Earth day 22 April 2020 - The Open College of the Arts
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Earth day 22 April 2020

Today is Earth Day and I am considering how my photographic art practice needs to reflect my increased understanding of Climate Breakdown. This predicted environmental crisis has come into even sharper focus as we witness the global effect of COVID19. I share my reflections and wonder if others are having similar considerations? Please do add your thoughts below.

Reflections from my Greenhouse – How could artists respond to Earth Day 22 April 2020?

February 2020 I renewed my travel vaccines, as I prepared for a photographic tour of a lifetime to the Galapagos Islands. In February, shops were trading, restaurants were serving and I had just visited the RA’s exhibition, Eco-Visionaries. But within a month everything changed, we now occupy a new space with a new time to reflect.

The Corona Virus pandemic has brought with rapid speed an unprecedented change to our daily lives. Not only are our governments, public services and businesses looking over the precipice of disaster, but also ourselves. We hold our breath and whisper. How many will need to die? Where is this leading?

This experience enables us to imagine the effects of another global crisis with greater clarity – the 1.5 or even 3 degree warming which is predicted by the majority of world scientist (IPCC). There will be drought, floods and food shortages and this will happen if there is not a permanent turnaround in the way we live. Following this pandemic, I accept we shall need to bring the economy back to a sustainable balance, but there will remain the urgency to bring our planet back to a sustainable balance. Humanity’s survival and nature’s health systems are intrinsically linked. 

Recent restrictions have given us the evidence of what can be achieved if humanity works together  to climb out of an abyss. Our challenge is to stay in the mindset of emergency and to re-engineer life styles in order to turn around our climate crisis. It will be up to us who have witnessed and survived our current alternate world. We need to fight against a reduction to restrictions, which have benefited our planet’s health, and a re-escalation of unnecessary profiteering. We also need to review our own practices.

During this lock down, whilst spending time in my greenhouse, I reflected the true cost of my own 21st century lifestyle.  I pondered on the extraordinary acts of bravery, selflessness and sacrifice of health and care workers. I have cancelled my Galapagos trip and shall not fly again – a decision which I admit comes with a feeling of regret but also with an understanding as I look up at the very blue and flawless canopy over my greenhouse. I have no right to pollute.  

My hope is within a year we can all live a full life again but with a lower need for fossil fuels, environmental destruction and unnecessary products – a life without lock down, without fear, without world famine. We have witnessed communities reuniting, wars ceasing and street gangs delivering food. We have heard birds singing. We have learnt we can together make a difference and start to reverse a pandemic. We can have hope in the dark. Like so many art students I wish to follow my developing creative heart but not at an environmental cost. Could we as a cohort pull together ideas to help build a guide for a new sustainable art world? As distance learners we have already found many solutions… are there more we could share?

References.

Baker. P.C. 2020 ‘We can’t go back to normal: How will Corona virus change the world?’ In: The Guardian [online] At: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/31/how-will-the-world-emerge-from-the-coronavirus-crisis  (Accessed on 31 March 2020)

Klien. N. (2014)  This Changes Everything. Capitalism vs. The Climate. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Solnit,  R. (2004)  Hope in the Dark. London: Canongate Books Ltd. 

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Posted by author: veronica worrall
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8 thoughts on “Earth day 22 April 2020

    • I wholeheartedly support your thoughts. Let’s hope we can use this re-set to embark on a new course for greater sustainability.

    • Many thanks for your response . This is such a tough time for so many but as you say we need to stay hopeful

  • Many thanks for your response . This is such a tough time for so many but as you say we need to stay hopeful

  • Wonderful read Veronica – insightful and made personal. Will be really interested how the current situation feeds into your work.

  • Thank you. Great post. Huge decision not to fly again – many congratulations. Some good things have come out of .’lockdown! Like less driving and grounding of flights although of course it’s always a double edged sword and no tourism in the global south already has some communities in the global south on the edge of starvation eg the Masai in Kenya and Tanzania. I guess one response could be to donate our cancelled returns from flights to these people and I will commit to do so. My biggest concern currently is also for the animals who are being slaughtered in even greater numbers to meet a rise in demand for flesh – I am not sure why this is the case (I mean the increased demand) and of course animal ag is the biggest contributor to greenhouse gases – along with my concern for plastic pollution as we all turn to online shopping. These are all good topics for art.

  • Hi Susan,
    Many, many thanks for your thoughtful and encouraging response. I agree about the double edged sword…especially as I used to volunteer for global Earthwatch Conservation projects.
    As you mention food sourcing, packaging and transport are key issues. The developed world needs to rethink the inequality of our western ideologies and shameful legacies. Have you read Rob Nixon’s ‘Slow Violence and The Environmentalism of the Poor’? (recommended by my CS tutor) We have to hope policies might change …..as we photographers seek to evoke discussion thro’ environmental art !

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