As scientists continue to warn about the irreversible effects of climate change, a small group of creative West Australians are using art to help people deal with living on a damaged planet.
- The “weather studio” theatres combine science and art to explain climate change
- People can observe and learn about changing weather conditions in their area
- It is hoped the creative approach will help people adapt to the challenge of living with climate change
Jo Pollitt, a doctor in philosophy, has spent years figuring out how to help people overcome apathy and feeling overwhelmed by the threat of climate change.
“We’re increasingly disconnected with our environment because of technology, constant distractions, phone use, work loads,” she said.
Dr Pollitt has launched a new research project that would involve small theatres called weather studios being set up in regional communities across WA.
She said people could visit the interpretive art installations to observe the weather and learn about how its changes were affecting the area.
“The weather studio will be a place where we bring together artists, scientists and educators,” she said.
“To try to respond to some of the major problems that we’re facing.”
The first of these weather studios has been planned for Nannup, about 255 kilometres from Perth.
Dr Pollitt said art could help people reconcile with the problem from a new perspective.
“I absolutely believe that if we can reignite a connection, that it will help us to generate empathy with what’s happening,” she said.
A new way of explaining weather
Weather studios would also be a resource for both collecting and sharing stories and statistics about the way weather is changing in regional and rural areas.
Dr Pollitt said this information would eventually be shared through schools and the ultimate aim would be to change the way weather is reported.
She said information gathered at weather studios could be broadcast on radio so regular weather forecasts were made more meaningful with local stories, facts and experiences about how the climate has been changing over time.
“So when you’re in the car, you hear the weather report and then you get an alternate creative weather response from somewhere in Western Australia,” she said.
“[It could be] a Noongar weather story of place and time, a settler story, a children’s memory, a farmer’s response.”
Conversations with rain
The concept of weather studios came out of Dr Pollitt’s earlier project Conversations with Rain, which encouraged children to sense and learn about weather through a series of creative mindfulness exercises including journalling.
Co-creator Lilly Blue, who heads learning and creativity research at the Art Gallery of WA, said this journal was used in student workshops and distributed at placessuch as Bunbury Regional Art Gallery.
“It was very clear that the creative processes that we worked with definitely heightened attention,” she said.
“First Nations and Indigenous practices have been working on this for thousands and thousands of years.”
“The hope is that a more connected relationship with our environment means that we’re more likely to notice and to care more deeply,” Ms Blue said.
‘Art raises consciousness’
Menang Ngadju elder Carol Pettersen said having a heightened sense of the weather had helped Aboriginal people adapt and survive throughout history.
She said art could play a powerful role in helping today’s society learn how.
“Our behaviour was in response to how nature moved on with the season and the weather,” she said.
“Our Aboriginal people, we survived the ice ages, we survived all those other mass extinctions that happened on the planet.”
Ms Pettersen recently worked on the Genestreme Sculpture, a 3.5 metre “evolutionary tree”, located at one of the few protected bush properties in the Porongurup region. The sculpture shows the extinction of plants and fauna.
“It’s science using art to tell the story,” she said.
“[To raise] that consciousness about where we’re at and what is going to be our response.”
Additional production by Mark Bennett and Tom Edwards.
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