Saturday, November 13, 2021

Art and Climate

I really ought to blog about making Good Omens (we're in week 4 of shooting) and making Anansi Boys (starts shooting next week), and about the astonishing Ocean at the End of the Lane play at the Duke of York's Theatre in London (and now that I've said this, I know I will) but yesterday I spoke (via Zoom, because of Covid Protocols) at COP26, the Conference of the Parties on Climate Action, and I thought I ought to just put what I said up here. So it doesn't get lost.

Art is how we communicate. Art began when we left marks to say we were here. 

The oldest art we have is the 200,000 year old handprints of Neanderthal or Denisovan children, on the Tibetan Plateau, making marks with their hands because it was fun, because they could, and because it told the world they had been there.

The human family tree has been around for millions of years, Homo Sapiens for a much shorter time. We are not a successful branch of the tree, because, unless we use our mighty brains to think our way out of this one, we don't have a very long time left.

We need to use everything at our disposal to change the world, and show that we can compete with the ones who were here before us. And by compete I mean, not make the world uninhabitable by humans. The world will be fine, in the long run. There have been extinction events before us, and there will be extinction events after we’ve gone.

When I was young I wrote a short comics story about the use of the planet Earth as a decorative ornament. It was about our tendency to destroy ourselves. Back then, I worried about nuclear war: one huge event that would end everything. Now I'm worried that we are messing things up a little at a time, until everything tips.

We who explore futures need to build fictional futures that inspire and make us carry on. When I was a kid, it was going to the stars that was the dream. Now it has to be fixing the mess that we've left behind, and not just walking away, leaving the Earth a midden.

We need to change the world back again. And that will take science, but it will also take art. To convince to inspire and to build a future.

We need to reach people's hearts, not just their minds. Reach the part of their hearts that believes it's good to plant trees for our grandchildren to sit beneath. Reach hearts to make people want to change, and to react to people and organisations despoiling the planet and the climate in the same way you would react to someone trying to burn down your house, while you are living in it.

So that 200,000 years from now, children can leave handprints in clay, to show us that they were here, and because making handprints and footprints is fun.

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