Time to Declare!

You’ve heard the adage that the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. Well, the best time to declare a climate & ecological emergency was 40 years ago. But, in the Cultural sector, we started declaring emergency three years ago, with the launch of Culture Declares on April 3rd 2019. We were the first of the declaring initiatives to follow after councils and governments.

We now have a new website, and are inviting existing declarers to refresh and promote their pledge statements, and inviting non-declarers to join our community. Use the hashtags #CultureTakesAction and #ItStartedWithTheTruth to share your story.

See my refreshed pledge here and below.

It’s absolutely the right time to declare again, or for the first time because of the current intensity of the intersecting emergencies that arise from extractive, violent and degenerative life-ways that have us in their grip. These emergencies include:

  • Climate breakdown: the impacts of worsening extreme weather, such as a 20% rise in global food prices in 2021 and increased displacement in areas such as Sub Saharan Africa due to extreme heat. Wealthier areas such as Australia and Western Canada are also being afflicted by historic floods and fires, sooner than expected. See the latest IPCC 6th Assessment report, and another due imminently.
  • Zoonotic pandemics: the most significant is Covid-19, continuing to mutate and cause global disruption. It has emerged from destruction of forests and consumption. Other zoonotic pandemics will emerge from the impacts of climate breakdown and ecocide. See where I’ve mapped all the links between environmental issues and the pandemic.
  • Degraded environments: Ecocidal destruction of forests, oceans, wetlands and grasslands for direct use for agribusiness, mining and urban development, or through indirect impacts of pollution and climate breakdown. This is leading to the devastation of biodiversity and productive land, causing disease, hunger and displacement, as well as suffering and extinction of more-than-human species. See the recent launch of Artists for Ecocide Law.
  • Wars: There are currently major conflicts in Ukraine, Yemen, Syria and further civil wars in Africa and South America. These result from conflict over resources, often fossil fuels and land for agriculture, stirred by nationalism, religious ideologies and authoritarian leadership. The most dangerous agents of war are those nations extracting the most resources, harbouring the most corruptly sourced wealth, and building arsenals of the most destructive weapons (chemicals, nuclear etc.). See ‘This is a fossil fuel war’.
  • Energy prices: for several reasons, including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, energy prices have shot up and are threatening to rise further. This is throwing light on our dependence on fossil fuels and their supply from totalitarian regimes, resulting in calls both to increase local supplies of fossil fuels and to increase investment in renewable energy, as well as nuclear power. See my idea for Power Parties to save energy in a multi-solving way.

Arguably, all these crises have arisen out of long histories and recent accelerations of the extraction of natural resources and human bodies for individual, corporate and national profit. These political leaders have formed alliances with business leaders and investors that accumulate the profits, and are paying to manipulate the media (including social media, broadcasting, education and the cultural sector) and to take over democracies in their favour. Their goals are to end the grip of regulations and taxes that limit their abilities to grab land, extract resources, exploit people, pollute places, exert force and harbour wealth.

In this context, what is the role of culture’s practitioners, organisations and creative communities? I suggest that the role far exceeds the normal response, which is to reduce harm while continuing business as usual. You can find the possible routes beyond this narrow role, in my Culture Takes Action toolkit here. Culture Declares (and also Climate Museum UK) invites dialogue and diverse views on this contention. What are the possible responses? What are the nuanced issues? What are your experiences of living with these histories and anticipating future impacts?

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