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Fresh from her participation in a creative climate leadership course, Harpreet Kaur discusses how the arts have a critical role to play in the climate change debate.

Photo of woman in landscape of rock and trees

Culture is a powerful tool for change to educate, influence and empower individuals. Creativity, campaigning and climate change are connected and I explored this relationship earlier this year on the Creative Climate Leadership course run by Julie’s Bicycle and funded by Creative Europe.

Creativity is at the heart of problem-solving, alongside harnessing a universal consciousness that will unite us

The arts have a critical role to play in the climate story. Creative products and practice can make difficult scientific facts and complicated jargon more accessible, while stimulating emotions, empathy and widening perception. Human beings have collected data and evidence about the state of the world, but need to explore a range of responses to it. We are still not relating and reacting enough. Safe creative spaces can be used to explore emotions such as sadness and anger in relation to the problem.

Arts projects

There are many arts projects and events encouraging debate and awareness of the challenges.

Artsadmin has designed a biennial festival in London called 2 Degrees, giving people an urgent reminder that what we do individually and collectively today will have a global impact on tomorrow. The programme includes events that explore why race, gender and colonial histories must be at the centre of the climate justice movement.

The ONCA Art Gallery in Brighton is a space for meeting, thinking and learning. The gallery encourages artists, both local and global, to ask big questions to support the wellbeing of people and places, by increasing awareness of, and engagement with, environmental and social difficulties.

Environmental sustainability

Acknowledging climate change, sustainability and the environment are important when shaping and discussing culture – how we consume and create it, what we value and why. How should we run our organisations and buildings in the twenty-first century?

Since 2007, Arts Council England has been working in partnership with Julie’s Bicycle on its environmental sustainability programme, and produced the Sustaining Great Art Environmental Report 2015/16.

The Manchester Arts Sustainability Team was established in 2010 by a group of Manchester-based arts and cultural organisations. The group now has over 30 members and meets regularly to share best practice and develop new joint initiatives. A local, national and international effort is required to meet the creative climate challenge.

Creativity is at the heart of problem-solving, alongside harnessing a universal consciousness that will unite us. The interconnectedness required for a more equal, peaceful and prosperous world includes our bond with nature and our understanding that human beings are not separate from it. We need the land, seas and forests to survive. Looking forward, design, innovation and collaboration are key to creating solutions for a low-carbon world that artists should be a part of.

Future strategies should include building more carbon literacy, expertise and skills within the creative workforce. Moving towards a 100% renewable powered arts world is crucial, to act as a beacon of best practice. Funding support is required to support a growing conscious and creative movement, where there is continuous space created to share within and outside the arts sector, and cross-culturally, to exchange knowledge on climate change issues and solutions.

Hopefully we can continue to collaborate across Europe and beyond. Creative professionals need mutual support and empowerment to speak up, and there must be equal platforms for all groups, owned and led by a range of representatives, so that a diversity of voices are heard. The creative climate challenge is a part of – and not separate from – our other global challenges, and should be positioned and perceived in this way.

Harpreet Kaur is a cultural consultant.
Tw: @harpskaur

Applications for the next Creative Climate Leadership course by Julie’s Bicycle in October are now open.

The Season 2018, celebrating the environment and inspiring action next June to December, will coincide with the COP24 global climate talks and celebrates creative responses to climate change and the environment across arts, design, broadcast, film, fashion and music.

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Photo of Harpreet Kaur