We were talking the other day about what our key themes might be in the emerging work - what images or ideas I might want to work with in the process of making something. I talked about the weather, and suggested that weather is an important theme.You were not convinced. I'd like to talk more about this. To me, the weather feels like a phenomenon that connects the human to the "elsewhere" which is nature, the natural world, the physical environment and mesh of landscapes which surround us and which - of course - we are part of. I know it's important not to set up the human/the natural as a binary, and that part of our project is to get beyond these ideas of the human being separate from the non human or the natural or whatever we choose to call it... but still, to me, the weather feels like a way of making very explicit the connectedness of the human and the natural (just using these terms now to make a point): it forces the connection not the separation.You also said something about the weather and climate not being the same thing. Can you tell me what you mean?Don't you think that it is through changing weather patters and increasingly extreme weather events that people are forced to have a physical confrontation with climate change? I think the relevance of the weather is really clear, so I need to know why you're not convinced!
Weather and climate are different, although they are interrelated. Weather is experienced daily, over a short time span. Climate is observed and understood over a longer time span, usually based upon 30 years of accumulated meteorological data (according to the World Meteorological Organisation). Observations and predictions about climate change are therefore based on much longer time spans. You are right in saying that weather is more immediately felt and more visible than climate. So, why would I question the use of weather as a way of engaging people on climate change? I think it’s about how we use weather to engage people with climate change, rather than not using it at all.
Let me explain. One one level, weather is immediate, and weather patterns are changing as a result of climate change. So, the UK is likely to experience more extreme weather such as floodings and droughts over the coming years/decades. We could use this knowledge to engage people on climate change in a more local context, related to their immediate surroundings, home, town, city, region, etc. However, on the other hand, research has shown that while images and narratives of flooding and droughts make climate change feel more important to people, at the same time, they feel less able to do anything about it. So, extreme weather as an effect of climate change is communicated through fear, which disengages people and makes them feel disempowered.
How then to use our immediate connection to weather to communicate climate change in a way that engages people that makes them feel able to do something? Historically we have never felt able to control weather, so how could we use weather (viewed as uncontrollable) to make people understand that weather is related to climate change, which we can potentially (hopefully) do something about? What if people in the UK think, ok, hotter weather, great! We need to use people’s emotional and experiential attachment to weather in a way that shows how hotter weather here, means even hotter weather elsewhere, which means that, for example, our food system will be seriously affected through water shortages here, and elsewhere. Weather, and its effects are more complex that we imagine, so we’d need to think carefully about how we would use weather to engage people in a meaningful way that does not feel disempowering or fearful. A tall order! Any suggestions?.....
I think you're talking about something really critical here, and yes, it makes me feel that what we're trying to do is a tall order. On the one hand, we talk about looking for ways to relocate climate change from an "elsewhere" to "here". I wondered if weather might do that in some way, as it is, as you say, experienced and lived with on a daily basis, right here, as well as being part of a network of phenomena that are happening "elsewhere" as well. But you say there's a risk attached to the very act of making people engage with and think about climate change, that awareness seems immediately to lead to a potential disempowerment. How do we deal with this?
Maybe an artwork, or series of artworks, in themselves can't deal with disempowerment. Maybe we have to link the artworks to a wider context - through a website, talks/seminars, etc. Or, maybe this is where we can use humour in the artworks as a way of engaging and empowering the viewer?