Power of Creativity

Power of Creativity

1 August, 2015
Artists for Climate
There are many ways to fight climate change, including through inspiration and fine art
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This article originally appeared in Ecozine Spring 2015 issue, and was contirbuted by Joan Sullivan - the only female photographer and videographer in Canada dedicated to documenting the contruction and rapid expansion of windfarms and other renewable energy. Pick up the Summer issue of Ecozine today (in Bookazine, Eslite, City Super) to find more exclusive interviews and opinion pieces from leading conservationists . 
 
Over the past few months, I've noticed something about my work as a renewable energy photographer. When I climb to the top of a wind turbine and look out over the landscape from 80 metres above ground, I often find myself thinking about John Lennon. I wonder what kind of songs he would have written about climate change, and what lyrics he would have selected to underscore the urgency of global action and to promote solutions such as the wind turbines I love to photograph.   
 
In this age of the Anthropocene, what poetry would Lennon employ to challenge the status quo and inspire radical change, as he attempted with his 1971 iconic anthem Imagine at the height of the Vietnam War? I can easily imagine him chanting “All we are saying, is give wind a chance” in support of the growing global fossil fuel divestment movement. 
 
Baptised by the protest music of the 60s and 70s, I have great faith in the power of poets, songwriters and other artists to define and influence a generation through music. But they seem to be conspicuously missing right now, when we need them most. I believe we are long overdue a new wave of protest musicians to burst onto the scene, Woodstock-style, and motivate Millenials to get involved, march in the streets, raise their voices, not lose hope, and to help the rest of us embrace the inevitable transition towards a post-carbon, clean energy economy.  
 
To put it simply: I'm convinced Lennon would agree that protest music is the missing ingredient to breathe new life and a sense of urgency into the global climate change conversation. But, as he once explained, it would have to be “protest with a little honey.”  
 
Discussing the enduring popularity of Imagine's gentle melody and simple lyrics–both of which camouflage radical anti-war and anti-capitalist ideals–Lennon is quoted as saying “Now I understand what you have to do: put your political message across with a little honey... our work is to tell [apathetic young people] there is still hope and still a lot to do.”  I suspect Lennon figured out in his short life what has taken behavioural scientists and communications experts decades to understand.
 
You can't change an individual or society's behaviour simply by clobbering people over the head with negative imagery and doom-and-gloom stories. You have to offer hope, something tangible – a light at the end of the tunnel – if you want to inspire action.
 
Lennon's advice is particularly relevant to climate change artists. As I have previously written on the popular blog Artists and Climate Change, artists from all disciplines and from all corners of the globe must rise to the challenge to collectively transform apathy into action, despair into hope.  
 
Artists and Climate Change has become the go-to website on the Internet that tracks a wide variety of artists who have already taken up this challenge. In addition to drawing attention to important artistic contributions that help us visualise climate change and possible solutions, our blog has become a resource to inspire other artists to join this global movement.  
 
When we say 'artist', we intentionally throw a very wide net to include any and all creative efforts in the fight against climate change: painters, cartoonists, graffiti artists, actors, comedians, cartoonists, DJs, sculptors, metal workers, culinary artists, photographers, filmmakers, poets, scriptwriters, composers, musicians, performers, opera, set designers, multimedia artists, graphic designers, installation artists, storytellers, dancers, designers, textile artists, architects, interior designers, landscape designers, authors, journalists, curators, gallery owners, critics, innovators, CliFi (climate fiction) novelists, even carpet weavers. 
 
As a photographer, I've taken Lennon's advice to heart. I have decided to focus my camera exclusively on the way forward, on positive solutions to climate change, notably renewable energy. As an artist, I am truly inspired by the breathtaking speed at which the clean tech industry is evolving. Much of this work is very technical in nature, and the challenge for me is to find artistic ways to communicate the implications of potential breakthroughs in solar powered roads, green architecture and electric vehicles, for example, to a wider audience. Imagine wind turbines so small that 10 could fit on a grain of rice.
 
Sound unbelievable? Well micro-windmills have already been invented, and one day soon they will recharge your smartphone battery simply by moving your arm through the air. This is the kind of technology that inspires me as an artist. I now understand that we'll never solve climate change by waiting for politicians to solve it 'for us'. No. Everyone has a role to play.
 

By: Joan Sullivan
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