This is the question being asked in Arts & Ecology, a new podcast about the vital role that art and culture play in creating a regenerative future.
As a species in the midst of a self-induced climate crisis, it is essential that we re-think our relationship with the planet and our ecosystems. To this end, the podcast talks to a range of artists and curators, including Caroline Till, co-curator of the recent Our Time on Earth exhibition at London’s Barbican, Guardian columnist and environmentalist George Monbiot, and students from the Arts and Ecology MA course at Dartington, south Devon. It’s inspiring to listen to the wonderful work being produced, but also a narrative that is very much geared towards a positive mindset shift.
In episode two, Till talks about how art and culture has the ability to make issues like climate change tangible, to “bring it to life” and “experience it more deeply.” Often, environmental art and activism has taken a much more doom and gloom perspective, which is powerful in bringing an issue to our attention and, as Till says, “depicts the scale of the problem really well” – but it leaves people feeling powerless as to what to do about it. The podcast has a much more optimistic feel, talking to artists who are encouraging a shift in perspective, by engaging people to imagine a better world and inspiring them to do something about it.
Ultimately, we all need a deeper connection to nature and the non-human world. In episode six, hosts Mike Edwards and Natasha Rivett-Carnac discuss how students in Dartington are given the space to have ‘unusual’ encounters with nature, such as conversations with trees. Indigenous communities have understood this principle for millennia. Monbiot (episode two) says the “old narrative is destructive” and discusses the “mind-blowing” wonders of soil, its abundant life, and calls for a new culture that celebrates the world beneath our feet. Green MP Caroline Lucas said in her Letter to the Earth back in 2019 that “political failure is at its root a failure of imagination.” She called on artists then to “inspire us to believe it’s not too late to act and show us that each one of us can make a difference.”
I’d recommend this podcast for some much-needed creative hope and inspiration, and details of where to find the art to help us.
Arts & Ecology is available on Apple Podcasts.
This review was originally published in the Autumn 2022 print edition of Wicked Leeks. You can read the full issue online now.