Arts, culture, and tech for climate action

Quezon City—Arts, culture, and technology play a crucial role in communicating the issues and solutions surrounding the climate crisis, advocates emphasized during a recent episode of The Climate Reality Project Philippines’ Klimatotohanan webcast series.

The episode entitled “When Actions Meet Words: Communicating the Climate Crisis through Poems and Narratives” featured ongoing efforts and initiatives harnessing the power of words and imagery to amplify climate change conversations.

Retelling climate-related narratives with poems and stories

“Even if poetry and art cannot save the world, they can sustain our souls, keep our hearts intact, make us feel strong, and create a feeling of solidarity between people,” Padmapani Perez, the Lead Strategist for Creative Collaboration of Agam Agenda, said during the webcast.

Agam Agenda is a shape-shifting platform of the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities for creative, trans-disciplinary collaboration designed to grow and contribute to fluid networks of climate-aware writers, artists, scientists, youth, and campaigners.

In 2021, Agam Agenda published the book Harvest Moon: Poems and Stories from the Edge of the Climate Crisis, an anthology of narratives and photographs spanning 24 countries and 11 languages.

Agam Agenda is also one of the mobilizers of the When is Now campaign, a global poetry and art movement to depict the realities and showcase interlinked narratives of climate change.

When is Now is a space in which people can feel that their words and art matter. We’re bringing the lived culture, arts, and humanities into the space of climate action because this is how we live,” Perez explained.

The movement started by inviting some poets and storytellers to write about life, the place they live and love, and how these are being transformed by the climate crisis. Other poets around the world were asked to take two lines from the initial submissions and include them in their work, whether it’s a poem, short story, or performance.

During the webcast, Perez presented some of the works featured in the When Is Now online exhibit, including the poem anai, when by Craig Santos Perez, a poet belonging to an indigenous group in Guam, and its corresponding response poem entitled El secreto by Ana G. Aupi,  a feminist popular communicator and poet from Guatemala.

“They are from two different sides of the world, from very different places—Guam on the one hand and Guatemala on the other hand. Ana and Craig have never met but they’ve become acquainted through this poem. They’ve treated each other’s stories with much respect and care,” Perez expounded.

Poets for Climate

Responding to the global poetic call for climate action started by When Is Now, The Climate Reality Project Philippines, Africa, and Canada partnered with Agam Agenda in July this year for Poets for Climate.

Designed to support and complement When is Now, the program harnessed the creativity and diversity of the wide network of Climate Reality Leaders on three different continents to highlight the need for world leaders to address the vicious cycle of loss and damage experienced by climate-vulnerable communities.

The partnership yielded a hundred poems from 75 youth leaders of Cameroon, Canada, Kenya, Nigeria, Philippines, Sierra Leon, South Africa, and Zambia.

“We see more and more individuals wanting to be part of the climate change movement. However, scientific jargon and intimidating conferences are slowing things down for them. Arts and culture have the ability to bring more people in and create opportunities for these people to invigorate the climate movement,” Kristine Galang, the Communications Lead of The Climate Reality Project Philippines, said during the webcast.

“Arts can bring people together. It injects humanity into the movement by helping different people find common ground despite having different experiences brought by the climate crisis,” Galang added.

Following the five (5) virtual Pebble Poem Workshops conducted and the mural projects with local artist groups in Canada, Philippines, and South Africa, Climate Reality brought Poets for Climate to the recently concluded 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference or the 27th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP27) in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.

“By bringing the poems and artworks in COP27, we were able to create spaces for culture and art in the highest decision-making arena for climate action. We were also able to build solidarity between the Global North and the Global South toward working together for a kinder and more sustainable future,” Galang shared.

Locally, The Climate Reality Project Philippines has integrated Poets for Climate into its Klima Eskwela sessions.

Klima Eskwela is The Climate Reality Project Philippines’ learning and knowledge exchange program designed to cascade the latest climate science and policies to the most climate-vulnerable communities. As of December 2022, Poets for Climate have landed in Baybay City in Leyte, Guiuan in Eastern Samar, Iloilo City in Iloilo, and Palapag in Northern Samar.

Galang said during the webcast that Poets for Climate will continue to evolve as a creative platform for the network of Climate Reality Leaders and advocacy partners across the globe, especially since the expansions to Indonesia and Latin America are underway.

The intersection of arts, technology, and climate

Commissioned by Contemporary Art and Design, trans-disciplinary artist  Derek Tumala developed a digital diorama called Tropical Climate Forensics communicating the shifting weather pattern and climate in the Philippines.

The project draws inspiration from Derek Tumala’s residency at the Manila Observatory and features seven (7) biomes namely init, bagyo, obserbatoryo, bulkan, komunidad, gubat, and tubig.

In his endeavor to realistically gamify scientific inquiries about climate change, Tumala said he conducted consultations, archiving, and research with communities and institutions.

“What we’re doing is an attempt to say that we can do something. Art is always about the attempt to do a new language or a new way to see things. That alone is the driver to create a new vision. Art is evolving. It gives you an open view of the world where you can do anything and try to connect all these things such as art, science, technology, and policymaking,” Tumala said during the webcast.

Perez agreed with Tumala, reiterating that the power of arts lies in reimagining and seeing things differently which allows individuals to break boundaries and overcome limitations.