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13 February 2018

Green Art

Art is green in so many ways and the people at Ensia had another take on art and climate change. What role might the arts play in response to climate change and related economic and ecological crises? In the 1997 film “Titanic,” Wallace Hartley, the violinist and leader of the band on the ill-fated ship, turns to his band mates as the water rises around him and says: “Gentlemen, it has been a privilege playing with you tonight.” Is the only contribution musicians and other artists can make at this moment in history to bravely go down with the ship, lifting the spirits of fellow passengers? On its own terms that’s an honorable contribution, but surely we can do more. It’s often said that a novel, a painting, a song or a motion picture changed the world. What that really means is, it changed how a lot of people thought or felt about the world. Anthropologists and historians rightly argue that society’s major transformations have emerged not from the arts, but from our relationship to our environment — for example, our shift from hunting and gathering to agriculture, or from using firewood as our main energy source to using fossil fuels. Nevertheless, artists’ efforts help shape the terms by which society adapts to such transformations and their consequences. And this can be a big deal. Think of how Beethoven marked the beginnings of modern democracy, the Romantic Movement in poetry and philosophy, and the nascent Industrial Revolution with music that shattered the aristocratic formalism of previous generations. Or how Hollywood writers and directors galvanized massive support for the U.S. war effort during the early 1940s. Now think ahead. Credit to Richard Heinberg and read here for more on green art!

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