The Climatic Arts

The Climatic Arts

One of the greatest challenges of climate change is communication. How do we communicate the impacts of climate change? How can we make people recognize the severity of the situation? How can we present solutions is a positive light? How can we help people understand the complexities of the climate debate? 

While there is no one way to accomplish all of these goals, I experienced one creative approach this week- the intersection of climate and theatre. Theatre@Emory performed a series of short plays relating to climate change and its solutions as part ofthe worldwide initiative Climate Change Theatre Action, a collaboration between the Center for Sustainable Practice in the ArtsNoPassport Theatre Alliance, The Arctic CycleTheatre Without Borders, and York University.

All around the world, theatre groups performed short plays relating to this central theme:

Assume your audience knows as much as you do. Assume they are as concerned as you are. But they may not know what to do with this information and those concerns. So how can we turn the challenges of climate change into opportunities?

What I found particularly interesting about the performances and how they related to this theme, was how they wove the ideas of climate change into each of the plays. None of them outwardly mentioned the issue, but because we were an interested and concerned audience we were able to follow the message of these plays. It would be interesting to see how a less interested or concerned audience would respond to plays such as these.

Overall, the plays were powerfully done, very engaging, and effectively drew you into the story.

The first play—Blue Puzzle by Clare Duffy, featuring Julia Byrne—really spoke to the condition of the world today, especially describing how the world is filled with so much me and not enough us. This was shown through the eyes of a mother trying to provide for her child, while grappling with the change occurring around her. The play ended with the powerful message that change is inevitable, but we can use this change to our advantage to save the planet and ourselves.

Another play titled Rubik’s Cube Solution—written by Sarena Parmar, and featuring Angela Jiang, Eliza Paprin, Colleen Carroll and Elizabeth Johnson—compared the problem of climate change to solving a Rubik’s Cube. This challenge was literally thrown at the characters in the play by a nameless, authoritarian figure who continued to discourage them throughout the play, and who represented all of the challenges that are posed to the climate change debate. This play presented climate change as an unsolvable problem that they were running out of time to solve; however, by working together and using each of their collective strengths, the characters end up finding a possible creative solution to the cube.

The last play—Gaia by Hiro Kanazawa, featuring Victoria Hood, Julia Byrne, and Joel Hines—was a very powerful piece and was wonderfully staged to take place outside instead of in the theatre, which added to the connection with the Earth that the play was trying to convey. It started off with a more negative and downward turning feel, highlighting the threats and challenges posed to nature (especially those by humans), but as the play went on a shift occurred in the positive direction and the play ended in an uplifting and positive manner about how problems could be remedied.

Overall, these performances were a creative way to approach the issue of climate change and present possible solutions in a unique and unexpected way, one that hopefully a wider audience may be able to appreciate and respond to.


The Climate Tipping Point

Project Team: Katelyn Boisvert, Zola Berger-Schmitz, Olivia Keck, and Matthew Heldman

Recent polls reflect increasing belief that climate change is a problem, yet it still seems few are doing anything about it. This observation results from a phenomenon we have termed the “Climate Tipping Point,” that is the point where climate awareness leads to human initiated action.

Increasing climate change awareness is an important first step; but without additional motivation to tip a person to action, we cannot make the progress needed to address this issue. There is a gap in the percentage of people who view climate change as a problem and those that believe human action is necessary to combat it, which we described as the climate action gap. Understanding how to bridge the climate action gap is necessary to positively change human behaviors related to climate mitigation and adaptation.

What drives the disconnect between climate awareness and the belief that human action is necessary to combat the climate crisis, both at the individual and at the countrywide level?

This is a question gaining traction in the world of climate research and is the focus of our research project. Many studies explore the psychological factors that contribute to this disconnect at the individual level. Whether it’s faith that technology can solve the issue, failure to comprehend the impact of an individual action, or trouble comprehending the effects of incremental changes, many individuals believe that human-initiated action to reduce the effects of climate change is unnecessary.

Climate change education and policy implementation are good ways to influence people who view climate change as a major issue and just need to take that next step toward action. Many things could prompt this step, but costs and relevance of the climate action are good motivators. It is our hypothesis that risk perception, when people feel that their life is personally at risk, is a strong driver impacting an individual’s likelihood to take action to combat climate change.

Explore this background further with our first infographic! 

There is limited research on factors contributing to the climate action gap at a countrywidelevel, so we explored several factors that could be instrumental for policy implementation.

In 2015, Pew Research Center conducted the Global Attitudes Study sampling individuals from 40 countries, which included questions on climate change. A difference in population percentage of people who said climate change is a very/somewhat serious problem and those who said human action is necessary to reduce the effects of climate change was noted worldwide, which we calculated as the climate action gap and represented geographically.

Created by Katelyn Boisvert using Piktochart Graphics

Our research compared the climate action gap for each country against factors including economics, equality, education, and risk perception to explore their potential contribution as drivers for this behavior. Economics, measured by GDP, averaged a 6% higher climate action gap for the poorest 15 countries as compared to the richest 15 countries . Equality yielded a 3% higher climate gap for countries with a higher (more unequal) Gini Index. Education did not influence the climate action gap, suggesting that climate change education may not be the determining factor in motivating individuals toward climate action.

Another PEW survey question explored if people felt they would be personally affected by climate change, which we attributed as perceived risk. This value demonstrated a positive correlation when plotted against climate action showing that countries whose residents feel more at risk from climate change are more likely to believe human action is necessary to address it, and a trend was observed for those countries as presenting with lower climate action gaps.

Curious about our results? Check out our second infographic!

Understanding the interplay of these factors is important to inform climate policy and for its success, and should focus on the need for human-initiated action and building public support for climate-friendly solutions.

Wondering about specific policy examples? Check out our last infographic!

Are you victim to the climate action gap? If so, what will push you over the tipping point? Check out our podcast on this issue! 

A list of references can be viewed


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