The Creative Climate Transformation

Julie's Bicycle CEO Alison Tickell's recent speech on shifting our cultural values to tackle climate change.

This is an amazing time to be launching the Creative Climate Leadership programme. At midnight on 3rd November the Paris Agreement came into force. This agreement, for those that don’t know, is exceptional – not because it limits global temperatures to below 2 degrees warming – which it does and that is good news, but because it built the consensus to make it truly global – 196 countries, which includes the European Union as a vote on behalf of member states. And now, it’s locked in.

I’m a great fan of this forcing. After all, the phenomenon of climate change isn’t waiting for us to vote it out. But it still needs us to make it happen and fast. And here’s the rub, The Paris Agreement won’t count for anything unless we recognise that climate change is driven by cultural values and can only be tackled effectively by shifting them – unless of course we want to wait for climate change to do it for us.

Photo © Vincent Chartier

CCL launch at IETM Plenary Meeting 2016, Valencia. Credit: Vincent Chartier

The creative sector generates wealth, employment and social capital for sure, by innovating, imagining, expressing cultural values and identities. We influence how people feel and the choices they make. That is so relevant to climate change. It makes this challenge fundamentally a cultural and a creative challenge.

Suppose there was general consensus that tackling climate change was the most creatively interesting, artistically compelling, economically smart and socially relevant global project. Something that chimes with our deepest humanity wherever we are in the world. We would be living in a different world. Imagine: you might wear sunglasses in Beijing, car parks would just be parks, storms wouldn’t have names and, more seriously, conflicts prompted by resource stress would not occur. Syria would still be just Syria. And the fact is, that this is precisely the consensus we need.

Lots of us understand this. We enable this change in 6 key ways:

1. Cultural Leaders in commercial and funded sectors transforming their institutions inside and out.

2. Creative Networks, in cities, sectors and issues, adopting action through cultural transformation. Projects like Imagine 2020, where sustainability has become the core collective value. 

3. Design and innovation, from architects rethinking urban space, designers turbocharging the circular economy and arts organisations experimenting with collaborative business models. 

4. Transition organisations, like Julie’s Bicycle, bridging the gaps between creative practice and sustainability as a new genre of creative intermediaries. Organisations like Bafta Albert, Broadway Green Alliance, RPM, ScrapLab, GALA Asia and many more.  

5. Artists and activists making a noise campaigning getting louder and louder. A letter Julie’s Bicycle sent to the UN climate negotiators was signed by 350 cultural leaders and artists including David Bowie and H+Justine, joining the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, and Pharrell Williams massively amplified by creative voices. 

6. And finally great work: Olafur Eliasson’s Ice Watch was iconic at COP21, but also incredible creative work by Jeremy Deller, Margaret Atwood, Grimes, Bjork, Mel Chin, Anguun, Blick Bassy. I could go on and on and on.

This is not a ragtag collection of small grassroots projects. This is a movement, which is igniting our collective moral imagination. But we don’t hear these stories. Climate change is so publicly dismal because the creative community has not been recognised as an ESSENTIAL repository of solutions.

I think this is because the movement often lacks an organising glue. This creative transformation is messy, diverse and speaks to many in many different voices. That’s what makes it a movement: creativity bubbling up; fizzing with relevance and possibility. This is where you come in.

You can become part of this movement – this incredible network can prompt creative, practical and policy transformation for this movement to really move. But more importantly it is accelerating this cultural transformation. It is shoving this movement into the mainstream climate movement where it matters most, and by so doing, it is how we rethink who, on earth, we are. 

Adapted from Alison Tickell's speech to launch the Creative Climate Leadership programme at the IETM Plenary meeting in Valencia, November 2016. Follow the conversation on Twitter via #ccleaders #COPtimism

Sustaining Creativity