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How contemporary artists are becoming climate change activists



Art Pollution by Aleks van Sputto via Flickr

A new wave of artists are blurring the lines between activism and art by tackling climate change. As a channel of expressive freedom, art has traditionally been a method of communication between humans about the conditions of life. Many artists use the medium to explore controversial topics, voice their concerns and rebel against conformity. Take for instance Picasso’s politically-fuelled paintings of the Spanish Civil War and the provocative sculptures of Patricia Piccinini that challenge genetic engineering.

Global warming is perhaps the defining issue of our time – rising sea levels threaten entire populations, while a combination of extreme weather and agricultural deforestation is fuelling the largest mass extinction of species since the age of the dinosaurs. Many artists are creating work that spreads important messages about the environment to a wider audience.

Using mixed media to raise awareness about pollution

More than 80% of people living in urban areas are exposed to air quality levels that exceed the limits advised by the World Health Organisation. Furthermore, around 7 million premature deaths each year are linked to exposure to air pollution. Many of the pollutants that are harmful to human health are also greenhouse gases that significantly contribute to climate change.

The cities with the highest levels of air pollution are often in developing countries like China and India. In Beijing, toxic smog regularly forces the closure of schools, factories and motorways. Performance artist Wang Renzheng has demonstrated just how bad the situation is by creating solid bricks from air pollutants in the Chinese capital.

In the Toxic Lanes of Your Cities, an installation created by contemporary multimedia artist Owais Husain, references the industrialisation and effects of globalisation on the environment in major Indian cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore.

Rivers and oceans are also becoming contaminated as a result of pollution and human waste. A group of Filipino artists are highlighting the decline of rivers in Manila by using an alternative approach to watercolour painting. After being sterilised and oven-dried for 24 hours, water samples taken from the most polluted rivers of the Philippines capital are turned into watercolour pigments suitable for painting.  The project aims to raise awareness of environmental degradation.

Installations preview the potential consequences of climate change

A recent survey found that more than one-quarter of Americans are sceptical about climate change. When asked why they doubt scientific evidence, the most common response was that they had not noticed a change in the weather around them. Seeing is believing, but waiting around to see the impact of global warming will leave little time to tackle the consequences.

The work of environmental artist Olafur Eliasson is designed to give viewers an accelerated preview of climate change consequences. In one installation, the Danish-Icelandic artist transported blocks of ice from Greenland to Paris, installing them in a circle at the Place du Panthéon.The ice was allowed to slowly thaw, mimicking the melting of the polar ice caps.

Environmental art can genuinely make a difference to the planet

While raising awareness about climate change is important, nothing will change unless people actually take action. That is why Belgian artist Naziha Mestaoui produces art that not only spreads a message of sustainability but also has a physical effect on the environment.

Her stunning digital project One Beat One Tree projects virtual forests onto city landmarks, blending the boundaries between nature and technology. Viewers are able to project personalised seedlings onto the work using a smartphone heartbeat sensor. The virtual greenery then grows and blossoms in tandem with the viewer’s heartbeat.

To further increase the fluidity between nature and technology, one actual tree is planted for every digital tree projected during each installation. These trees are planted in regions throughout the world, often in areas where ecosystems have suffered as a result of deforestation or natural disaster.



Want to Connect With Nature? Start by Disconnecting From Busyness



Connect With Nature

Have you ever found yourself staring at one of your (many) devices and feeling slightly disgusted with how much time you waste on technology? If so, you aren’t alone. We all have moments like these and it’s important that we use them as motivation to change – especially if we want to be more connected with nature.

How Busyness Impacts Your Connection With Nature

Whether you realize it or not, you live an ultra connected life. Between smart phones, tablets, computers, and wearable devices, you’re never very far from some sort of technology that can connect you to the internet or put you in touch with other people. That’s just the world we live in.

While it could be argued that this sort of omnipresent connectivity is a positive thing, it’s also pretty clear that being permanently tethered to technology impacts our ability to strip away distractions and connect with nature.

When you’re always within arm’s reach of a device, you feel a sense of busyness.  Whether it’s browsing your social media feed, uploading a picture, reading the news, or responding to an email, there’s always something to do. As someone who wants to spend more time in nature, this is problematic.

4 Practical Ways to Disconnect

If you want to truly connect with nature and live a greener lifestyle, you have to be proactive about finding ways to disconnect. Here are a few practical suggestions:

1. Switch to a New Phone Plan

It’s not always practical to totally unplug from the world. Family and work responsibilities mean you can’t go off the grid and continue to fulfill your responsibilities. Having said that, there are some ways to scale back.

One suggestion is to switch to a prepaid phone plan. When you have a prepaid phone plan, you’re far less likely to spend hours and hours of your time making phone calls, sending texts, and surfing the web. It forces you to be more conscious of what you’re doing.

2. Get Rid of Social Media

Social media is one of the biggest time wasters for most people. Whether you realize it or not, it’s also a huge stressor. You’re constantly being exposed to the best snapshots of everyone else’s lives, which makes you feel like you’re missing out on something (even when you aren’t).

If you want to feel a sense of relief and free yourself up to spend more time in nature, get rid of social media. Don’t just delete the apps off your phone – actually disable your accounts. It’s a bold, yet necessary step.

3. Create Quiet Hours

If you aren’t able to get rid of social media and disable various online accounts, the next best thing you can do is establish quiet hours each day where you totally detach from technology. You should do this for a minimum of three hours per day for best results.

4. Build Community

Do you know why we’re drawn to social media and our devices? Whether consciously or subconsciously, it’s because we all want to be connected to other people. But do you know what’s better than connecting with people online? Connecting with them in person.

As you build real life, person-to-person relationships, you’ll feel less of a need to constantly have your eyes glued to a screen. Connect with other people who have an appreciation for nature and bond over your mutual interests.

Untether Your Life

If you find yourself constantly connected to a device, then this is probably a clear indicator that you aren’t living your best life. You certainly aren’t enjoying any sort of meaningful connection with nature. Now’s as good a time as any to untether your life and explore what a world free from cords, screens, and batteries is really like.

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6 Tips for an Eco-Friendly Move



Moving can be a stressful and challenging time. No matter how many times you’ve done it in the past, the process of packing up, transporting, and unpacking isn’t very fun. It’s also not very eco-friendly. As you prepare for your next move, there are things you can do to ensure you leave less of a footprint behind.

6 Tips for a Greener Move

Because of the stress and pressure felt when moving, it’s pretty common for people to rush through the process and focus on getting it done. In fact, a lot of people take an “at all costs” approach; they’ll do whatever it takes to make the process as cheap and fast as possible. Don’t be one of those people. It doesn’t take much effort to turn a standard move into an eco-friendly move.

1. Maximize Each Trip

When moving across town, it’s imperative that you make as few trips as possible. Each trip requires more gas, more emissions, and more waste, and more time.

If you’re taking your personal vehicle, consider pulling a trailer behind it. You’d be surprised how much stuff you can fit into a small trailer. Not only will it make your move greener, but it’ll also save you a lot of time.

2. Donate Things You Don’t Want to Keep

The longer you live somewhere, the more junk you accumulate. This isn’t always obvious until you start packing for a big move. Instead of bringing all of these things with you to your next home, get rid of the stuff you don’t need! If the items are useful, donate them. If the items don’t have much value, toss them.

3. Reuse Moving Boxes

Not only are moving boxes expensive, but they’re also wasteful. If you need a bunch of cardboard boxes, consider looking around on Craigslist, asking friends, or checking the dumpsters behind stores. You can usually find a bunch of recycled boxes of all different shapes and sizes. Here are 12 places you can get them for free.

4. Get Creative With Packing

Who says you need moving boxes? You may find that it’s possible to do most of your move without all that cardboard. Things like storage containers, trashcans, filing cabinets, buckets, and dressers can all store items. Blankets and sheets can be used in lieu of bubble wrap to prevent your items from getting damaged.

5. Use Green Cleaning Supplies

Once you arrive at your new place, resist the urge to pull out a bunch of harsh chemicals to clean the place. You can do yourself (and the planet) a favor by using green cleaning supplies instead. Ingredients like vinegar, baking soda, and ammonia are great to start with.

6. Forward Your Mail ASAP

Don’t delay in forwarding your mail from your previous address to your new one. Not only is it wasteful for the Postal Service to route your mail to a place where you don’t live, but the next owner is probably just going to toss your letters in the trash.

Moving Doesn’t Have to be Wasteful

Most people only move once every few years. Some people will go a decade or more without a move. As a result, the process of moving often feels strange and new. The less experience you have with it, the less likely it is that you’ll be as efficient as you should. But instead of just diving into the process blind, take some time to learn about what an eco-friendly move looks like. That way, you can leave behind the smallest footprint possible.

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