In 2005, in an article titled “What the Warming World Needs Now Is Art, Sweet Art,” 350.org founder Bill McKibben wrote that although we knew about climate change, we didn’t really know about it; it wasn’t part of the culture yet. “Where are the books? The plays? The goddamn operas?” he asked. An intellectual understanding of the scientific facts was not enough – if we wanted to move forward and effect meaningful change, we needed to engage the other side of our brains. We needed to approach the problem with our imagination. And the people best suited to help us do that, he believed, were the artists.
It took some time for artists to heed the call. Perhaps the problem was too big. Perhaps it was too political. Or perhaps they were not getting the kind of institutional support that would ensure the work got “out there.” Nonetheless, obstacles eventually lifted enough to allow deeply-engaged, throughout-provoking and artistically-savvy responses to climate change to start showing up in galleries, concert halls and theaters. Finally, the cold scientific facts were being translated into human emotions. Finally, we had guidance, or at the very least a departure point for reflection. Finally, this huge, intangible issue that is climate change was being broken down into small personal components. And that was just the beginning.
Today, interesting artistic work about climate change is popping up all over the world, in all kinds of venues. It shows up in opera houses and hip hop poetry slams, in established galleries and on-the-fly exhibitions, in off-Broadway houses and regional theatres. The goal of this blog is to track these works and gather them in one place. It is both a study of what is being done, and a resource for anyone interested in the subject. We deeply believe that what artists have to say about climate change will shape our values and behavior for years to come. For that reason alone, we should pay attention.
Artists & Climate Change is an initiative of The Arctic Cycle.