Climate change has been at the epicentre of conversations, especially in recent years. As the conversation expands, the world’s leading climate scientists have been sounding alarm bells that we are running out of time. The President of the seventy-third session of The General Assembly at the United Nations, María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, warns that “we are the last generation that can prevent irreparable damage to our planet” and that “Climate justice is intergenerational justice”. NASA reports that the years 2016 and 2020 are tied for the warmest year on record as carbon dioxide emissions have increased. In turn, this worsens the risk of droughts, extreme heat, wildfires, rising sea levels, and poverty for hundreds of millions of people.
As well as wreaking havoc on people’s livelihoods; animals and ecosystems will directly be harmed, many will face extinction. Iberdrola reports that world biodiversity has “alarmingly declined in half a century, more than 25,000 species, almost a third of those known are in danger of disappearing. Climate change will be responsible for 8% of these”.
A staple in a more promising future is The Paris Agreement, a legally binding international treaty on climate change which entered into force on November 4th, 2016. Its primary goal is to limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius (which requires economic and social transformation) cut emissions by 45% by 2030 and embark on the road towards carbon neutrality by 2050. Although countries have submitted their plans to reduce their Greenhouse Gas emissions and build resilience to adapt to the impacts of rising temperatures - known as nationally determined contributions (NDC’s) ; the UN Climate change News reported in early 2021 that Climate Commitments are not on track to meet Paris Agreement Goals.
The repercussions are daunting however, climate change is an opportunity for systemic change. Change that will promote a more productive, resilient and healthy environment for future generations – a sustainable one. Sustainability is understood as a holistic approach which has recognised that to achieve lasting prosperity, ecological, social and economic facet’s need to be considered together. The term was coined in 1983, as former Norwegian Prime minister Gro Harlem Brundtland was tapped by the United Nations to run the new World Commission on Environment and Development. When the “Brundtland Commission’ released its final report Our Common Future, it notoriously defined sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs”.
Environmental protection, social equity and economic development are noted as the three pillars of sustainability. Recognising the pressing need, sustainability has outgrown its environmental niche and has become a vital component for corporate development. In 2019, Amazon co-founded The Climate Pledge – a commitment to be net zero carbon by 2040. Microsoft, Mercedes-Benz, Sainsbury’s and Coca-Cola are just a few of the signatories that have committed.
A plethora of industries are taking steps to engage with sustainability, one being film and TV. Albert spearheads screen industries putting green practices in place and creating sustainable productions that tackle the environmental impact of broadcasting. Sustainability then becomes the driving force of innovation. Sky is currently ‘albert certified’ and employs practices such as going carbon neutral, introducing the world’s first auto standby set top box, planting tree’s and no use of single-use plastic.
On series two of Unmuted we were excited to speak to four sustainable artists to gain an insight into how sustainability is innovating the arts. Freya Hollingberry is a visual artist from Somerset who uses recycled bottle-tops to create mosaic artworks, with the objective of making art more accessible.
Freya showcases that we can create beautiful pieces from using everyday, reusable materials – art doesn’t need to be an expensive hobby. The bottle-tops are used to explore the circularity of life through interconnected patterns and colours, as well as inclusion which is why Freya managed to raise money for Black Lives Matter with 6 pieces of original work. In some pieces, one bottle cap is flipped the other way compared to the rest which represents the irregularities of life, promoting the idea that whilst things can look perfect from the outside, we all have imperfections.
Textile artist Rachna Garodia makes hand woven and hand embroidered interior products ranging from cushions, quilts, wall art and screens. Rachna uses a variety of materials in her work like; cotton, linen, silk, wool and juxtaposes this with found materials such as bark, seedpods, twigs etc. Her woven tapestries aim to bring the ‘outside’ in, evoking the simple pleasures of a woodland walk or witnessing the seasons change. Nature continues to fuel Rachna’s inspiration which have allowed her to create tapestries such as ‘Restless Elements 1’ and ‘Woodland Walk’ where she has showcased her interpretation of the elements and landscapes, fusing her life in both India and London.
Lithuanian born multi-disciplinary artist Livi Sidabraite aims to use her art to advocate for nature conservation and questions value systems which have direct effects on the environment. Livi creates upcycled art, working with plastic, metal, glass, paper, fabric and brass – essentially giving materials another life. Livi has crafted an informed environmental art practice, especially through the ongoing investigation of nature worship in Pagan cultures in relation to Japan’s Shintoism.
‘Artivist’ (activist and artist) Eva Joy’s work revolves around themes of protest, climate change apocalyptic possibilities and Utopia. For Eva, it is important that her art is accessible to people and encourages debates and discussions. She considers her work to sit on a line between humour and horror as Eva says that she “takes on an anarchic stance to traditional spaces for art and prefers to use public interventions and community collaborations to spark energy for change”. Eva’s art is composed of recycled materials and objects that she finds on the street.
Without art the Earth would just be ‘eh’ and without sustainability the Earth would not be.