Art and Culture as a catalyst for sustainability

A sustainable culture sector that in achieving its mission respects planetary boundaries, regenerates nature, has equitable and ethical curatorial strategies, improves the life and wellbeing of society, whilst also engaging in sustainability storytelling and solutions, is possible and necessary.

A paradigm shift for a better future

The age of the Anthropocene has brought our planet to a crucial inflection point. We may not be able to undo all the damage done thus far, but we can focus on creating a world where we have more empathy for others, for nature and the future ahead. A world where we recognize the interconnectedness of all things and rewire our thinking to create positive change. This is sustainability. A new paradigm where humanity, nature and our planet all thrive as equals, where the needs of the present do not compromise the environmental, social or economic needs of future generations.

In a sustainable world we understand that nature is no longer unlimited and free and we live in reciprocity with our planet – only taking what we are able to give back, and regenerating nature in service for all that we receive. In a sustainable world we also no longer see time as linear; we make decisions today with the distant future at the forefront of our present day thoughts.

  The new paradigm for a sustainable future is calling us to shift consciousness and embed sustainability in our every thought, plan and action, and art and culture have a critical role to play.

© Álvaro Laiz, The Edge

Art and culture as drivers for sustainability

Art and culture are powerful drivers for sustainability. They positively impact the wellbeing of society and importantly have the unique ability to enable a profound understanding of the challenges of sustainability and help transform society like no scientific article or United Nations speech ever will do. The intangible cultural heritage embedded in the wisdom of indigenous tribes and people, as well as their ongoing efforts to protect and defend our forests, land and water, are also important in the transition towards a sustainable future. Indigenous peoples comprise less than 5% of the world’s population but protect 80% of the planet’s biodiversity.

 Beyond this, there is potential for the entire arts and culture ecosystem to act as a vehicle for the search for creative and interconnected sustainability solutions. The new thinking bringing solutions to sustainability, such as systems thinking, circular economies and biomimicry give ground to symbiosis with artistic minds and thinking.

© Desert X installation view of Serge Attukwei Clottey `The Wishing Well 2021′. Photography by Lance Garber, Courtney the artist and Desert X

Aligning the culture sector with sustainability

The culture sector must now also take responsibility to engage in sustainability practices and strategies in the way we work. A sustainable culture sector that in achieving its mission respects planetary boundaries, regenerates nature, has equitable and ethical curatorial strategies, improves the life and wellbeing of society, whilst also engaging in sustainability storytelling and solutions, is possible and necessary. By embedding sustainability in the sector’s strategies we can optimize and bring integrity to existing objectives, whilst also minimizing the impact the sector currently has on our planet. This will also help prepare the culture sector to transition to net-zero emissions, which is the future we will all be held to by 2050 if not before.

Some art and culture actors are already leading the way in their different spheres of influence. The Natural History Museum, London with its exemplary sustainability policy and strategy; the Serpentine Gallery with their programmes Back to Earth and General Ecologies; Thyssen-Borenmisza Art Contemporary (TBA 21) with the environmental discourse of their art programme; Olafur Eliasson with his sustainable exhibition Sometimes The Bridge is the River; the National Museums Liverpool with their innovative energy-efficient building design; or artists such as John Akomfrah and Ai Weiwei through their work to name a few.

UreCulture’s goal is support the culture sector to be an active agent in the paradigm shift to a sustainable present and future, where both planet and people thrive.

May our descendants continue to create the art of the future and enjoy and learn from the culture of the past. May we all become good ancestors, the future is not ours to compromise.

Nicky Ure, UreCulture

28 April 2021

1% for the planet

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