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COP26 Green Zone: Arts and the Imagination

November 2021 by Jack Rhodes-Worden

5×15 at COP26 – Arts and the Imagination, an event hosted by innovative musician and artist Brian Eno, was a Green Zone highlight for me. The impeccably curated panel discussed the intersection of art, activism, and science.

Science is often given precedence in climate change discourse, perhaps rightly so. It is scientists that forewarned us of the climate crisis, and it is science that informs us of the pathways that we must follow to avert further catastrophe. What science cannot do, however, is help us to express and cope with the complex, sometimes overwhelming emotions that stem from climate breakdown. I found Eno’s words particularly resonant – “science discovers, art digests”. Eno described art as one of the most powerful technologies we have, which can help us to process climate change and better prepare us emotionally for the challenges ahead.

Eno was joined by storytellers of varying backgrounds, from authors to poets, dancers to activists. Their fascinating perspectives made one thing apparent: that storytelling has a role to play in our response to climate change, as a tool to help us grapple with some of the biggest questions we face. How should we perceive the planet that sustains us? How can we empathise with people thousands of miles away? How can we imagine an inspiring and equitable future? Storytelling within the cultural sector can help us answer these more abstract questions.

This was a valuable reminder for my work as Museums Coordinator at The Carbon Literacy Project. One of museums’ key roles is to tell the stories of humanity – to project ourselves back to us, and to help us make sense of our pasts, present, and possible futures. Museums’ storytelling must include the stories of climate change and Carbon emissions.

This can help us process the complex emotions associated with climate change and answer some of the biggest questions of our time.

If you would like to catch up on any of the recorded events from COP26, they have a Youtube channel where most events can be streamed.

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