Culture Takes Action

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Update 2022: A more up to date version of this post and Culture Takes Action resource can be found here

We were one of the first organisations to declare climate & ecological emergency with the launch of Culture Declares Emergency in April 2019. The Earth crisis has intensified since then, with Covid-19 resulting from ecological harm. Through much suffering & injustice we can start to see the links between the multiple emergencies, to see the scale and urgency of the situation, and to see the greed and corruption that perpetuates the harm. So, again, we declare emergency and dedicate ourselves to stirring and collecting the contemporary response to this emergency, as well as taking direct action to stop harm and shift to a regenerative, sustainable and just world.

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#CultureTakesAction is a season of declaration, followed by action. Here’s how you can get involved
1. Sign-up to Declare Emergency, and recruit others to join the movement
2. Drop a banner on your building and via social media using #CultureTakesAction #CultureDeclaresEmergency, from 28 August
3. Write and share your #LetterstoPower from 1st September
4. Click “going” on the Facebook events, here and here, and post pictures, videos & updates of your actions and invite others to join
5. Sign the Letter to DCMS by 31st August and also…

6. Share your stories of action that you have done, or plan to do, following your emergency declaration.

To help Culture Declares Emergency, we have undertaken to collect stories of action that are shared through #CultureTakesAction

Here are some ideas for what you might do to take action, around the core of Telling Truths, Taking Action and Seeking Justice.

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And here are some suggestions for how you might go deeper, working with communities or colleagues to develop resilience in the face of this emergency. So, if you are acting in ways that tell truths, you will need to support people to face despair. You may want to balance this truth-telling with taking practical action because in doing so you are stirring hope. And if you are seeking justice, the emotional work of doing so is significant. It involves nurturing forgiveness and recognising that emotional labour falls unequally on the shoulders of black people, indigenous people and people of colour.

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There is no hierarchy for these dimensions of action. You cannot do one without the other. If actions to reduce your operational footprint are done on their own, this may feel an inadequate response to some communities who have been historically affected by exploitation or inequality.

To help organisations develop balanced plans, we have developed this Culture Takes Action framework, which we offer to Culture Declares Emergency and declarers as a starting point. It’s also a collecting project for us. 

  1. Truth-telling and Education 

  • Culture profoundly highlights our own truths and helps us see from other perspectives. Truth-telling is best when done in participatory ways, creating space for dialogue and acknowledging that there is no single truth but shared truths can be agreed from different experiences. 
  • Values-based education can nurture forgiveness, enabling truth-telling and dialogue between people with different experiences. 
  • Arts & technology can make the invisible more visible e.g. raising awareness of pollution. 
  • There are opportunities to raise awareness, e.g. to help people understand connections between consumption, climate change, biodiversity, conflict and migration.

2. Ambitious system-changing action

  • Advocate for UN policies for peace, equality and sustainability
  • Work to embed the Global Goals (with critical view of Goal 8 – economic growth).
  • Offer resources / space for activists to learn and to plan actions for systemic change.
  • Work for a law to end Ecocide and bolster laws to protect Earth and human rights. 
  • Expose corruption and create opportunities for participatory democracy. Enable pluralistic, conversational learning to combat propaganda and corruption, and develop critical thinking.
  • Promote ecological forms of arts & design, e.g, artists actively involved in restoring land on a large scale.
  • Promote Bioregionalism as an alternative frame to growth-obsessed nationalism.

3. Support community transition 

  • Support local self-sufficiency, acknowledging the basic importance of food, water, energy and shelter in people’s education and community activism.
  • Support regenerative forms of place-making, giving a new meaning to ‘regeneration’ of localities. 
  • Culture can play an active role in the transition to greener and more local economies, helping people gain a ‘sense of place’ and feel able to imagine possible futures. 
  • Provide cultural services as an alternative to consumerism, while supporting people in poverty.
  • Outdoor arts, cultural heritage and citizen science projects can raise appreciation and stewardship of biodiversity, green space and green infrastructure for resilience to extreme weather.

4. Provide arts and cultural therapy

  • Support for activists: culture / creativity can hold people at the low point of despair when leaders have failed or we must rise to action and compassion.
  • Enable wellbeing and immunity in brains and bodies, through play, sport, dance, outdoor exploration, and work on diet and addiction. Access to biodiverse nature reduces stress and improves wellbeing.
  • Offer cultural therapy for people affected by eco-anxiety in anticipation of trauma 
  • Work with appropriate services to support traumatised people (e.g. displaced by climate impacts and conflict).
  • Help change attitudes to our fellow beings, to be more generous and less materialist.

5. Decolonise Culture

  • Co-educate with and for those people who are most affected by histories & current impacts of extractivism and degenerative development. 
  • Use cultural resources to learn from indigenous and innovative peoples, and open up platforms for them.
  • Protect and safely restore or return intangible and indigenous heritage, in consultative collaboration.

6. Decarbonise Culture

  • Go beyond CO2 to include a wider ecological footprint, aiming to positively benefit people, place and planet. 
  • Reduce dependency on flight-based tourism and touring of arts productions, while enabling a just transition for cultural workers whose dependence on touring & tourism has been disrupted by pandemics. 
  • Resist and work to end cultural sponsorship by harmful industries, particularly fossil fuels.
  • Support eco-enterprise within cultural practice: develop products & services with green materials, designs & methods
  • Encourage the re-use and sharing of materials and products.
  • Expand definitions of Culture beyond notions of commodity, virtuosity or as a carrier of messages, and include ideas of Culture connecting us to place.

7. Ecological innovation

  • Explore the potential of technology for new and ecologically beneficial forms of cultural value, production and exchange.
  • Promote a ‘knowledge commons’: open up access to expertise, data and ideas.
  • Design digital services for change-makers and activists.
  • Help young people to be ‘positively deviant’, to envisage and build resilient careers and movements to change big systems from Degenerative to Regenerative.
  • Prefigure and generate ecological and social innovations such as microsolidarity, rewilding, circular forms of production, and urban food growing.
  • Smart tech can provide better data feedback about ecological footprints, community needs and ecosystem changes, and can involve communities as citizen scientists. 

8. Adapting to impacts

  • Protect heritage from impacts of climate change and ecocidal damage, through trying adaptive strategies, and working with creatives and experts to explore and promote these strategies, in ways that involve communities and generate ingenious solutions.
  • Virtual creation of lost places, e.g. digital or literary/imagined places or 3D reconstructions.
  • Memorialise lost species, cultures & places; give space to spiritual activities and support grief at loss.
  • Educate audiences, aiming for justice and care for migrants and climate refugees.
  • Offer refuge and support in disaster or crisis situations (e.g. space, equipment and emotional support).

Please use #CultureTakesAction to share your stories of action, and we will share them on our social media platforms. 

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