Art & Climate Change

What Is An Artist’s Responsibility During Climate Change?

I was inspired to write The Great Understanding after taking the class, “Climate Change, Fiction and Literature” taught by Professor Devin Zuber at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA. I met Devin while spending time in Berkeley during the winter of 2019. When he learned of my passion for the intersections of the arts and sciences, he invited me to audit the course with his usual students, who are seminarians and doctoral candidates in religious studies.

The book that had the most profound impact on me was “The Great Derangement” by Amitav Ghosh. Usually a fiction writer, Ghosh has written three essays that are a veritable call to arms in dealing with climate change. These are “Story,” “History,” and “Politics.”

The Importance of Story

The first essay, “Story,” helped me clarify my mission as an artist. Ghosh points out that while future generations will be correct in blaming politicians for the lack of effective action around climate change, our descendants would also be correct to blame artists and storytellers. The sheer scale of climate change makes it seem improbable to our limited human minds, so seeing it requires a larger perspective, one accessed through the power of imagining.

Imagination is the realm of artists. Ghosh asserts that whatever art we’ve made so far about the climate crisis, in whatever forms, it hasn’t been enough to help our fellow humans really see what’s happening in a way that they then can act.

“The Great Understanding”

Reading this left me, as a writer and storyteller, with an urgent question: How do I write about the climate crisis in way as to overcome that sense of paralyzing improbability, and help audiences see the crisis, move into acceptance and begin constructive responses?

“The Great Understanding” is my first attempt to answer that question.

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