Thursday, 23 January 2014

Climate Change and the Arts

I’m writing this series of posts about climate change and the arts because I believe that the current ecological, social and economic crises facing us (of which climate change is arguably the greatest) require radical internal transformation – transformation in the heart, mind and perception, as well as in our civilization.

Climate change is a big, scary issue. It is particularly scary because so much of its implications are unknown. The more we find out about it, the worse its implications seem to be. Whether it’s methane bubbling up through the permafrost; the jewel of biodiversity – the Amazon rainforest – shriveling to savannah; the boreal forests of North America being eaten alive by beetles; it would seem that our natural life support systems are falling apart quickly and brutally. 

But scarier even than that is the ‘business as usual’ mentality that those in power have succumbed to – whether it’s the European Commission setting a pathetic, industry-appeasing target to cut emissions, or countries sabotaging international agreements to please business lobbyists.  Where is the transformation, and the change of direction?

I would argue that the greater the crisis seems to be, the more potential there is for truly great, transformative art. Art that knows the foibles of human nature – how hard we try, how we cock up, how violent and selfish and how deeply enlightened and compassionate humans can be. There is plenty of debate going on about art and morality – for example, how a great composer like Wagner can be anti-Semitic. But great art can escape its maker. When a crisis and huge suffering seems inescapable, when there’s nowhere to hide but a dying planet, when all you can do is question ‘can we come through this? Are we capable?’ there is a space for the arts, and for spirituality. We can become a force for love and beauty, greater than ourselves. The planet speaks (or sings?) through us.

I will focus on composers, bands and poets, and discuss a work of poetry/music/film/art that I’ve found has helped me. I hope it helps you too. Watch this space for further updates!


  1. We learned this simple choral piece at the "Into the Wild" festival last year. It's a Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young song rearranged by Sophia Efthimiou, so that the mood is more about the planet than about war. She was also leading singing camps at Balcombe, the anti-fracking demonstration site.

    We went on repeating the theme for 4 or 5 minutes, very beautiful I thought.

    1. That is wonderful. I absolutely love it. Thankyou.