How can we be good ancestors?
Some provocations for embedding climate activism into your practice
By Adam Cooper | Director, Threads in the Ground. Associate, people make it work.
What emotion do you feel when you read “climate crisis”?
If you’re a UK resident there’s a roughly 75% chance you feel (very) worried, accompanied with feelings of grief, anger, guilt, and shame.
Perhaps you worry about your carbon footprint? And that of your clients’? Are you switching off your lights, buying a Tesla, using a Bag for Life?
Please just notice whatever you’re feeling and put it to the side for the moment.
I think it’s important we remember that the phrase “Carbon Footprint” was coined by British Petroleum – part of a brilliantly successful PR campaign designed to shift responsibility on to the individual. It has deeply embedded the idea in our collective psyche that this is all our fault.
That feeling you set aside earlier, it has been done to you. If you feel hopeless, powerless, guilty. If climate action feels intimidating, overwhelming, onerous, that is by design.
The scale of our guilt and sadness are not measures of how well we live the responsibility and privilege of being ancestors to all who will follow. So, can we make some changes please?
Which brings me to art and culture.
The Paris climate agreement takes us to 2030, by which time we need to have cut greenhouse gas emissions by 45%. There is scientific consensus that for us to achieve that goal requires a total renaissance of all global systems, policies, technology, and society.
You and I are about to live through perhaps the most dramatic period of change in human history – it touches EVERYTHING. It doesn’t matter what your cultural practice is, where or how you work – the climate crisis offers us an incredible lens for prompting our best, most expansive, most energetic and optimistic work. Social justice is climate justice, and there is no more fertile creative ground than these ideas and changes reshaping our world.
So, I want to offer you 3 provocations which I hope will open new avenues for your practice. I hope that by reflecting on these, we can help softly embed climate activism in our every-day work, and that of our clients and communities.
Here are my thoughts for you…
- We happen to be alive during the 7-year window that will shape the lives of all future generations. What does that mean for our ideas of privilege, heritage, and justice?
- The scale of change needed globally requires a fully human, democratic response. What do our organisations and institutions need to look and be like, to facilitate such change?
- Surely, soon, almost all people will be experiencing their own individual climate anxiety? What does that mean for our work in understanding and serving our communities?
We are unknowably powerful and privileged to be alive in this moment. My personal way of honouring that privilege is to embrace climate hope, to immerse myself in the possibilities of climate justice and the creative excitement that brings me. The result of my immersion has been Threads in the Ground, the new climate hope organisation. I will wait in anticipation of what yours will be.