Wednesday 18 November, we hosted our first international debate about what art can do for the significant challenges of our time. As part of the Culture X Climate event, over fifteen artists, activists, and other professionals from a range of countries came together to explore what art can do for climate change.

Climate change as human problem

If you do a Google image search for ‘climate change,’ you get images of a scorched earth, melting icecaps, polar bears, and statistics. Visually, climate change is not a human problem. But of course it is. Participants expressed that art has a role to play in showing the human aspects of the crisis.

Also, the solutions to the climate crisis have to be human solutions. A participant from Algeria mentioned how the climate problem seems to be the exclusive domain of engineers. Artists, cultural professionals, and many other professions also have their role to play in addressing the climate crisis.

Little statues on a beach waiting for the sea level to rise.

Waiting for Climate Change by Isaac Cordal. Photo: FaceMePLS.

Indigenous people at the forefront

Asked what the art community could do to address Canada’s climate crisis, one participant was crystal clear: Hand over the reins to indigenous artists. Indigenous people have been at the forefront of many fights against climate change and its underlying causes.

The profound relationship to the land and nature of many indigenous communities is an example for others that want to live in harmony with nature. There is a lot to learn from their activism and art about living sustainably.

Rehearsal for the bigger crisis

Many see the current COVID-19 pandemic as a rehearsal for the climate crisis. The successful art projects that brought people together and helped them face the Coronavirus may be templates for the projects we need to address climate change.

At the same time, the rehearsal shows that much more is needed from the art world. We have to support the debate in the public space about climate change, bridge the gap between experts and the public, and add a sense of urgency to climate action.

Watch the full video of the event to learn more about what art can do for climate change.