Canada House

The Arts and Climate Change

January 15, 2020

Blog post from Director and CEO, Simon Brault

Every day we witness new and dramatic consequences of the ongoing rise in temperatures. Scientists have been raising the alarm for quite some time—the causes of climate change are well-known and documented. Many people think the fires presently blazing through Australia are but a prelude to other destructive and deadly catastrophes.

Youth from around the world are taking to the streets to call for action. In 2019, Angus Reid revealed that 72% of Canadians approved of worldwide demands by youth for climate action.

The demands go beyond mere awareness—they are an outright call for climate justice.

Mobilization for climate justice

Climate justice includes moral, political, ethical, and cultural considerations. It also involves environmental, technical and physical approaches, and goes far beyond them as well. Climate justice examines social inequality, as well as fundamental and collective rights. It addresses the rights of future generations, as well as historic responsibilities. And climate-related inequalities are real. A compelling example of this can be found in Canada’s northern territories, which I visited in the summer of 2019.

In 2019, the rise in world temperatures since 1948 reached 1.7°C—an absolute record. But in Northern Canada, where Indigenous people make up more than 50% of the population, temperatures have actually risen 2.3°C.[i] Disastrous consequences are already being felt: permafrost deterioration is accelerating, certain plants have become extinct, the water is polluted, and Indigenous peoples’ traditional way of life has been tragically and directly impacted. Though Inuit and First Nations people are severely affected by climate change, they are rarely present at the decision-making tables where climate action is discussed.

The demand for climate justice is mobilizing more and more arts communities—notably Indigenous ones. With good reason: it is rooted in citizenry, and it emphasizes inclusion and equity.

The Canada Council for the Arts and climate change

We are currently developing our strategic plan for 2021–26, and we are looking to take a solid and consistent position on the issue of climate change. And our position will include an authentic Indigenous perspective, and an international and inclusive point of view.

In addition to focusing on environmentally innovative approaches to production and dissemination, the Council will continue to support creation that addresses climate issues in all dimensions artists choose to explore. The Council will also continue to demonstrate exemplary practices in the way it manages and reduces its own ecological footprint. As we continue our reduction, recovery, and greening initiatives, we will examine the ways we conduct our operations. Our employees and the community demand this kind of environmental leadership, and it will guarantee our public credibility so that we can have a voice on the most pressing issue of our time.

In the coming months, we will also be engaging in discussions with artists and organizations in order to define tangible measures that we can implement while proposing a vision of environmental justice that fully integrates the arts and culture.

[i] Bush, E. and Lemmen, D.S., editors (2019): Section 8.4.1 : Changes in northern CanadaCanada’s Changing Climate Report; Government of Canada, Ottawa, ON. 444 p.

Tagged As Northern Arts