What a great finale we had yesterday to Massey is #MissingCOP26. It’s been an exciting two weeks.
This fifth and last session of the Massey is Missing COP 26 climate conference, hosted by Rosemary McCarney and myself, focussed on the role of arts and culture in the #ClimateCrisis. Recordings of each session, except the Nov. 16 Enroads workshops, are available on the Massey College website https://www.masseycollege.ca/programs-and-events/programs/massey-missing-cop26/.. That means it’s not too late to hear a young climate striker interviewing Lloyd Axworthy and David Suzuki, or Kathleen Wynne telling us what really went on in the international climate negotiations in Paris, or which Canadian financial institutions are finally starting to switch to climate smart investments.
On November 19, we explored the rule of arts and culture in the climate transition, and in building public support for strong climate action. This is an important frontier for climate action. Art can touch the heart and energize the soul in ways that science, logic and law just can’t do. To grow a strong public movement for strong climate action, we need art and culture to lead the way.
In his excellent book The Art of Energy, Barry Lord showed that culture and values have always changed as an economy changes its source of energy, and that artists have been at the front line of the change. For most of the last century, we’ve had a society based on consuming oil, and status has come from conspicuous consumption. Now he predicts that, in a society based on renewable energy, status will come from what one protects. Artists are getting there first, and that’s why I’ve invited three artists here today.
Cultural institutions are a lot slower to change, so it’s exciting to see some stepping up. This fall, a group of museums adopted the Bremerhaven Declaration, calling on all world museums to make the climate crisis an important and highly visible part of their work. (https://saxefacts.com/cultural-institutions-and-climate-crisis/). For some, that can be a tough financial challenge. Fossil fuel industries are still supporting cultural institutions to buy social license and access to decision-makers. Should we still allow that? The battle has begun to get oil money out of advertising and cultural events, with The Guardian newspaper one of the first to refuse it. It reminds me of the battle to get tobacco money out of advertising and cultural events. This was an important part of the cultural battle over smoking, but we lost some public events that tobacco money used to pay for.
How are Canadian artists and cultural institutions coming to grips with the climate crisis and its moral and cultural shifts? What role do they see themselves playing in building public support for climate action, including this critical year leading up to COP26?
These are the questions that I put to the Canadian Minister of Heritage Steven Guilbeault, Director of the Royal Ontario Museum Josh Basseches, poet Alice Major, and singer songwriters Ron Hawkins and Sarah Harmer.
The last half hour focussed on climate action, what you can do individually and to support collective change. We had great fun in the Dragon’s Den- type pitch competition. Competitors were:
- ShiftAction – Protecting your pension and the climate
- CleanAir Partnership – Home energy retrofits
- Guelph Tool Library – Sharing stuff, not buying
- Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment – Active transportation for health
- David Suzuki Foundation – Think global, act on local government
- Nourish Healthcare – Plant-based diets