This book shows how creative methods involving stories and art can help educators to address the challenging topics of climate change and peace via new channels that inspire their learners and underline the role of each individual, with their specific talents and worldviews, in engaging with the crucial questions of this generation. Where climate change and human conflict meet, there is a particular potential for approaches beyond language and traditional classroom methods to offer students new channels of engagement. This book explains the reasons behind this and offers examples of such new channels in an inspirational resource for educators.
This book has been a project very close to my heart that has given me great joy during the development and writing process. It is a guide for educators and everyone who wants to learn more about creative approaches to climate change and peace education. It is a hopeful book, cultivating the kind of learning that can prepare us to be hopeful climate and social justice educators and activists
This book is the result of collective efforts. I want to acknowledge the work of the the editors Marte Skaara and Wendy Anne Kopisch; the storytellers Janna Articus, Michael Chew, Burcu Eke Schneider, Dimitrios Gkotzos, Marina Kalashyan, Anna Malavisi, Munir Moosa Sadruddin, Aditi Pathak and Stefanie Vochatzer; the artists Anirudh Kadav, Burcu Koleli, Carolina Altavilla, Luise Hesse, Hazim Asif, Neethi and Harutyun Tamaghyan; and the graphic designer Stefanie Bendfeldt. Thank you all so much for a lovely collaboration
Learn more about how to undo the colonial relations at the root of the climate crisis through deep listening, self-reflexivity, creating space, and being in action.
Climate change is both a form and product of colonization. To co-create sustainable futures, we must work to undo the colonial relations at the root of climate change. As those benefiting from colonial relationships, white people have a distinct responsibility to contribute toward building ‘right relations’ with Indigenous people.
We offer an entry-point for how non-Indigenous folks, and especially white people, can engage actively in decolonization. Embodying ‘right relations’ is an active and long-term commitment to decolonize yourself and the world. This work is therefore a continuous process of becoming with no end point.
“‘Right relations’ draws on the Indigenous notion of ‘all my relations’ and is a way of being that is grounded in respectful reciprocity with all of creation.”
While the idea of ‘right relations’ comes from Indigenous thinking and activism, these ways of being are relevant to all relationships, not least with other groups that are often marginalized, such as Black people and People of Color.
About the authors and their reserach: Irmelin Gram-Hanssen, Nicole Schafenacker & Julia Bentz, a group of non-Indigenous sustainability researchers working with Indigenous communities across the northwestern parts of Turtle Island (Alaska, British Columbia and Alberta). They offer four ways to create ‘right relations’ based on their open-access article “Decolonizing transformations through ‘right relations’” published in the journal Sustainability Science. This research and outreach is part of the AdaptationCONNECTS project, funded by the Research Council of Norway (Project 250434)
About the artist: Theda Mimilaki (@theda_mimilaki) is an illustrator living in Athens, Greece. She loves drawing humans and animals in natural and surreal environments. Theda values respect for nature, diversity and all beings.
Engaging actively in decolonization
Embodying ‘right relations’ both involves the ‘inner work’ of deep listening and self-reflexivity, as well as the ‘outer work’ of creating space and being in action to actively contribute to the dismantling of colonial systems and relations.
1 Deep Listening
Embodying ‘right relations’ means repairing colonial relationships. Deep listening and present, felt, engagement are being called for as practices to build capacity for ‘right relations’.
‘Non-actions’ of bearing witness and listening deeply make space for Indigenous voices to be centered and for the weight of their experiences to truly be received by the listener.
Deep listening is different from active listening in that it goes beyond listening to the words spoken; it enters into an engagement with Indigenous paradigms, and ways of knowing and understanding the world, in a meaningful effort to think, feel, and act differently.
Rather than attempting to evaluate and translate Indigenous paradigms based on Western understandings of knowledge, an alternative is to truly relate to and learn from them. Deep listening can provide a means of doing so.
It is necessary to confront and disrupt mythologies of colonial benevolence and to meaningfully engage as listeners willing to be affected by the truth-telling of Indigenous peoples, Paulette Regan asserts in her book “Unsettling the Settler Within” about Indian Residential Schools, Truth Telling, and Reconciliation in Canada. This involves critically reflecting on Euro-Western hierarchical belief systems, including the emphasis on individualism.
Being reflexive about which stories we tell individually and as a culture can also be a response to the call for accountability. The act of telling or receiving a story can extend itself into fostering new enactments and ways of being. When coupling deep listening with self-reflexivity, stories can inspire action.
3 Creating Space
Creating space is not only about making room for Indigenous voices in one’s own work, but rather using one’s position to create space for the people behind the stories and voices to step forward.
Often the labor of raising awareness about marginalization and oppression falls on those who are experiencing it. Therefore, amplifying the voices and stories of marginalized peoples, as well as the particular knowledge systems underpinning them, can be one way of creating space and engaging in right relations — recognizing that making space for others implies giving up some of the space we currently hold.
In a more collaborative vein, space can also be created through transcultural learning via art, story and activism where Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples can share knowledge and imaginaries of a decolonized reality. Related to this, the act of sharing a story itself is a means of creating space.
By centering and amplifying Indigenous voices and acknowledging Indigenous language and metaphors we open ourselves to deeper knowledge of our world and contribute toward dismantling the current colonial relations.
4. Being in action
By responding to the call for members of the dominant group to educate ourselves on structural injustice produced by colonization we open space for personal agency in helping to enact decolonial change. Non-Indigenous people may work to embody ‘right relations’ by fostering relationships within our communities that allow for healthier connections, generative dialogue and teaching/learning practices on inequity and systematic oppressions so that we may collectively work towards a decolonized humanity.
Practices such as land stewardship and the experiential learning of frontline activism are ways of being in action. Many traditional territories across Turtle Island have become sites of decolonial activism in the face of extractive industry. The act of bearing witness to a struggle or more directly, placing one’s body within sites of struggle in solidarity, may enact change on a material level.
These sites have the potential to become spaces where ‘right relations’ are formed and decolonial ways of creating community can begin to be enacted, however imperfectly. In short, presence matters in affecting transformative change.
As many Indigenous scholars and knowledge holders have asserted, decolonization is not just a perspective or a metaphor that informs theory, but is deeply unsettling and requires an active repair of ‘right relations’.
The editorial of this Special Feature entitled “Beyond the blah blah blah: exploring the how of transformation” (Bentz et al. 2022) gives an overview on the 15 articles of this Special Feature and argues for integrative approaches to sustainability transformations that integrate both the means and the manner of transformation.
Research is emphasizing more and more the importance of connecting disparate ways of knowing, including scientific, artistic, embodied and local knowledges to better understand environmental change and to foster community resilience and engagement. This paper argues for an integrative approach to sustainability transformations, one that reconnects body and mind, that fuses art and science and that integrates diverse forms of knowledge in an open, collaborative and creative way.
This article published in Sustainability Science draws on the experience of an arts-based project in Lisbon, Portugal, and explores embodied and performative practices and their potential for climate change transformations. It puts forward and enlivens an example, where such forms of engaging communities can provide new insight into how equitable, just and sustainable transformations can come about.
In this workshop, participants create an image/story for an imaginary museum of sustainability. The image/story creation involves creative writing and cyanotype photographic printing.
This workshop explores the transformative potential of art through challenging current thinking on climate change and presenting new ways of approaching it. Participants embark on an imaginary journey to the future and use creative-artistic practices to develop alternative narratives (image/story) and share insights. Participants learn in a playful way about the topic of climate change as well as about the of artistic practices. Creative writing techniques and cyanotype printing elicit the image/story.
Cyanotype is a simple photographic printing process that produces a cyan-blue prints. Discovered in 1842 by the English scientist and astronomer Sir John Herschel, it was used for reproducing notes and diagrams, and for documenting plant life. In this workshop we use cyanotype prints to illustrate core values and messages for present generations imagined and gathered and on a journey to the future.
We are living in times of complex and global challenges, such as environmental degradation, conflicts, migrations of millions of refugees or climate change. Addressing these complexities requires new ways of thinking, creating and acting.
Music is a universal language and a powerful form of expression. Music affects us on a level beyond the rational, touching on emotions, perspectives and values. Singing in a group creates a sense of community and contributes to physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. But above all singing is a birthright and everyone knows how to sing
Ubuntu, a Zulu word means “I am because we are”. This concept calls for empathy for others, creating community and valuing diversity. Ubuntu means that our potential is reached in relationships with others. Ubuntu choirs are inclusive (open to everyone), do not audition (all voices are welcome, under the right conditions everyone can sing in tune and in harmony) are focused on creating community (rather than focused on concert acting ) and get involved in social projects (e.g. through fundraising).
Between November 2018 and February 2020 I offered a free weekly Ubuntu choir in Penha de Fraça, Lisbon.
Below is a video of an ad-hoc choir that I taught this Hawaiian earth blessing song called “E malama” by Bryan Kessler, harmonized by Nickomo.
It took a while but here it is: a short video of the Climate Odyssey public performance.
Over a 3,5-months period we engaged 15 project participants in weekly interactive art-&-science workshops. Inspirations were endangered species, climate fiction, historic events, utopian visions and many others. From these inspirations small performances started to crystallize and the play was created. The public performance took place at Festival de Telheiras, Lisbon, 26 May 2019. We had three sold out shows! To us it was moving, special and inspirational. It showed the power of community and the importance of meaning-making to create climate action. Luckily Guilherme Ornelas was there to film it to capture the moment and later Elisa Purfürst could edit it.
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