Addressing the climate crisis through art

Watch worldwide video contributions with a multifaceted view of what climate change means to you. This video mosaic will be a testament to the importance of collaboration and new ideas in addressing the climate crisis.

Climate change is among the greatest threats to our existence. Science and experience show us that drought, wildfires, tornados and hurricanes are more frequent and more intense.

But knowledge and action are distinct, and it can be very hard to grasp that there isn’t always a cause-and-effect relationship. How do we connect the two? A group of University of Utah faculty and their collaborators believe the answer lies in art.

U faculty, with other prominent artists, educators and scientists from Harvard, Stanford, University of California, Berkeley and other universities across the country, developed the Artivism For Earth project to inspire compassionate and creative actions to the climate crises facing the world. The project, funded by a 1U4U grant, asks questions that stir powerful emotions: How will we adapt to create a more resilient planet for humans and nature? How will we protect communities that are disadvantaged and most at risk? What kind of future do we want to leave for the next generation?

Artivism For Earth culminates on Earth Day, April 22, 2021, with multiple online events, primarily set at the Natural History Museum of Utah on the University of Utah campus.

Artivism For Earth co-directors Elisabet Curbelo and Hasse Borup, faculty in the U School of Music, developed the project as a tool to communicate the urgency of climate change and inspire action. Science can help measure and predict climate change effects, they said, but it can be challenging to communicate and understand what the data tells us.

“This escalating crisis threatens us all,” Borup said.

Image from the production of Xavier Beteta’s piece, “Whale Fall.” Composition based on Katharine Coles’ poem and performed by Ronak Tathireddy of the Madeleine Choir School. Tune in to artivism4earth.utah.edu on Earth Day (April 22) to see the full performance.

Curbelo adds that “the impacts will be first felt by those held down by inequitable policies and systemic racism here and abroad. Collective action is urgently needed.”

Naomi Oreskes, professor of the course History of Science and affiliated professor of Earth and planetary sciences at Harvard University, said she joined Artivism For Earth because art can help translate what climate change means, and “most people respond more to meaning than to facts.”

“I think the important thing to remember is that the majority of the American people understand that climate change is real, but they may not understand why it really matters—why it is a question of our health, our wealth, our well-being, and of social and inter-generational justice,” Oreskes said. “So, we need to engage people in that broader conversation, so that they understand that this matters for their lives—for all our lives—and that we all feel motivated to do our part to address it.”

Artivism for Earth features five events on April 22. The events will present performance pieces featuring scientific data, dance, new music compositions, visuals and words to illuminate the climate crisis.

Events

  • Video Mosaic | 12 p.m.
  • “Hour of Decision: A Cycle of Four Elements” | 1 p.m.
  • Crossroads Project | 2 p.m.
  • KUER/Artivism4Earth Panel Discussion | 4 p.m.
  • “Artivism for Earth: Expressions of Loss and Hope” | 7 p.m.

Many of the events were pre-recorded at the Natural History Museum of Utah, a space committed to documenting the planet’s history.

“We are committed to communicating science and serving as a venue where diverse perspectives can come together to understand critical topics like climate change,” said Jason Cryan, director of the Natural History Museum of Utah. “We invite you to be a part of the expanding conversation.”

The interdisciplinary Artivism For Earth project is emblematic of outgoing President Ruth Watkins’ focus on One U.

“As this event demonstrates, addressing climate change will require contributions and commitments from all of us—individuals, institutions, states, nations and countries,” said President Watkins. “The progress we have made at the U is due to a collaborative effort to adopt practices and policies that reduce our environmental impact, contribute to long-term efficiency and sustainability, support research and education, and center equity as a top priority.”

To learn more about Artivism For Earth, visit artivism4earth.utah.edu.

Media Contacts

Morgan Aguilarcommunications specialist, University of Utah Communications