Learning about climate change in, with an through art – new article

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.

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ART FOR CHANGE: open access article

What’s the potential of art and transformative learning to empower young people to address climate change?

In this new article, Julia Bentz and Karen O’Brien 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.

Read the open access article at: https://www.elementascience.org/artic…/10.1525/elementa.390/

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.
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Young people at the European Climate Change Adaptation conference

Being part of the Organising Committee of the European Climate Change Adaptation Conference 2019, which took place 28-30 May in Lisbon, one of my tasks was to involve youth in the conference. I organised an art exhibition with young artists and produced a video together with my sister Johanna Bentz.

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.

Art at the European Climate Change Adaptation conference

For the 4th European Climate Change Adaptation conference which took place in Lisbon between 28 and 30 May 2019, I curated and organised an art program. It consisted of a live performance, two exhibitions, and a children’s choir concert.

The conference opened with a live music and video performance by Tone Bjordam and Marten Scheffer. They performed a new work specially composed for the conference, built upon a recent article co-authored by Scheffer entitled Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene. This art and science collaboration aimed to provide the audience with a multi-sensory experience showcasing a transdisciplinary approach to the climate challenge.





An exhibition of Tone Bjordam’s paintings, inspired by different biotopes, was hosted at the conference. The drive behind the Norwegian artist’s practice is to create a space for reflection around processes in nature, and to achieve an in-depth understanding and a sense of feeling connected with nature around us. Bjordam has a Master’s Degree in Fine Arts from Oslo National Academy of the Arts and her work has been on display in numerous countries around the world. Bjordam is particularly interested in finding ways to communicate science through art, especially the wonder that drives science.





ECCA also hosted an exhibition of work from young artists. Entitled Art for Change, it is the result of a collaboration between Artistic Secondary School Antonio Arroio, Lisbon and the Art for Adaptation project. More than 80 students of grades 11 and 12 engaged with climate change through transformative learning approaches, by approaching change as an experiment, and through climate fiction.





Their artworks reflect their newly gained insights and critical thinking about the subject (Check out the supporting website created by the students to read about the rational behind the artworks). The exhibition integrated posters produced with silk print and stencil techniques, and objects which aim to question, highlight and reflect different aspects of climate change. Art for Change aims to empower young people to explore new climate narratives and solutions, help to visualise the connection between global climate change and our daily actions, and reflect on the implications of individual and collective change towards more sustainable forms of living.





Finally, the conference closed with a musical performance by the children’s choir of Santo Amaro de Oeiras, Lisbon. This choir participated in 2012 in the Global Rockstar competition, promoted by the United Nations, winning the first place with the song “My blue planet” and representing Portugal at the Rio+20 Summit in Rio de Janeiro. The choir has taken part in recordings and performances with several international artists, including Mara Abrantes, Suzy Paula, Secret Lie, and Lemm Project.






Odisseia Pelo Clima – THANK YOU ALL

What an amazing day! What wonderful experience to show our performance to the public. A huge thank you to all who came to see it, to the participants, and the team!! TAUSEND DANK

In weekly interactive workshops during four months we reflected and shared knowledge and perspectives on climate change. In a co-creational approach that both involves artistic and scientific methods we collected many ideas that contributed to the generation of our community theatre play “Odisseia Pelo Clima” (Odyssey for the Climate). Inspirations were endangered species, climate fiction, historic events, utopian visions and many others. From these inspirations small performances started to crystallise and we created the play. See below some pictures from our three (sold out!) performances on the 26th of May 2019.

Photos by Ana Isa Mourinho


Odisseia Pelo Clima | apresentação pública 26 Maio 2019

Chegou um momento muito especial para nos: a APRESENTAÇÃO PÚBLICA da Odisseia Pelo Clima!

Criada em conjunto com os habitantes do bairro de Telheiras ao longo de 3 meses, a Odisseia Pelo Clima é um percurso performativo sobre alterações climáticas. Apoiou-se num processo interativo de sessões de arte-&-ciência, apresentando novas abordagens de investigação-ação face ao tema das alterações climáticas. A Odisseia Pelo Clima pretende contribuir para uma maior consciencialização e empenho dos participantes e do público relativamente ao assunto.

Haverá 3 apresentações da Odisseia Pelo Clima no 26 de Maio, às 16h, 17h e 18h (duração 70-85 min). Cada apresentação tem um limite de 25 pessoas. Inscrição previa através do email odisseiapeloclima@gmail.com ou no local dependendo de vagas disponíveis.
Partida da Odisseia será no Jardim Professor Francisco Caldeira Cabral
(ponto de encontro 15 minutos antes da apresentação)
Evento Facebook.
A Odisseia Pelo Clima foi concebida pela Julia Bentz e a Sara Dal Corso com o apoio/consultoria de Letícia do Carmo e a ajuda de Jörn Schirok.

Ana Filipa Fernandes
Bárbara Pinheiro
Daniela Rato
Guilherme Weishar
Inês dos Santos Silva Machado
Joaquim Conceição
Joern Schirok
Julia Bentz
Leticia do Carmo
Madalena Horta
Manuel Antonio da Silva
Maria Inês Costa
Maria Margarida Costa
Mariana Melo Sales
Mariana Pereira
Melissa Catherine Loja
Noemi Luna Carmeno
Sara Dal Corso
Valeriy Zota

“Odisseia Pelo Clima” – having fun and creating a play!

In weekly interactive workshops we have been reflecting and sharing knowledge and perspectives on climate change. We have also been creatively playing with and dancing (!) about many different ideas related to it. This process has been inspiring and loads of fun!

In a co-creational approach that both involves artistic and scientific methods we have collected many ideas that are contributing to the generation of our community theatre play “Odisseia Pelo Clima” (Odyssey for the Climate). Inspirations have been endangered species, climate fiction, historic events, utopian visions and many others. Some small performances are already crystallising.

If that sparked your interest, block the 26th of May 2019 in your calendar, because that’s when we will have the public performance within the local Festival Telheiras in Lisbon. More updates soon!



Open call for participants in community theatre (in Portuguese)

O bairro de Telheiras vai acolher ao longo dos próximos meses o projecto artístico “Odisseia pelo Clima” e convida os Lisboetas a participar!

A “Odisseia pelo Clima” é um projecto de teatro de comunidade que pretende criar novas abordagens à temática das alterações climáticas através de elementos artísticos e participativos e, assim, aumentar a consciência e o empenho para as alterações climáticas.

Num processo interactivo de sessões de arte-&-ciência semanais, facilitadas por uma equipa profissional, os participantes cocriarão um conjunto de performances sobre alterações climáticas que serão encenadas ao longo de um percurso na zona de Telheiras. Este projecto de teatro de comunidade decorrerá entre meados de Fevereiro e final de Maio de 2019 e terá no final um espectáculo que será apresentado no âmbito do Festival Telheiras.

A “Odisseia pelo Clima” contará com a participação voluntária de membros da comunidade local com disponibilidade de tempo para as sessões interactivas e ensaios. É um projecto para pessoas de todas as idades e não é necessário ter qualquer experiência prévia; o importante é a vontade de participar!

Os ensaios terão lugar às terças-feiras entre as 15:30 e as 17:00, no Lagar da Quinta de S. Vicente. O arranque do projecto será no dia 19 de Fevereiro, numa sessão aberta a todos os interessados. A inscrição implica o pagamento de um valor de 15€ (pagamento único). Se quiser participar, pode inscrever-se através do email jhbentz@fc.ul.pt. Para mais informações, poderá contactar o mesmo email ou utilizar o 91 001 73 92.

A ideia da “Odisseia pelo Clima” foi inspirada no projecto “Art du gest dans la Méditerranée” que desenhou e implementou percursos na cidade de Marselha e na região de Provença, entre 2010 e 2013, no âmbito da Capital Europeia da Cultura de 2013, com direção artística de Virgilio Sieni e assistência artística de Sara Dal Corso.

O projecto é promovido pelo programa pós-doutoral Art For Adaptation em parceria com a Junta de Freguesia do Lumiar. A equipa é constituída por 4 elementos:

  • Julia Bentz (investigadora no grupo das Alterações Climáticas (CCIAM) da Faculdade de Ciências, Universidade de Lisboa)
  • Sara dal Corso (artista independente e professora de dança, yoga e teatro)
  • Letícia do Carmo (arquitecta, ilustradora e investigadora)
  • Joern Schirok (aluno de mestrado em Geografia)


The ART of CHANGE exhibition 8-19 May

30 days for the climate

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? 

24 students of the Antonio Arroio Art High School decided to change and to adopt one more sustainable habit for 30 days. Some became vegetarians, others saved water and electricity and others changed their consumer patterns. Between 12 January and 10 February 2018, the students of 11th grade (class L) of the Communication Design course explored what it means to change, analyzed the obstacles, reflected on the carbon footprint, and about social norms, structures as well as on individual and collective values. After completing the 30 days, each of the students developed an ART project about their experience with change: a poster and a booklet.

This exhibition shows the outcomes of a collective experience that resulted from a collaboration between the project Art For Adaptation (CE3C, Faculty of Sciences, University of Lisbon), the Antonio Arroio Art High School in Lisbon and cChange (Norway). The idea of this collaboration was to visualize the connection between a global problem and our everyday behaviors. The experiential setup of the project aimed to facilitate a process of reflection on behavior change including its challenges, learnings and to inspire and empower others.

Location: Lagar da Quinta de S. Vicente, Telheiras, Lisbon, Portugal.

More information here:

cartaz foto