There is still a huge gap between what we know about sustainability and climate and how we act on an individual and collective level. It is clear that we need a profound change, a transformation. But how do we do that? And what exactly does transformation actually mean? The negative scenarios are well known, but how do I imagine a future worth living in? And how can I shape it actively and creatively?
These are questions that the students of the seminar “Designing Sustainability – Transformation through Art” investigated. In groups they designed projects that dealt creatively with the topics of urban agriculture, creative activism, art and new ways of thinking, architecture, mobility, urban planning and nutrition.
In the podcast you can hear how they imagine a sustainable future and what are their ideas to actively contribute to that future with creative yet concrete projects. Check out the blog and enjoy listining!
How does one engage young people with a topic that is perceived as abstract, distant, and complex, and which at the same time is contributing to growing feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and anxiety among them?
In a new paper, published in Climatic Change, I argue that although the important contributions that the arts and humanities can make to this challenge are widely discussed, they remain an untapped or underutilized potential. I present a novel framework and demonstrate its use in schools. Art can play a central place in climate change education and engagement more general, with avenues for greater depth of learning and transformative potential.
The paper provides guidance for involvement in, with, and through art and makes suggestions to create links between disciplines to support meaning making, create new images, and metaphors and bring in a wider solution space for climate change. Going beyond the stereotypes of art as communication and mainstream climate change education, it offers teachers, facilitators, and researchers a wider portfolio for climate change engagement that makes use of the multiple potentials of the arts.
What’s the potential of art and transformative learning to empower young people to address climate change?
In this new article, Karen O’Brien and I explore how climate-related art projects in education shift mindsets and open up imaginative spaces where students explored and discovered their role in addressing climate change and sustainability challenges.
Young people represent a powerful force for social change, and they have an important role to play in climate change responses. However, empowering young people to be “systems changers” is not straightforward. It is particularly challenging within educational systems that prioritize instrumental learning over critical thinking and creative actions. History has shown that by creating novel spaces for reflexivity and experimentation, the arts have played a role in shifting mindsets and opening up new political horizons. In this paper, we explore the role of art as a driver for societal transformation in a changing climate and consider how an experiment with change can facilitate reflection on relationships between individual change and systems change. Following a review of the literature on transformations, transformative learning and the role of art, we describe an experiment with change carried out with students at an Art High School in Lisbon, Portugal, which involved choosing one sustainable behavior and adopting it for 30 days. A transformative program encouraged regular reflection and group discussions. During the experiment, students started developing an art project about his or her experience with change. The results show that a transformative learning approach that engages students with art can support critical thinking and climate change awareness, new perspectives and a sense of empowerment. Experiential, arts-based approaches also have the potential to create direct and indirect effects beyond the involved participants. We conclude that climate-related art projects can serve as more than a form of science communication. They represent a process of opening up imaginative spaces where audiences can move more freely and reconsider the role of humans as responsible beings with agency and a stake in sustainability transformations.
The idea was to meaningfully and creatively engage young people and give them a voice to express themselves about climate change and possible responses. The video was co-produced with and about young people and their views on climate change. Students of Antonio Arroio Art High School and St. Julian’s School, Lisbon were interviewed about their perceptions of climate change responses. The film project aims to raise awareness and climate change engagement. The video was displayed for the first time in the Closing Plenary of ECCA and is currently being distributed in social media.
Worldwide, there are few young people participating in public decisions around climate change. These same young people are disproportionately affected by disasters and climate change hazards: they have limited voices in the decisions and policies related to disaster risk reduction, climate change adaptation, and community resilience despite calls for their empowerment as important stakeholders in these issues. In addition, young people will grow to fill leadership roles in decision-making organisations, while inheriting the consequences of climate change, policies and actions that are co-constructed today. Actively engaging and empowering children and young people to address the complex problems of climate change is a critical step to achieving resilience at local, regional, and national levels.
Thanks to the collaboration with the project ÁGORA, I published a book chapter about artful climate change education in the beautiful e-book CRIAR CORPO CRIAR CIDADE. It discusses preliminary results of the collaboration project with Antonio Arroio Art High School and shows some art works of the involved students.
How can we pass on climate change knowledge to young people in a way that they become responsible and empowered agents of change? According to the Brazilian writer, thinker and educationalist, Paulo Freire (1974) “responsibility cannot be acquired intellectually, but only through experience” (pp. 13). He advocates for an education that enables people to reflect on themselves, their responsibility and their role in society. Such education intends to develop a critical awareness (conscientização) and conscious action to transform the world.
Recently, 25 students of the António Arroio Art High School in Lisbon were engaged in an experiment with change: to choose a sustainable behavior (such as to eat less meat/be vegetarian, use pubic transportation, don´t use plastic water bottles, buy only national products) and adopt it for 30 days.
The 30 day experiment with change took place from the 12 January until 16 February 2018. During this period, the students reflected in regular posts on habits, social norms, structures, systems and values. They engaged in group dialogues sharing their difficulties and lessons learned and their relationships to the many facets of change. They learned that their experiment was more than just about behavioral change, or making a small reduction in the global carbon budget. Instead it was about understanding how change happens, and recognizing why people are the most powerful solution to climate change.
An exhibition about an experiment of collective change
What if we really changed? What does changing a habit imply for me and for those around me?
After completing the 30 days, each of the students developed an art project about their experience with change: a poster and a booklet. The posters and booklets were curated in an exhibition taking place between 8 and 19 May 2018.