6282 Message and Medium: Re-Defining Environmentalism

Friday, February 17, 2012: 8:30 AM
Room 214 (VCC West Building)
Joe Zammit-Lucia , Independent Artist, Sag Harbor, NY
Nobody's listening.

Sometimes this is what it feels like as we struggle to reach new audiences with environmental and sustainability messages.

Fifty years of science based advocacy has brought the issues of sustainability and environmental degradation to the fore and made them part of everyday parlance. Yet, we have not meaningfully moved beyond the 'environmental pollution' narrative of the 60s and 70s and, more recently, progress both at the policy and individual levels seems to have stalled. In today's US of A, no politician who intends to keep the job dare declare unconditional support for the EPA or for the science of climate change.

It is tempting to believe that all that is needed is to change the medium through which we communicate our message; that the arts can help us achieve that by softening and 'pretty-fying' our message and taking it to a wider audience. We need to go much further. The arts and the humanities provide a different world view that can help us re-frame the issues, re-cast our message and re-vitalize our ability to reach beyond the already converted.

While science has helped us understand, with limitations, the materiality of things, such materiality has no normative consequences. Society's choices are driven not by what things are in a material sense, but rather by what they are in an ontological sense and we make of them as a matter of values within cultural contexts.

The arts and the humanities can combine with science to help us re-define the very meaning of 'environmentalism' and to craft approaches that are grounded in human values and can resonate with a broad public.

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