Kate: Two major events aimed at communicating the science and implications of climate change were held in Melbourne this week.
- Melbourne’s Inaugural Festival of Ideas took the theme of Climate Change/Cultural Change at a critical moment in world history and
- Melbourne University hosted a two day Teachers Workshop on Climate Change, The Environment and Evolution – as part of the national Evolution Festival (marking the anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin)
Both events included creative inspiration from artists to inform conceptions and debate.
The Ideas Festival director, Dr Patrick McCaughey, a former art critic and Director of the National Gallery of Victoria, ensured a prominent role for artists including poets, novelists and musicians in visioning the cultural changes needed in facing climate change. Musical performances and readings illuminated the Festival’s themes. At a session of Contemporary Music for a Time of Change a work by Dr Elliott Gyger titled From the Hungry Waiting Country was performed by Halcyon. (You can listen to the performance here) This was a libretto made up of different texts including 20th-century Australian poems and extracts from ancient Near Eastern religious texts. These seemingly disparate strata are linked by striking use of Biblical imagery in the Australian poetry, and by the common theme of water in the desert, often as an image for divine grace. Gyger was hoping to highlight the ethical dimension to emerging ecological crises, that is an increasing awareness that they are the consequences of our own actions.
The impact of cultural imperatives of climate change on art were also explored at the Ideas Festival. In a session titled titled The Architect and the Art of Architecture: Victims or Heroes of Climate Change? speakers debated whether the constraints of designing climate friendly buildings will curtail architects freedom of individual expression.
Arts based teaching resources were demonstrated at the Teachers Workshop on Climate Change, The Environment and Evolution. One curriculum resource included was from Bug Blitz, an innovative program designed to educate students on biodiversity using an arts-based approach. Initiated by the Hugh D.T. Williamson Foundation (under the auspices of the Victorian Museum) Bug Blitz involves experts in environmental sciences, film, multimedia and puppetry to promote creative ways of learning. For climate change studies Bug Blitz is used to demonstrate how small changes can have major impacts on an ecosystem.
Responding to climate change will bring transformative changes to our culture and society. The prominence of artists in Melbourne’s Climate Change focused events this week, demonstrates the important role that artists play in helping us envision and communicate these changes.