[Despair] is just another form of denial…we don’t have time for it.
Although disturbance and change are part of the natural cycle, with the effects of climate change this is now happening on an unprecedented scale, forever changing the environment in which we live. United Nation’s biodiversity chief warned that biodiversity loss is a silent killer – by 2050 Africa may lose 50% of their birds and mammals and Asian fisheries will have collapsed – and a report by WWF estimates that humanity has wiped out 60% of mammals, birds, fish and reptiles since 1970. As our natural environments become increasingly unstable fewer species will be able to thrive in the changed conditions. This will also impact our way of life, not only in what we eat, but also in the extreme weather conditions, increased forced migration, increased pollution, to name but a few impacts.
In spite of the dire warnings, meaningful change in the way we live and consume has been slow. Widespread cultural shift is required on the individual, local and national levels if we are to meet the Paris Agreement targets of limiting global warming to below 2°C. Yet, as shown by the fraught negotiations at COP25 in 2019, governments are still dragging their feet on meaningful change. How can we change attitude in order to jolt out of this inertia? This is where art can play a role.
Art and culture can be embedded across a range of sectors in order to promote positive change for a more sustainable society. To name just a few example of the way the arts can change the way people think and live in the world, a study showed that attendance at art galleries promoted brain neuroplasticity in people living in nursing homes, education and cultural policies reduced violence in Medellin, once the most violent city in the world, and sound has been shown to revive ailing coral reefs. Art can change attitudes, perceptions and ways of being through large and tiny actions. Art helps to visualise large and abstract concepts, and it helps to make emotional connections in ways that facts and information sometimes can’t. By engaging with people’s curiosity through creative approaches, artistic interventions can act as a call to action.
‘Disturbance Zones’ is a suite of 25 videopoems that seek to respond to these challenging times through creative expression. The project explores ways in which our natural and social environments are becoming increasing unstable. Each videopoem will take as its starting point one issue of radical change (such as extreme beach erosion or the increasing number of refugees), which will then be developed visually, sonically and poetically. This project explores the realities and the metaphor of disturbance throughout our environment and social lives.
The increasing disturbance and change in the planet is a problem that has to be addressed now if we are to have a chance at limiting the impact of climate change for future generations; as climate advocate Al Gore stated despair ‘is just another form of denial…we don’t have time for it.’ Disturbance Zones is not a solution to a very complex problem, but rather a way to incite regular action through a mix of creative intervention and practical information distribution.