When I was a child I found a beautiful anti-whaling badge my Mum used to wear. I’ll never know who designed it, but that small, compact piece of art made an impact on me – so much so that I kept it for many years.
Art and activism; science and art. It’s the kind of combination of disciplines that can be immensely powerful in changing hearts, minds and behaviour. From the propaganda posters used in all countries during World Wars I & II, to protest music, art, film and theatre throughout the ages, artists have always made a contribution to civic life and engaged in the major issues of their times.
Working in a strategy and communications agency with two of Australia’s most talented designers and videographers (Jarra McGrath and Rohan Porteous) I’m lucky enough to be able to see firsthand how important good images and design is for communicating complex messages in a powerful way. It’s why at the Australian Youth Climate Coalition we’ve placed so much emphasis on high-quality design, dance (highlights being our Power Shift flash mob dance, our Jai Ho dance, and Josh & Sadhie’s Beyonce extravaganza) and perhaps most importantly, story-telling through video.
I come from a family of artists – my father draws and paints prolifically, my sister is a photographer and sculptor, and my aunt is a musician – I’ve always felt that creativity is key to communicating – and solving – climate change.
Which is why I was excited when I was invited to participate in Tipping Point Sydney, a 2 day meeting between scientists, artists and activists focused on climate change. I didn’t know what to expect, but you never do when it comes to art – and when I arrived I was delighted to find that it wasn’t a typical “conference” but rather a much more participatory, interactive space with a large amount of time spent in ‘open spaces’ – a process where participants set their own agenda.
The highlight for me was the conversations with some extraordinary people from both the science and art communities. And it made me think about how I can be more creative in my own work, from dreaming up more metaphors, poems and symbols, to working with artists and designers, to help make climate change concrete to people who wouldn’t engage in the issue through the ways we normally expect people to – like watching TV, or reading books and blogs.
Something that many of the people attending were excited about is a project happening really soon: This November 20-27, the week before the United Nations will meet in Cancun to continue negotiations on a global climate treaty, 350.org is organizing the first ever planetary art show: 350 EARTH. In 20 locations across the planet, artists are partnering with citizens to create massive art installations around the theme of climate change and the need to reduce the level of CO2 in our atmosphere below 350 parts per million, the safe upper limit according to the latest science (we’re now at 390 ppm and rising). Each image will be photographed by the satellite company DigitalGlobe.
350 founder Bill McKibben puts it well: “Art can’t do this job by itself–we need science and engineering and economics and all the functions of the right brain fully engaged. But humans have deep spirit too, and we’re counting on that to help.”
You can download audio and some resources, including a booklet on ‘Greening the Arts’ from the Tipping Point website: http://tippingpointaustralia.com/resources