Reflecting on: Intergenerational climate justice and culture

11 October 2023: Experts in climate justice and creative climate education gathered at Leith Community Croft to explore what intergenerational climate justice is, why it matters and how culture can be a way of giving a voice to future generations.

Children and future generations are at the forefront of bearing the burdens of the climate crisis. Yet, they have little say over the decisions that will affect them more than anyone. Intergenerational justice argues that children have the right to be heard, that the climate crisis is a human rights issue and that climate action must reflect the needs and voices of everyone impacted. The complex interaction of the climate crisis with existing inequalities and injustices is an area where the arts and cultural sector can play a role in developing understanding and breaking down barriers to children participating in climate action.  

To get the Green Tease started, three leading experts on intergenerational climate justice provided inspiration with their practice and perspectives on the role creative industries should be aiming for.

We heard from Dr Elizabeth Cripps, Senior Lecturer in Political Theory at the University of Edinburgh. Liz is a well-known expert in climate justice and ethics and author of What Climate Justice Means and Why We Should Care and Parenting on Earth: A Philosopher’s Guide to Doing Right by Your Kids – and Everyone Else. She focused on climate justice and inequalities – while older generations are responsible for climate change, younger generations are facing more of the impacts while having less opportunities to influence climate policy. Therefore, children should have the right to be heard. One option to improve this could be to lower the voting age, as Liz suggested. On the role of art, Liz commented on the importance of telling new stories and reaching people in different ways.

Lucy Power is a co-director of Rowanbank Environmental Arts and Education. Together with Arran Sheppard she runs Positive Imaginings, a creative climate education project based on woodland performances, providing children an opportunity to imagine a positive future in the midst of the climate emergency. In her talk she emphasized that using creative practices can create fairer opportunities for participation in climate action. As an example of her own practice of doing this, she highlighted that in the run up to COP26, they facilitated the creation of a beautiful and moving soundscape of children’s voices, the Positive Imaginings Soundscape. She also highlighted the importance of not just reaching people, but providing them with opportunities to take part and share. 

Our final panellist, Alyson MacKay, is an operations co-ordinator at 2050 Climate Group, who work to empower Scotland’s Young Leaders to lead action on tackling our climate crisis. Alyson provided a more personal reflection on perspectives on climate change as a young person and discussed issues around eco-anxiety and disempowerment of young people in relation to climate change. She advocated for a more genuine engagement with young people.

Outdoor workshop 

After the panel discussion, we utilised the outdoor space of Leith Community Croft for an activity organised by Lucy Power. Here she invited participants to find their own space in nature, not talk to anybody and just sit with their thoughts and feelings.

Lucy then placed three bowls of water on the ground each with a paper cup next to it and told us we should line up behind each bowl and move the water into three empty bowls placed a few metres away. We all assumed it was a contest and started racing to move the water. The cups had holes in them, and most of the water was lost on the way. Afterwards Lucy pointed out that she never told us it was competitive, and showed how if the three cups were stacked up, you could move the water without losing any through the holes. She explained we are preconditioned to compete, but collaboration would have got the job done better. Lucy uses methods like this with children, to help shift their mindsets and teach them to think differently, away from the individual and fast-paced thinking that society can urge us towards.

We then were given some clay and wool and were asked to create something that would represent our ideas about what we would like Edinburgh to look like in a sustainable future. Time was limited, but we created small sculptures and a web of wool tying various people together, symbolising having an awareness of how our lives are interconnected and living in a way that reflects that. Other installations focused on the future of housing and streets, access, transport and communities. 

Back in the room, we had paper and crayons to write down our thoughts about intergenerational justice in response to set prompts. The conversation was quite free flowing at this point and ‘doodling’ with the pens helped to keep it informal. Some of the thoughts that came up doing discussions were: 

  • Not everyone has the time or resources to participate in climate action. How do we account for that? 
  • Let’s ask children how they would like to get involved, instead of imposing ‘adult’ structures on them. 
  • Too much focus on individual rather than systemic change. 
  • Children should also be allowed to be young, to play, to have joy in their lives. 
  • We need more hopeful, rather than technical and scientific language. Is there a way to use children’s vocabulary in order to create new climate communication?
  • Using storytelling to communicate. The vital role of imagination.
  • Showing rather than telling. Watching rather than asking.
  • Considering the emotional elements of the climate. Science is not good at thinking about emotional wellbeing, especially that of children.
  • Consultations and surveys are not the best way of gathering information, especially from children. 

About Green Tease

This event took place as part of the Green Tease events series and network, a project organised by Creative Carbon Scotland, bringing together people from arts and environmental backgrounds to discuss, share expertise, and collaborate. Green Tease forms part of our culture/SHIFT programme. 

(Top image: ID: People standing outside in Edinburgh holding long pieces of string between them.)

The post Reflecting on: Intergenerational climate justice and culture appeared first on Creative Carbon Scotland.

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