I am delighted to announce that I will be speaking with Dr Iain Biggs at a public forum and discussion on what role the arts and cultural sectors can, and need to, play in addressing the issues of ecological crisis in this a time of climate emergency. My thanks to Dr Nessa Cronin, NUIG and Prof Karen E. Till and Prof. Gerry Kearns  of Maynooth University. All Welcome!




Venue:            GO10, Moore Institute, Hardiman Research Building, NUI Galway

Date:               4-6pm, Tuesday 14th May 2019

Organiser:      Dr Nessa Cronin, Centre for Irish Studies, NUI Galway.
Email: nessa.cronin@nuigalway.ie

Cultural Climates: This public seminar emerges from research, teaching and public engagement events in the areas of Irish Studies, Art, Geography and socially-engaged research developed between Dr Nessa Cronin at NUI Galway and Professor Karen E. Till and Professor Gerry Kearns at Maynooth University since 2012.

Cultural Climates is a two-part lecture and public forum which explores how research and policy in relation to climate change can be engaged with across the cultural and arts sectors in Ireland today. In particular, it explores how culture and the arts are key to addressing issues associated with the climate emergency, and how the arts and sustainability sectors need to be more integrated in their approach to addressing social, political and environmental challenges in the Age of the Capitalocene.

Building on cognitive research and environmental philosophy, recent international cultural policy research, and as underlined by the United Nation’s publication of its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the planet, there is growing evidence that the arts have a key role alongside science to engage a wider public in changes toward more sustainable living and over wellbeing. Unprecedented and accelerating climate and other eco-social challenges, if examined through moral reasoning, require urgent action from all sectors, including the cultural sector.

A recently completed art and sustainability study report for County Carlow and Ireland (2017) by researcher and artist Dr Cathy Fitzgerald highlighted comprehensive cultural research, policy and strategies that are being implemented in Britain to foster the cultural sector to engage with issues of sustainability. These strategies include assisting national and cultural institutes in practical energy audits so they become independent, public champions of sustainability learning for their visitors and audiences (there have been significant cost savings to the cultural sector as well); ongoing events to educate cultural practitioners in sustainability science and strategies that enable closer partnership between art and science.

Supported by the Centre for Irish Studies, Moore Institute, and the Research Support Scheme, CASSCS, NUI Galway, 2018-19. In association with the EUGEO International Conference and the Conference of Irish Geographers, NUI Galway, 15-18 May 2019.

“Culture’s Critical Role for Ireland’s Response to the Environmental Emergency”, Dr Cathy Fitzgerald.

Dr Cathy Fitzgerald, Artist | Researcher | Educator, Haumea – Ecoliteracy for the Arts. She held an Irish Studies and Moore Institute Visiting Fellowship, NUI Galway 2017.

Cathy Fitzgerald talks of how The Hollywood Forest Story developed ecoliteracy and agency for her to practice and promote new-to-Ireland permanent forestry, and her awareness of the under-acknowledged social power of the arts to help engage communities towards sustainable living.


Life on Earth is in great peril. Stark existential warnings from many scientific fields and mounting catastrophes in every continent has alerted humanity that an unprecedented ecological emergency is unfolding around us. A profound cultural crisis exists, particularly promoted in Western civilization, when profits are pursued over a livable and just future. With a decade-only deadline to halt irreversible environmental breakdown, societal change on a scale never before taken is in front of us, which even our children recognise. Scientific data tacitly frames the crisis to be solvable by environmental regulations and technology. Yet these approaches have tragically failed to engage global society toward the radical systemic change needed. What urgently needs to be conveyed is that we must create and implement practices that restore and regenerate our lands, waters and air and abandon industrial practices and economics that have caused this ecocidal endgame.

Over the last decade, Cathy Fitzgerald through her ongoing eco-social art practice The Hollywood Forest Story and doctoral research, gained ecoliteracy and agency by working with foresters, interested neighbours and politicians to practice and engagingly promote new-to-Ireland permanent forestry. With a background in science and art, Cathy has long intuited that seemingly insurmountable eco-social challenges, these ‘wicked problems’, will require people coming together with diverse disciplinary and real-world knowledge. Importantly, Cathy’s research identifies that ecoliterate art workers have potential social power to translate and localise scientific facts for urban and rural communities that is not available to science. Understanding this critical new role for the arts in Ireland is presently under-acknowledged. Fostering ecoliteracy in the Irish arts community could help them awaken valuable creativity for change inherent in our communities, in engaging and inclusive ways. If supported, the arts can help us come together, help move us through the grief for our damaged Earth, to act anew for the better world we know is possible.

This slideshow below is a summary of Cathy’s art and sustainabiilty research:

The full study can be downloaded Creative Carlow Futures (Fitzgerald, 2017; download here)

BiographyCathy Fitzgerald

Cathy Fitzgerald, PhD by Creative Practice, Visual Culture (NCAD), is a NZ artist living in Ireland since 1995. She is best known for her longterm Hollywood Forest Story eco-social art practice that was the basis of her successful PhD by Practice ‘The Ecological Turn: Living Well with Forests to articulate eco-social art practices using a Guattari ecosophy and action research framework’ (2018). This work builds audience engagement using blogging and other social media to share the experiential and aesthetic qualities, and the realworld practice of transforming a monoculture tree plantation using new-to-Ireland continuous cover forestry practices into a permanent, species-rich forest. In dialogue with leading Irish and European continuous cover foresters, policy-makers, philosophers, environmental writers, and members of her community, she communicates a new story of Ireland’s move to ecological forestry at http://www.hollywoodforest.com. In 2019, Cathy was awarded a feasibility study grant from the Carlow Enterprise Board and a Carlow Arts Office Award to develop an online course, and local seminars, on essential ecoliteracy for the arts. She is developing these courses under the name of Haumea, the name of the Earth goddess of the Pacific, www.haumea.site


“Terrestrial Matters”, Dr Iain Biggs.

Iain Biggs, Flight/Paths: (Her bones…) 2018. (98cm x 104cm)

Iain Biggs, Flight/Paths: (Her bones…) 2018. (98cm x 104cm)

Dr Iain Biggs works as an independent mentor, writer, artist, and researcher and is Honorary Research Fellow, University of Dundee, and Visiting Research Fellow at the Environmental Humanities Research Centre, Bath Spa University. He held an Irish Studies and Moore Institute Visiting Fellowship, NUI Galway, in 2014.


The presentation reflects a personal thinking-through of the practical implications of two recent books – Bruno Latour’s Down to Earth: Politics in the New Climate Regime (2018) and Amitav Ghosh’s The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable (2016) – as read by someone involved in mentoring, art and Green politics. It starts from the assumption that one of the most difficult aspects of ‘the Great Derangement’ to acknowledge and act on is its fundamental misconception about personal identity. Consequently, the presentation references various mycelial entanglements involving multi-tasking, connectivities and interdependence to sketch out a view of creative work not predicated on possessive individualism. Taking up Joseph Beuys’ claim that: ‘education is always more important than art’, it proposes an understanding of ecologically-responsive art work as a mutual, dialogical process, predicated on the capacity to listen and leading to what Mary Watkins’ calls ‘mutual accompaniment’. I will refer to projects by Christine Baeumler, Simon Read, Luci Gorell Barnes, Natalie Boulton, and others who have developed ‘ensemble practices’ appropriate to facing ‘wicked problems’ in the Terrestrial here-and-now.

Biography – Dr Iain Biggs

Iain works as an independent mentor, writer, artist, and researcher. He was formally Director of the PLaCE Research Centre, University of the West of England, Bristol, and is currently Visiting Research Fellow at the Environmental Humanities Research Centre at Bath Spa University and Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Dundee. He helps co-coordinate three creative research networks and supervises and examines arts practice-led doctoral students in the UK and Ireland, having worked intermittently with Irish artists and academics since 1999. He has undertaken ‘deep mapping’ projects, produced artist’s books, published on a range of academic and non-academic topics, and writes a blog. He became an RWA in 2012 and held a Moore Institute Visiting Fellowship at NUI, Galway, in 2014. He worked on the major UK Arts and Humanities Research Council Hydrocitizenship project between 2014-2017, and is currently co-authoring an academic paper on daylighting waterways and working on a chapter on ‘Ensemble Practices’ for the ecology section of Art in the Public Domain, a major survey to be published by Routledge in 2020.

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