May 19, 2011

Artists: The Climate Change Movement Needs You

Grist published an excellent article last week, highlighting the importance of art in social movements, noting that "great upheavals demand great art."

And now humanity faces the gravest of threats: climate change. The climate clock ticks ominously onward, but thus far we have been unable to marshal what Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein describe as the "bodies, passion, and creativity" required to avert impending economic and environmental disaster. But passion comes from the heart, not the head, and climate activists have largely been targeting people's upper organ, pleading their case with statistics, policy platforms, and poll-driven messaging. Maybe it's time to aim lower. McKibben, the founder of, is one of the few climate activists thinking seriously about the relationship between art, activism and social change.

Why is art so crucial?

Deployed carefully, art can also provide a potent way to persuade troubled peoples that another world is possible. It appeals to our better nature, reminding us that love and joy are more powerful than hatred and violence. During times of upheaval, it appeals to our hearts, replaces fear with hope and determination, encouraging us to seek out new visionary ways to organize society.

We are strong believers in that idea, and at this year's festival we'll be featuring the work of several artists that are taking action with their craft, like Antrim Caskey, Aaron Huey, Charlotte Lykes Jorgensen & Vevie Lykes Dimmitt, The Beehive Collective and several others.

The Grist article ends with an important reminder:

If the climate movement is serious about crafting new organizing strategies around passion and creativity, we need to provide artists with resources and weave their work into our organizing strategies -- rather than simply assigning them bit parts at political rallies. We need artists as movement strategists and tacticians. We need to seek out the new generation of green artisans and merge their culture of sustainability with the climate movement's energy and militant activism.

Read the full Grist article.

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