of his materials. This became the “catalyst” for a broader attempt to bring together insights and ways of working from both disciplines: “I thought back to my architectural training and started wondering whether there was an equivalent way of thinking in my theatrical design.” His program, in addition to bringing together thought on sustainability in the built environment with theatrical design, deliberately challenges the traditionally narrow focus of theatre conservatory education by using a systems approach and project-based learning to teach students that the theatre is embedded in a complex web of societal, environmental, and economic contexts:

I don’t want them to just be thinking about swinging a hammer and putting up a show; they should be asking what the theatre looks like within a broader context. I always try to bring into the pedagogy a sense of what is beyond it.

Interdisciplinarity can help not only students but educators and researchers to locate and inhabit new ands at the edges of their disciplines. Almost everyone I spoke to said that it had made them reconsider their practice and their research for the positive, and this held true not only of those leading whole programs but those teaching specific courses as well. Linda Hassell explains how her involvement with the Performing Ecologies module at Griffith University in Australia, has transformed her understanding of creativity’s relationship to climate change:

The perspectives developed through writing and building my course has changed my way of thinking about theatre making, such as voracious and unsustainable technical and production practices whereby the aesthetic is the major concern (e.g., lighting design). The course has allowed me to explore principles that can create similarly effective aesthetics that are more sustainable.

When it comes to arts and climate change in higher education, then, interdisciplinarity is an and in which we are both traveling and sitting still, reaching out and taking in. In my next three posts, I’ll examine these approaches in more detail focusing first on philosophies, second on pedagogies, and third on hope, despair, and the future. In the meantime, let us know what the and of thinking, making, and teaching the arts with climate change means to you.

(Top image: Griffith University, Gold Coast, Australia)

This article is part of our series on Arts & Climate in Higher Education.


Clare Fisher is a novelist, short story writer, and researcher based in Leeds, UK. She is the author of All the Good Things (Viking, 2017) and How the Light Gets In (2018). Her work has won a Betty Trask Award and been longlisted for the International Dylan Thomas Prize and the Edgehill Short Story Prize. She is studying for a practice-led PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Leeds and teaches Creative Writing at Goldsmiths College and Queen Mary University of London. She can be found on Twitter at @claresitafisher.


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: Julia Phillips

By Mary Woodbury

This month’s spotlight goes to a country not showcased before in this series: Russia, specifically the Kamchatka peninsula, which dips down from the far eastern coastline of the country and lies between the Sea of Okhotsk and the Bering Sea. It was a pleasure to chat with Julia Phillips about her debut novel Disappearing Earth, the first edition of which was published by Knopf in May 2019. Disappearing Earth was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2019 and a national bestseller, among other accolades.

I read about the novel in Michigan Daily, where writer Emily Yang spent the first paragraph talking about novels about climate change and the difficulty of writing them. When I spoke with Julia about this, I asked if she thought it was hard to write “about” climate change, and she said:

I think it’s hard to write a novel in general! But there are brilliant novelists who are writing all about climate change with enormous insight and skill. Pitchaya Sudbanthad, Octavia Butler, Barbara Kingsolver, Margaret Atwood, Claire Vaye Watkins, and Jeff VanderMeer all come to mind.

She elaborated later that climate change was not a motivation for writing her novel other that in a general sense, these characters live in our real world in which climate change, war, hardship, and so on, exist. The beauty of eco-fiction is that natural landscape can strongly shape and motivate the story, which can be vividly magnetized to the geography, seas and rivers, forests, and local biome surrounding the human activity within. Connecting to the physical environment and bringing it to the story is central in Disappearing Earth, even though the novel itself is about child kidnapping, racism, misogyny, and other social crises/crimes that may be just as hard to write “about” as climate change. And Julia succeeds at it expertly.


From Julia’s website

One August afternoon, on the shoreline of the Kamchatka peninsula at the northeastern edge of Russia, two girls – sisters, eight and eleven – go missing. In the ensuing weeks, then months, the police investigation turns up nothing. Echoes of the disappearance reverberate across a tightly woven community, with the fear and loss felt most deeply among its women.

Taking us through a year in Kamchatka, Disappearing Earth enters with astonishing emotional acuity the worlds of a cast of richly drawn characters, all connected by the crime: a witness, a neighbor, a detective, a mother. We are transported to vistas of rugged beauty – densely wooded forests, open expanses of tundra, soaring volcanoes, and the glassy seas that border Japan and Alaska – and into a region as complex as it is alluring, where social and ethnic tensions have long simmered, and where outsiders are often the first to be accused.

Propulsive as it is emotionally engaging, and a young writer’s virtuosic feat of empathy and imagination, this powerful novel brings us to a new understanding of the intricate bonds of family and community, in a Russia unlike any we have seen before.

​Spellbinding, moving – evoking a fascinating region on the other side of the world – this suspenseful and haunting story announces the debut of a profoundly gifted writer.


Thanks for talking with me about your novel Disappearing Earth. You visited Kamchatka on a Fulbright grant while writing the novel. What are your weirdest or favorite memories of the place?

Every memory of Kamchatka is my favorite! It is such a special place. Getting together the funding to go there was a challenging and long process, so finally visiting was a dream come true. A memory that stands out is one of my last ones from my time there: in 2015, I was lucky enough to spend some time with a group of reindeer herders as they grazed their animals through the center of the peninsula. Riding horses with those herders through the summertime tundra is an experience I’ll never forget.

This spotlight series goes around the world to explore ecologically and environmentally (often placed-based writings) in fiction. I found Disappearing Earth to be, partly, a novel of brilliant nature writing in that you describe the physical landscape of the coastal town of Petropavlovsk on the Kamchatka peninsula in beautiful and sometimes haunting detail. Can you tell us your thoughts on writing about this place and how the novel’s characters are so intrinsically tied to the landscape?

Kamchatka is an incredibly compelling setting. Before 1990, Kamchatka, as home base for the USSR’s Pacific Naval Fleet, was classified as a closed military zone; no foreigners were permitted there and even Russians needed special dispensation to visit. It was an isolated area of an already insular state – an intensified version of mainstream Soviet culture’s self-reliant course. After the Soviet Union collapsed, though, restrictions on Kamchatka were abandoned. The peninsula’s undeveloped land, rich natural resources, and distance from the government’s seat in Moscow made it attractive to everyone, from foreign investors to adventure tourists to poachers. Suddenly globalized, radically changed, Kamchatka remained a microcosm of its nation, which now had a different name. I am so interested in writing about how Kamchatka’s unique history shapes its residents, and how, more generally, the places we all exist in shape us, informing how we perceive ourselves, each other, and the world.

Regarding the ecological landscapes in the story, which tie so closely to the people’s livelihoods, do you have any knowledge of particular places in this area of Russia that are modernly undergoing environmental crises? How do these issues affect the local people?

I recommend with all my heart reading Bathsheba Demuth’s recent book, Floating Coast, which gives an environmental history of the Bering Strait. In it, she looks closely at the Bering coast of Russia, especially at Chukotka, the region north of Kamchatka. The exploitation of Beringia’s lands and waters through centuries of commercial whaling, mining, and oil and gas drilling have resulted in an enormous environmental crisis. The landscape in these areas is changing quickly, with disastrous effects for the people and animals who live there.

Thank you for that recommendation. It seems the same issues echo all over the world, but it’s interesting to both zoom in and pan out.

The chapters of Disappearing Earth are organized into months and visit different peoples in the area – each of these overlapping vignettes offering a glimpse into relationships, isolated communities, families, and survival. What was your end game, and how did you so deftly sew it all together?

This novel is structured polyphonically, with every chapter focused on a different woman’s point of view, because it is intended to explore the spectrum of harm in women’s lives – from the rare and highly publicized (an abduction by a stranger) to the mundane and hardly spoken about (a difficult doctor’s appointment, a social slight). I wrote Disappearing Earth to run the range of violence in contemporary womanhood, because I’m fascinated by how those hurts echo each other, overlap, and connect us.

This novel is the story of a group of people, a whole community affected by a single event, so I tried in every chapter to draw out the connections between characters. Their shared experiences were just as crucial as their unique qualities in moving the plot forward. To me, the moral argument of the book is that we survive by coming together. In our most desperate moments, we save, and are saved by, each other.

I agree, and have seen this conclusion in talking with several authors, especially as our Earth continues to even more literally “disappear.”

In the novel, Native Peoples are disparaged by others â€“ seen as outsiders, similar to immigrants â€“ even though they were on the land first. Women, especially, are victims of rape and violence. This seems to be an important theme in the novel, so much so that another missing girl, who is Indigenous, does not draw as much attention as the girls kidnapped in the first chapter. What are your thoughts on this and how fiction can bring these tough subjects closer to the heart?

Race-, ethnicity-, and gender-based violence is currently a fact of life in colonized and patriarchal societies like Russia and the United States. Art is crucial to exploring the dynamics of those societies, questioning what dangerous power dynamics are being upheld, and arguing for a better, safer, and more equitable way to live. I think fiction is an extraordinarily effective tool for increasing readers’ understanding of the people around them and moving them to connect with others in order to demand change.

I found myself immersed in this isolated and almost accessible land, but at the same time felt the story portrayed vibrant women, a palpable passage of time, and a delve into genuine stories that feel all too real. I just wanted to congratulate you on this novel; it’s clear that many readers are reviewing the novel highly and found within an imaginative and brilliant string of stories that drew together in the end. Are you planning any other novels?

Thank you so much for this kindness, Mary. It means everything to me. I’m working now on another novel that’s set closer to home for me, but explores many of the same themes as Disappearing Earth â€“ the intertwining of gender and violence, the impact of social isolation, and the potentially healing power of community.

Thanks for your generous time in answering these questions, and congratulations on your fantastic debut novel!

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


Mary Woodbury, a graduate of Purdue University, runs, 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 Nova Scotia and enjoys hiking, writing, and reading.


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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Stories of Climate Courage: ‘I have the privilege of using my voice’

By Chantal Bilodeau, GiGi Buddie, Julia Levine, Veikko Sajaniemi

Reader-submitted stories of courage in the face of the climate crisis, in no more than 100 words. Read past stories hereSubmit your own here.


I am a renewable materials professional. At the end of my studies and especially during the first years of my career, I felt strongly that simply working in that field wasn’t enough. I wanted to do more for our planet. When I got a chance to work 100% for the climate, I didn’t hesitate hopping on a completely different industry, job, and career path. I haven’t regretted a single day.

— Veikko Sajaniemi, Helsinki, Finland

(Top photo: Lemmenjoki, Finland. A victory for conservation over nature exploitation as mechanical gold digging was banned in 2020.)

* * *


“How dare you?” she repeated again and again. The phrase felt like fireworks – bursting with fire and light and color, her tiny voice resounding with such incredible power. Greta Thunberg was 16 years old when she addressed world leaders at the UN Climate Action Summit in New York in September 2019 and demanded in no uncertain terms that they take action. Defying all the labels put on her – woman, child, Asperger, depression – she showed the world how to be bold and brave, and the patriarchy how to suck it up. I will always love her for that.

— Chantal Bilodeau, New York, New York

Greta Thunberg, Swedish climate activist, founder of Fridays for Future.

* * *


Fires rage on the west, rainstorms pelt the east, hurricanes land on the Gulf.
Communities and homes at risk, trees and parks destroyed.
Who takes up the frontlines? Whose bodies bare the damage?
Summer in North America.

Simultaneously, the pandemics of Coronavirus and racism wage relentless war on the already most-vulnerable. 
The same systems that got us into this mess.
Those in power look out for their own interests, leaving ordinary people in the dust.

I make calls, sign petitions, post in solidarity.
I tend to my plants, seeding a more just, equitable future.
What we pay attention to, grows.

— Julia Levine, New York, New York

* * *


I set out, down a river, into a jungle of life, and into a world that I didn’t know much about. I worked as the dramaturg on the developing show This is a River, written by James Taylor, a professor at my college, and Isabelle Rogers, a peer of mine. This play tells the story of the Kayan people living on the Baram river in Borneo – a people severely threatened by the environmental crisis. When I returned, I realized that I have the privilege of using my voice so their people, culture, traditions, and land will be here to stay.

— GiGi Buddie, San Francisco, California

Flying over the Borneo rainforest, a view of the muddy Baram below.


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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An Interview with Tribal Sovereignty Lawyer, Playwright, and Activist Mary Kathryn Nagle

By GiGi Buddie

Welcome to the first installment of our new series centered on Indigenous Voices! To kick things off, I interviewed accomplished lawyer and playwright Mary Kathryn Nagle, who is no stranger to the uphill battle of retelling Native narratives. Whether it be in the courtroom or on stage, she gracefully takes on the task of storytelling, for both political and social change. Her skills as a playwright and lawyer have taken her to the world stage at the 2014 United Nations World Conference on Indigenous People, and to Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. for their 2018 Power Plays Initiative, which centers plays dealing with politics and power. 

As an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation, Nagle has seen firsthand how important tribal sovereignty and Indian rights are, and her studies and actions as a lawyer reflect that. Her artistic work embraces these beliefs as well, as she has drawn upon her Indigneous ancestry to bring light and truth to a historic event in her play Sovereignty

Like all Indigenous tribes in United States history, the Cherokee were not immune to the ubiquitous colonization and subsequent removal from their lands. Most notably, as Daniel Heath Justice writes in his book, Our Fire Survives the Storm; A Cherokee Literary History

when gold was discovered on Cherokee land in Georgia, agitation for the removal of the tribe increased. In 1835, the Treaty of New Echota, signed by a small minority of the Cherokee, ceded to the United States all Cherokee land east of the Mississippi River. An overwhelming majority of tribal members refused to accept this treaty and took their case to the U.S. Supreme Court. The court rendered a decision favorable to the tribe, declaring that Georgia had no jurisdiction over the Cherokee and no claim to their land. Georgia officials ignored the court’s decision, President Andrew Jackson refused to enforce it, and Congress passed the Indian Removal Act of 1830 to facilitate the eviction of tribal members from their homes and territory. This led to the Trail of Tears

Mary Kathryn’s play, Sovereignty, tackles this history as historic Cherokee rivals, Major Ridge and John Ross, navigate their divided views of the Treaty of New Echota. Told through two parallel timelines, Nagle juxtaposes their disagreements from 1835, with the collaboration of Ridge and Ross’ ancestors fighting to defend the jurisdiction of the Cherokee Nation in the Supreme Court.

You’ve said that “arts and theatre have the potential to deconstruct harmful narratives in our legal system.” Could you talk about how your work can be used as an educational tool to not only retell Native history, but to deconstruct the often prejudiced history that we are taught?

I think that history is taught by those who win and Natives have been largely erased and/or mischaracterized in American history textbooks and in classrooms. You can certainly advocate in governments, courts, and in legislatures for changes to how that narrative is shared and how laws are structured, but it is very hard to do that when everyone who sits in a federal court, on the federal bench, or in Congress, went through the same education system that was designed to erase us. You have to combat that erasure first, and that is where I think art is so critically important. It might be true that all the justices on the Supreme Court did not take Indian Law, for instance, because it wasn’t offered at their law school; however, Justice Ginsburg went and saw my play Sovereigntyat Arena stage and she had an opportunity to learn about the harmful effects of Oliphantfrom a tribal sovereignty perspective even though that wouldn’t be something taught to one of her law clerks in a law school today. So, because we have been excluded from the mainstream curriculum in the United States, we have to use art to educate.

You’ve argued that colonization of Indigenous lands and nations is truly how climate change got started, and that it’s imperative to know that among the groups most impacted by climate change are Indigenous communities. Do you think that in the climate action movement, environmentalists should look to Native people to learn about the ways they have cared for the earth and for their land?

Yes. I think that part of our environmental crisis in the United States today is the reality that we had sovereign nations here that existed before the United States, that valued the land as something other than a commodity. Tribes certainly engaged in commerce and built structures, tore down trees and burnt land – it’s not the case that Indians were sitting around and not using land for strategic purposes – but in terms of the way in which we had a connection to the land, it wasn’t a straight up capitalistic understanding or relationship. 

It also wasn’t 100% “anti-capitalist” because we took from the land and traded in exchange for other things, which is commerce. Now, there’s nothing inherently evil about commerce; we’ve always engaged in it as Native people. The problem was that we weren’t engaging in it in a way that was as exploitative or profitable, I suppose, as those who wanted to use land just to make a profit. That became the basis for the Supreme Court to strip tribal nations of their inherent sovereignty and title over their land. 

That legal framework, I argue, is why we have an environmental crisis in the United States today. You can’t, on one hand, say the reason tribes are racially inferior is because they want to live in harmony with the land and they don’t commercially exploit it, and that therefore they shouldn’t be able to govern it. And on the other hand, toss your hands up and say it is a mystery as to why we have a legal structure that won’t protect the environment for future generations of American citizens. The whole legal structure was designed to strip tribal nations of their land and sovereignty, because they wouldn’t commercially exploit it.

You’ve spoken about the process of “humanizing” climate change, because we have a tendency to detach ourselves from the humans whose lives are being directly impacted. So, thinking about what “humanizing” climate change does for the viewer, what response would you hope to receive from audiences leaving one of your plays, or, more generally, leaving a play that deals with environmental justice? Is talking about these issues after leaving the theatre enough?

Well, it’s a start. It’s never going to be enough, but right now, we aren’t even talking about it. We really need to do something about that and start the conversation. Again, I’m a big believer in conversation and the fact that we just have to start somewhere. A lot can come from the ultimate policy goals, change in laws, and ways we live, but we’re not even having the conversation right now, or if anyone is, it’s a small select group of people.

And for audiences leaving one of your plays?

I would want them to walk away with a desire to understand and better study how we got to this point, because I think that if we understand history and how we got here then the proper solutions will present themselves. However, when we blind ourselves to how we got to this point, it’s really hard to figure out a solution. It seems like we tell ourselves we are in this inevitable state of despair, as opposed to: we created it. If we accept that we created it, then we can take action to undo it. We have to take responsibility – that is without a doubt. However, people, very easily, say: Well, what’re you gonna do? Make it a crime to not recycle and put people in jail… and no. That’s the issue. You don’t have to come up with some extreme law that you’re going to pass. You can just have a conversation. You don’t have to be so focused on: if we can’t come up with one solution that is going to solve climate change and environmental disasters, then there’s no point in doing anything at all. I think that that is absolutely the wrong attitude to have.

In what ways has climate change impacted your life and community personally?

I went to law school in New Orleans, at Tulane, when Katrina hit. That was very devastating, disruptive, and traumatic – although, I’m alive and a lot of people lost their lives, so by no means did I suffer the worst of it. I think anyone who was living in New Orleans at the time was traumatized by the event. It was a very difficult and sad time for the community. I also grew up in Joplin, Missouri, and when the Joplin tornado hit, that was very traumatizing as well. I grew up in Oklahoma, Missouri, and Kansas and we didn’t have mile-wide, F5 tornados all the time. However, now we do, and I think that is so clearly climate change.

It’s very scary to think that these disasters are not an exception anymore; they are becoming the norm. That tornado was horrific. Those two instances are the most personal climate change experiences I have had in my life, and I know that a lot of climate change survivors have survived much worse, but those experiences are what inspired me to write my play Fairly Traceable.

Fairly Traceable, presented by Native Voices at the Autry in Los Angeles, 2017.

Any wisdom to impart on our readers?

I think that we have to continue to ask these questions. These are important questions to ask, because we don’t have all the solutions. If we knew how to solve climate change, we would have done it already – or at least started to. I think that on other social justice issues, we have had better success in messaging. I don’t want to say we have had total success, because we haven’t… but it feels like this is a very tough issue to get enough people in America to care about. But we are at that point where it is a crisis. I just think that we need young, new voices and new perspectives to take a look at this issue, because the older generations are just throwing their hands up, and that doesn’t help us at all.

We have to get rid of our anger and prejudice against those who disagree with us, and we need to implement new, fresh, ideas. We also have to lean on our traditional ways of wisdom and understanding. I mean, we have a lot of answers from our own tribal nations who understood how to live in balance and harmony with the land, and we should be drawing on that.

This article is part of the Indigenous Voices series.


GiGi Buddie is an American Indian artist and student studying theatre, with an emphasis in acting, at Pomona College. Whether it be through acting or working in tech, GiGi has dedicated much of her life to the theatre. In the summer of 2019, her passion for art and environmental justice took her to the Baram River in Malaysian Borneo where she, alongside Pomona professors, researched the environmental crisis and how it has been affecting the indigenous groups that live along the river. As a result of her experience researching and traveling, she student-produced the Pomona College event for Climate Change Theatre Action during the fall 2019 semester.


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.

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By Joan Sullivan

Solastalgia is a portmanteau of the words “solace” and “nostalgia” coined by the Australian transdisciplinary environmental philosopher Glenn Albrecht. It describes a form of emotional, psychic, and/or existential distress caused by the lived experience of unwanted transformation or degradation of one’s home environment or territory. 

That must be what’s been ailing me. After spending more than a decade focusing my cameras on positive solutions to the climate crisis, I seem to have lost the wind in my sails. I am, as Susan Hoffman Fishman described in her recent post, in mourning.

Yesterday, I broke down in uncontrollable tears when I found three dead barn swallow fledglings – which I had photographed so discretely just one day earlier – on the floor of our barn. Barn swallows have suffered massive (90%) population declines over the last 40 years here in Canada: hundreds of thousands of these amazing acrobatic aerial insectivores disappear each year, due in large part to changes in agricultural practices such as replacing pasture land with intensive mono-culture crops like soy, maize, and canola. These and other mono-culture crops rely heavily on chemical herbicides and pesticides that severely reduce insect habitat and biodiversity in agricultural regions – the main diet of barn swallows.

Oh, how I rejoiced earlier in the summer when two breeding pairs of barn swallows decided to build their mud nests in the hand-hewn rafters of our nearly 100-year-old wooden barn! Such beautiful creatures! I patted myself on the back for having spent the past 10 years creating a pesticide-free oasis to attract a variety of beneficial insects and birds to our small organic farm. But that was not enough to save these fledglings. Our little farm, unfortunately, is surrounded by large industrial dairy farms with hectare upon hectare of impossibly tidy (i.e., weed-free) fields of mono-culture soy, maize, and canola, swimming in Roundup. My heart is broken.

Note to self: another reason to reduce even further my dairy consumption.

From what I understand, people living in agricultural and other rural regions are more likely to experience solastalgia than those living in urban environments. But city dwellers are not immune; solastalgia can be triggered by a variety of unwanted urban stress factors, including the chronic noise and air pollution from nearby highways and airports, or when raging wildfires or floods destroy homes and communities. 

For me, living far from any big city, solastalgia is due to several inter-related climate change impacts threatening my rural region: a prolonged multi-year drought, the lack of winter ice on the Saint Lawrence River, and the dramatic decline in native bee populations, all of which have caused me so much angst over the last few years. But this week, the sudden death of three tiny barn swallows threw me off the cliff. It’s hard to explain.

Since the beginning of 2020 – pre-COVID – I have experienced a grief so intense that it has completely changed my photographic practice. Will I ever climb a wind turbine again? Will I ever snap out of this melancholy? I’m overwhelmed by a profound sense of powerlessness despite the numerous climate-friendly changes I have adopted over the past decade. Where did my optimism go? I used to be so sure that we, the collective we, would find a way out of this mess we have created…

Just two years ago, I wrote in the text of my Venice photo exhibit: “I cling to the belief, with all my heart [that sapiens are wise]. Perhaps not as wise as we thought we were, but just wise enough to avoid irreversible climate change for generations, possibly millennia, to come.” Today, I’m no longer sure that I can stand by my own words.

And yet…

Somewhere deep inside, I’m convinced there’s still a tiny ember glowing, stubbornly refusing to be snuffed out. I choose to believe that this ember is vivant, waiting for the right moment to burst again into flames of passion and activism. This mental image reminds me to be gentle with myself, to take one day at a time. It motivates me to commit to small daily positive acts, like tending my wild flower garden for the non-human world.

Next month, I hope to write about something positive, something visionary, with a little more renewable energy thrown in: the Solarpunk movement.

For now, I’ll end here with a lovely and uplifting TED-Ed animated poem written by Tom Rivett-Carnac and narrated by the inimitable Jane Goodall. 

Click here to download a free children’s book version of this poem.

(All photos by Joan Sullivan.)

This article is part of the Renewable Energy series.


Joan Sullivan is a Canadian photographer focused on the energy transition. Her renewable energy photographs have been exhibited in group and solo shows in Canada, the UK and Italy. She is currently working on a long-term, self-assigned photo project about Canada’s energy transition. In her monthly column for Artists and Climate Change, Joan explores the intersection of art and the energy transition. You can find Joan on TwitterVisura and Ello.


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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An Interview with Editor John Freeman

By Amy Brady 

Here in New York City, I’m squeezing all I can out of the last weeks of summer: sitting on my stoop with a good book, drinking iced tea, joining Zoom calls with local climate activist groups. I’m nostalgic for years prior when the husband and I would spend the summer traveling to visit friends and family. But we’re taking small joys where we can find them. I hope you are doing the same. 

Even as COVID-19 continues to wreck havoc on the United States – and elsewhere – climate change brings its own wonders and horrors. Last Sunday, the temperature in Death Valley rose to 130 degrees Fahrenheit, perhaps the hottest day ever recorded on Earth. That’s why books like John Freeman’s recent anthology, Tales of Two Planets, are so necessary. They bring the climate crisis to the forefront of our attention, while revealing just how hard it’s impacting people all around the globe.

John’s book is truly outstanding, which is why I’m delighted to bring you an interview with him this month. The former editor of Granta, current executive editor of Literary Hub, and founder of the literary annual Freeman’s, John is not new to editing or publishing talented and outspoken literary voices. Indeed, Tales of Two Planets is his third anthology on the subject of inequality (and the first to focus primarily on climate change) and features dozens of writers, including Edwidge Danticat, Anuradha Roy, and Lauren Groff. 

Tales of Two Planets follows two previous anthologies: Tales of Two Cities (about New York City) and Tales of Two Americas (about inequality in the U.S.). Why focus on climate change in your third anthology?

Climate change is the biggest problem facing the planet today, and the inequality in who it will affect and when appears to be unfolding in inverse proportion to who did the polluting – as in the richest countries with huge carbon footprints are better off than poor nations across Asia and Africa where the climate crisis is already a reality. Ultimately, and very soon, the climate crisis will severely alter all of our lives. It’ll force us to move, to change every one of our habits, and also question who we are – whether a global “we” is conceivable, as that’s the only way to save ourselves. A massive imaginative leap needs to happen right now – which is that people around the world, but especially in rich English-speaking nations, need to be able to imagine that what they do has an effect on the world, thousands of miles away. To me, the best way to imagine that is through stories. I’ve assembled these tales from all across the globe so readers can see what is happening right now. I hope they’re tales to help enchant people into action – because numbers clearly don’t work. 

Your book includes essays, short stories, and poetry. Why the mix of genres? Can each show us something different about climate change?

When I think of the books I’ve loved, they’re all over the map. For example, would I know how to love without Shakespeare… or Rumi… or Toni Morrison? That’s three genres right there. Form holds us in different ways. Sometimes it’s a close embrace, other times it’s like a chaperoned stroll. We need those varying degrees of intimacy and engagement to look at the world prismatically. 

In your introduction, you write that “To believe in a nation has increasingly meant to believe in a certain kind of person. Increasingly, it means my nation’s citizens are worth more than yours.” Could you expand a bit on this idea and how it may have informed your decisions on who to include in this anthology?

Hypernationalism, like we’re seeing right now, is a fear reflex, it’s an attempt to flee complexity. In recent decades, our governments have failed to create better stories for what they are. Imagine if there were more national narratives tuned to a world of many-sidedness? National identities of compassion, rather than of what – purity? Instead, many governments have chosen to retreat and demonize migrants, to shut up borders, or make certain people illegal. In his piece chronicling people coming from the Middle East to Turkey, Burhan Sonmez shows this to be true even in a nation that needs those very migrants to come to do certain kinds of labor. This is an infernal situation – it’s anti-human, and it’s also anti-literary. After all, where would any of us as readers be without travelers tales, without trade winds? 

The journeys of migrants are so startling â€“ to pick up everything and literally flee â€“ I wanted some pieces in the book to reflect the new realities their undeniably heroic decisions create. I didn’t specifically commission anyone to write on this topic; I only asked the writers to tell me how the climate crisis felt where they lived, and how it intersected with existing inequalities. But some of them did and I was glad. For example, Mariana Enriquez writes about a polluted river in Buenos Aires, but in doing so she has to address why people leaving rural northern villages wind up there and how the city treats them. In his great poem, Khaled Mattawa writes a modern-day calypso around multinational fishing, how it destroys rivers and lakes and seas â€“ only for the people who move as a result to be demonized. 

You also write in the introduction that “We need to create a new language to deal with the scale of the crisis we face.” How did this idea inform your role as editor?

This book isn’t just a compendium of tales â€“ a 21st century Canterbury tales set as we sit, watching the seas rise â€“ it’s a lexicon. In Ligaya Mishan’s essay, you’ll learn a number of Hawaiian words for rain. Andri Snær Magnasson’s memoir about the vanishing of a glacier in Iceland introduces the term â€œgeologic time.” As in, previously the earth moved at the speed of geologic time: our crisis in the climate is spurned along by the fact that we’ve now yoked the planet onto human time. In Lawrence Joseph’s poem, which harkens back to Walt Whitman’s vision of a sinister president, he uses the word “jubilate” next to “cruelty” â€“ as in what happens if those who seize power in a government jubilate in cruelty? Words are not just decoration; nor are they tools to help us say hello or goodbye, ask for a drink of water, conduct business or trade. Words are how we see reality. They enable us to define it. When we’re living at the cusp of a tornadic reality, as we are now, the scale of change we face is so large it’s hard to even conceive. We need all the words we can bring to bear on the present. We cannot afford a species dying off in language too.

As someone who’s read a lot of essays, novels, short stories, and poetry collections about climate change, I recognize that writing on the subject can be incredibly valuable. But I believe that anthologies hold a unique power. As an editor of three, you seem like someone who might agree. Why are anthologies such powerful books? What can they provide that perhaps other types of books can’t? 

Very simply, I think anthologies allow us to see an issue from many sides at once â€“ and from many places at once. There are all kinds of parallels within this book that emerged without planning. Yasmine el Rashidi, for example, describes in her piece having to move out of her family home in Cairo, and beginning to look for a place to live; Ligaya Mishan, whom I mentioned earlier, is watching her mother refuse to leave a family home, which every year floods more and will soon be inhabitable. To think of a place as rainy as Hawaii and one as dry as Egypt having such a shared fundamental issue – where to make and build a home â€“ is very powerful. In this way, anthologies can build or at least reflect a collective we may not have known was already there. In times of political action, that’s potent. 

Many of the pieces in Tales of Two Planets share themes having to do with migration, anger at governments, and sadness over the loss of animals and wildlife. Were you looking to include pieces that have certain themes? Or did these themes arise organically?

They all arose organically. The huge variety of pieces that came in gave me a lot of hope for what is possible in a discussion when we don’t reinscribe the border attitudes so many of us resist politically on what (and whom) we choose to read. 

Finally, what’s next for you? Anything you’d like my readers to look for? 

These books on inequality have made it impossible for me to imagine a life in books without a lot of collaboration. I have learned far more from other people than any book. That’s why I love events which are conversations. I have one coming up with A. Kendra Greene, a marvelous young essayist who has a book out about the imaginary museums of Iceland, and then at the beginning of September with Aimee Nezhukumatahil, who has braided an account of her upbringing around a series of appreciations of various plants and fish and animals. 

As for work on the page, I’m not done with anthologies yet. I’m finishing up editing a Penguin Book of the Modern American Short Story, which has been loads of fun. It’s how I spent quarantine once I got better, reading stories. The best of them can do so much. This fall the Freeman’s issue on love will come out, and not fast enough for me. I think a lot of us are desperate for some tenderness, right?

This article is part of the Climate Art Interviews series. It was originally published in Amy Brady’s “Burning Worlds” newsletter. Subscribe to get Amy’s newsletter delivered straight to your inbox.


Amy Brady is the Deputy Publisher of Guernica magazine and Senior Editor of the Chicago Review of Books. Her writing about art, culture, and climate has appeared in the Village Voice, the Los Angeles Times, Pacific Standard, the New Republic, and other places. She is also the editor of the monthly newsletter “Burning Worlds,” which explores how artists and writers are thinking about climate change. She holds a PHD in English and is the recipient of a CLIR/Mellon Library of Congress Fellowship. Read more of her work at at and follow her on Twitter at @ingredient_x.


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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Green Tease Reflections: Museums of the FutureNow: Environmental Justice 

18th August 2020. This Green Tease event took place online as part of Just Festival’s digital programme and was created by Jo Hodges, Robbie Coleman, and Dr Michael Bonaventura with the support of Creative Carbon Scotland. 

It sought to provide a space for participants to consider issues of environmental justice and collectively imagine what Scotland could look like over the coming decades. This was an online version of the ongoing Museums of the FutureNow project.

Ahead of the event, selected participants were sent ‘exhibits’, including a vial of liquid, a fragment of computer hardware and a piece of rusted wire. These arrived in sealed bags, accompanied by gloves for handling the object and information about the future year they came from and the policy area they related to.

At the event itself, participants split into groups, each of which discussed one exhibit and developed a story to explain its significance and why it had been included in the museum. These stories were then shared back with everyone else. The stories participants came up with included:

  • The grassroots move in the 2040s to democratise energy from nuclear fusion and make it equally accessible to all
  • How migrants were forced northwards due to climate change, leading to protests over the unequal distribution of land in Scotland
  • The 2030 ‘year without midges’ and the guerrilla campaign to prevent Scotland’s midges from going extinct and save the food chain

The telling of these stories led into further discussion about issues of environmental justice including:

  • When we speak of justice, do we use this to refer to humans or should it be expanded to include other animals and issues of ‘ecocide’?
  • Many of our stories placed the agency for change in the hands of communities and grassroots campaigns rather than policy makers. Did we think that this is the way that change is most likely to happen?
  • It was commented that the stories told were generally more optimistic in character than those told at previous ‘Climate Futures’ events held as part of The Museums of the FutureNow. Was this related to the emphasis on justice?

The event concluded with some questions and reflections on the Museums of the FutureNow format and how it had been developed. Many participants expressed interest in keeping in touch with each other for future conversations.

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Green Tease

Green Tease is a network and ongoing informal events programme, connecting creative practices and environmental sustainability across Scotland.  Creative Carbon Scotland runs the Green Tease Open Call, which is a funded opportunity supporting sustainability practitioners and artists to exchange ideas, knowledge and practices with the aim of building connections and widening understanding of the role of arts in influencing a more sustainable society.

The post Green Tease Reflections: Museums of the FutureNow: Environmental Justice  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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