I’m heading off to Copenhagen today – I am excited but also have mixed feelings as I see Copenhagen as only a beginning of serious debate and awareness about Climate Change. I was reading the editorial in the Guardian this morning, who sums it up better than I and the disapointing distraction that has arisen about climate science in the last week. Personally I think the world has left it too late to make the changes it needs to head off climate chaos, and for the many in the world already affected. But I’m going aware also of the excitement growing in the groundswell of global activities from ordinary citizens from all over the world. Over the last year, I’ve been watching the efforts of vast online networks of grassroots activities and the hope that many have. This huge build up of attention, perhaps a little too late has even made Obama reconsider his travel plans to take part in the important final days of the Copenhagen summit. It will be a historic summit if only for the fact that warnings from science have engaged so many but so much more is needed.
I’m going to attend the cultural side of Copenhagen summit – the first international symposium focussed on thinking of policy ideas to provide a framework to increase cultural engagement with ecological issues, see www.culturefutures.org (follow on Facebook, twitter if you are interested, the programme is also there). Many have questioned why the cultural sector has been slow to connect with such issues. I know I have been always been very surprised how few in fine art circles until very recently have engaged with these concerns. Is it a major fault in our cultural education institutions or perhaps as leading eco artist Agnes Denes has said, it’s more the the dangerous result that dividing our knowledge into specialist areas has created. I know for instance that having worked in science has been important in my art as it allowed me to engage with ecological issues so much more confidently. However, I think it can be also too easy to overlook all the online cultural activity that has helped engage thousands in grass roots climate change initiatives. Bill McKibben, initiator of the global climate change 350 movement was always very aware of the role of cultural producers, or as the Danish are calling us ‘cultural agents’, see one of his early 350 articles http://www.grist.org/article/mckibben-imagine/. McKibben’s own writing has been hugely influential; I recently picked up a copy of Walden and McKibben’s introduction was probably the best thing I’ve read in ages. Rob Hopkins, an former artist and founder of the hugely influential TransitionTowns movement, is also very aware that cultural reponses are part of how society will engage and imagine a new future. Actually, I think the Transition movement is a case study in point for the Culture Futures programme – I will be reporting back.
There were a few things that inspired me over the last week, I saw the movie Home at FutureProofKilkenny Green Screen film series programme (Kilkenny, Ireland’s Transition Group), art again. I had seen clips of Home on youtube and I thought it might be just stunning images (as I had known of Yann Bertrand’s work previously, he has in the past taken amazing still images of the world, all from the air) set to a nice orchestral score but it was breathtaking in its scope and perspective about how our very recent industrial age has in just 150 years created so much devastation leading to climate chaos. Sitting in an audience in Ireland with the worst floods in living memory affecting so many in the last few weeks and more predicted, it was hard not to feel that Ireland is facing up to the fact it is now part of this story too. It is a long film but I haven’t seen a film that encompasses such a world view at one time – note, I like slow films and if you don’t check out the equally excellent, Age of Stupid. Best of all I thought, was that I was sitting next to an Art manager and she instantly bought a copy. Why isn’t this film on TV, all the time??
Here’s a link to home and to some dance . Along with film-making, it’s another thing I do too rarely these days.
PS my Martin is organising the as yet only 350 vigil for climate change in the republic of Ireland on the top of Mt Leinster on Sat 12 Dec. All are welcome but bring that wet weather gear! Click here for more details http://www.350.org/node/12982