ART FOR CHANGE: transformative learning and youth empowerment in a changing climate – article published

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.

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

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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’s call for action – video

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 produced a video with young people and 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.