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.
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 “Shaping 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!
Back in 2017 and 2018 I interviewed artists and knowledge keepers in Canada BC about the power and potential of art and story in contributing to equitable and sustainable transformations. Back home I shared my experiences with my two colleagues Irmelin Gram-Hanssen and Nicole Schafenacker and we saw there were commonalities with their research but also open questions that we wanted to explore together.
Below you find the result of this exploration with them. This article was just published with the title “Decolonizing transformations through ‘right relations'”. It is part of a special Feature: On the ‘How’ of transformation: Integrative approaches to Sustainability. You can access it with the following link: https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/s11625-021-00960-9.pdf.
In it we highlight the intimate connections between climate change and colonization and argue that decolonization will be an integral part of equitable and just transformations toward sustainability. We engage with the idea of ‘right relations’ as a way of decolonizing transformations research and practice and offer four characteristics for transformations researchers to embody: listening deeply, self-reflexivity, creating space and being in action. While we acknowledge the acute need for decolonizing relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples and societies in particular, we extent the idea of ‘right relations’ to all people and all places in an effort to co-create a decolonized humanity.
I am so very thankful and grateful for the insights I received to how we might engage in sustainable and equitable transformations.
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.
The whole adventure started back in 2017 when Sara Dal Corso and I, developed the idea of a community theatre project on climate change. After two years of applying for funding, we could finally start in the beginning of 2019 with a very limited budget. 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.
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.