The role of art in sustainability

Art and Culture Mondays by Bronte Hogarth

Recently The Guardian published art article posing the question – ‘What is the role of art in sustainability?’

The intersection of art, people, information and ideas with science, the environment and sustainability is a topic being discussed a lot lately. The burning question being: how can art bring awareness to issues of sustainability?


The Arctic Poppy used in art to create environmental awareness

The first step, and the biggest role of art in sustainability, is to create an emotional investment between people and nature.

Once people have connected on an emotional level, they internalise the issues, which in turn may motivate them to take action in their everyday lives towards a more sustainable future.

The Guardian article proposed –

Our culture is taken up with an all-pervasive pretence at rational, data-driven decision-making. Within many businesses, this culture of the rational is pushed to the extreme. Any form of emotional engagement is frowned upon. When it comes to sustainability, this is largely ineffective. First of all, data is by definition about the past.


Bottles and tableware made from discarded plastic bags

Effectively, the data-driven approach towards issues of sustainability tends to keep us stuck in the past and the present. This is a dangerous thing, as major issues in sustainability today such as climate change will largely affect our futures, even while we need to be acting now to avoid the more catastrophic outcomes.

Sociologist Ulrich Beck remarks that: “Only if nature is brought into people’s everyday images, into the stories they tell, can its beauty and suffering be seen and focused on.”

This is why art plays an incredibly important role in sustainability. Creating a more sustainable future and way of living is not going to happen overnight, nor will it be achieved only through new technologies and scientific advancements.

The change we need is deeply behavioural and cultural, requiring “a reimagining of the way we live, produce and do business”, and it needs to be happening through all avenues of life including art.

Art has always played a role in changing society, and as The Guardian article states “Sustainability won’t spring from spreadsheets” and data! It’s going to require people getting emotional, not just getting on Excel.

  • What do you think? How do we tap our emotional side for change? Let us know what you think the role of art in sustainability is?

Art & Culture Mondays: Awesome sustainable happenings in art and culture every Monday.

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