What to do to respond to the emergency
Emergency action is called for
In a time of emergency, we need to be emergent as resilient practitioners and organisations, ready to adapt to external changes and to ‘be the change’. ‘Emergent’ in ecology means to stand above the rest, to be visible or prominent, so this is a chance to announce your stance on the planetary crisis and its many implications for justice.
We are in the preparatory months - even days - to change minds to create some stability and to save some lives. We are all at risk, and that risk will not disappear even if these demands are met.
Co-creating a regenerative culture - one that is inclusive, healthy, life-supporting, resilient and adaptable - requires rebuilding just and ethical relationships between ourselves, and with other species and the landscape. This takes time.
Regenerative culture includes:
- Teaching and implementing the changes we want to see in society
- Challenging power and privilege
- Supporting each other in tending to grief as we face the truth about this emergency
- Building a culture of care into our daily lives – care for ourselves, each other and the Earth
- Changing the paradigms by which we design, grow, make and trade so that the living planet can be regenerated.
Suggestions of preparatory work you can do now
Being a platform or helper
- If you're a practitioner, respond to calls for your skills from Extinction Rebellion, school strikers or local Transition groups.
- If as an organisation you have space, can you give a discount for meetings or rehearsals, invite activists to speak, or programme relevant events?
- Make an announcement or invite speakers before your programmed events (‘Please turn off your phones, and take a moment to hear….’) or alongside welcome panels. Tell your audience why you have Declared an Emergency.
- Invite other arts and culture practitioners or your partner organisations to register to declare.
Hold space for public discussion
- Host an event (or a display, or surgery session etc.) to explore the emergency and what this means in practice.
- Plan this so that there is a follow-up action, to implement a practical response.
- You could run it as an arts-based workshop to better enable expression of feelings or imagination of solutions.
- Create supportive frameworks where people can come together to listen to speak openly and share their fears, concerns and grief about the emergency.
- Work with your audience to get ideas to respond to the emergency in your organisation. Start with your Pledges and invite ideas on how to enact them.
Consider your own/team wellbeing in face of Emergency
- Ensure that you find ways to support each other with the psychological impacts of Declaring Emergency.
- Hold a supportive and regenerative active listening session for staff and volunteers/freelancers.
- See guidance on wellbeing and on Regenerative Culture and Non-Violent Direct Action from Extinction Rebellion.
Make an Emergency action plan
- Set some targets for your programming and operations that marry with the pledges you have taken in Declaring Emergency.
- Set up an Emergency Group - a kind of Citizen’s Assembly - with organisational staff, venue users and volunteers.
- Hold weekly or monthly team/group lunches or breakfast meet-ups to keep up the momentum and mutual support.
- Network locally: Find what other environmental groups are already out there in your location, if you don't already know them. Be part of a supportive place-based response.
Agree limits on direct action
- Agree what are the limits for you in terms of activism. Declaring emergency does not mean taking part in civil disobedience or disruptive action, but it might be perceived as such. Your funding and public role might require neutrality, which means that you need to carefully discuss how to communicate your stance.
- You might decide that creative Nonviolent Direct Action (NVDA) is appropriate, and if so, you will need to consider your safe limits on this, and potentially to consult a lawyer and seek training. This may be more appropriate if you are declaring as an individual.
- In this toolkit we offer a range of ways that you can support your communities in the context of emergency. These do not include suggestions for disruptive actions, or Non Violent Direct Action (NVDA), as part of a declaration response. However, the template declaration text is supportive of demands being made globally for truth, action and justice, and by implication acknowledges the validity of the many forms of NVDA being used to make the demands, particularly where democratic routes are insufficient.
- Of the many types of NVDA, only a small number are potentially 'arrestable'. Supporting or participating in direct action events does not mean you have to carry out disruptive actions, and the risk of arrest for those that do is very small. See the Legal Briefing from Extinction Rebellion.
Sustaining change longer term
Use the resources and frameworks here to further your knowledge and build capabilities to respond as the emergency deepens:
- Julie’s Bicycle provides guidance and frameworks to green the cultural sector, and in UK, to meet sustainability requirements of Arts Council England.
- Make a pledge to be Oil Sponsorship Free: The pledge says: “We do not take any oil, coal, or gas corporate sponsorship for our cultural work. We call on our peers and institutional partners to refuse fossil fuel funding too.” If you have ideas for actions that tackle fossil fuel relationships with cultural organisations, please first contact the Art Not Oil coalition on email@example.com to discover what is already planned that you could support.
- Possible Culture: Tools for cultural/arts workers for facing and sustaining our future world. ‘Possible Culture’ means: Continuing to exist despite the emergency by being relevant to communities; looking honestly at what is happening in the world, and imagining the future; proactively working with communities to shift towards more regenerative and circular economies; exploring ethical and participatory forms of entrepreneurship in order to sustain themselves when public funding dries up; providing safe, inclusive spaces for envisaging possible futures, for learning from past and indigenous cultures and from the capacities of nature, and for helping communities take action for eco-social justice.
- Work with partners to help implement the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Choose a goal as a focus that suits what you have to offer. Our suggestion is that without tackling the climate and ecology goals, the goals for human wellbeing and thriving will not be achieved.
Do use existing tools and frameworks so you don’t reinvent the wheel. But also, this emergency needs radical and diverse ideas to change our organisations:
- Where can you hand power to people who have been denied it?
- If children and young people are your priority, consider their needs for the future. Can you create a role to advocate for unborn children?
- Can you run a truth commission?
- Can you influence international law, to advance the rights of future generations, or to implement an Ecocide Law?
- Apply the Precautionary Principle: If you can't be sure your project causes harm, don't do it. Ask, how does this project positively regenerate the environment?
- Are all the people in your organisation cared for and treated equally and do they have a voice?
See below more inspirational examples, networks and resources to help you.
More resources and links
Inspiring cultural organisations
More can be added to this list. If you are an organisation declaring, use the form to tell us about the work you are doing.
Arcola Theatre: Good green practice in every aspect of the organisation
Artdotearth: A family of arts and ecology organisations centred around the South West of England – a great website promoting many residencies and exhibitions.
Arts Catalyst: Contemporary art about our changing world, science and environment.
Art for Extinction Rebellion: Publicise and co-ordinate art for XR actions.
Art Not Oil: A coalition of campaigners resisting sponsorship by oil companies
Cambridge Centre for Curiosity and Imagination: Early years, creativity and the environment
Cape Farewell: Artist journeys to environments that strongly indicate climate change
Centre for Contemporary Art in the Natural World: Commissions, research and exhibitions exploring ecology.
CIWEM Arts & Environment Network: Research and arts projects on water and broader environmental topics.
Climaginaries: Multidisciplinary group of scholars exploring creative ways of envisioning how a post-fossil world might look
Climate Museum UK: Mobile museum responding to the climate emergency
Climate Cultures: Network of practitioners, creative conversations for the Anthropocene
Climate Revolution: Backed by Vivienne Westwood, supporting creative activism against climate change
Coalition of Museums for Climate Justice: International network based in Canada
Coney: Interactive theatre makers, making work around climate and issues of interest to their participants
Counterpoints Arts: A leading national organisation in the field of arts, migration and cultural change.
Creative Carbon Scotland putting culture at the heart of sustainability in Scotland
Culture Unstained: Research and engagement on oil sponsorship of culture
Culture Shift: How artists are responding to sustainability in Wales
Dark Mountain Project: A network of artists and writers who have stopped believing the stories civilisation tells us
Eco Art Scotland: Platform for environmental arts in Scotland
Encounters Arts: Participatory creativity, dialogue and change projects in the South West
The Enoughness Project: Indigenous knowledge
Grizedale Arts: Forest and land art in the Lake District
Happy Museum: A network of museums exploring wellbeing through an environmental frame
Invisible Dust: Curation of high quality environmental contemporary art projects
LTCGreen: London Theatre Consortium sustainability projects, such as the 2018 Artists Climate Lab
Morning Boat: A floating lab for research and action about ecology
Museums and Climate Change Network: International network based in Australia
ONCA Gallery: Creating space for change, art for social and environmental justice. Based in Brighton.
Open Jar Collective: Socially engaged arts collective
Platform London: Well-researched resources and campaigns on oil industry, economy and the arts
Remembrance Day for Lost Species: A network that organises Lost Species Day annually on 30th November. Initiator of use of extinction symbol and funerals for lost species.
Royal Court Theatre: A writer's theatre, hosting work on a range of contemporary issues including climate change.
Stories of Change: OU research project on cultures and narratives of climate change
System Change Hive: A creative engine room to explore alternative visions for the future of society, based in Brighton.
What Next Climate Change group: Meets in London quarterly, supported by Julie’s Bicycle
UN Live Museum: An emerging major museum in Denmark and online/everywhere, inspiring people to tackle global challenges of climate change and the other Sustainable Development Goals.
Inspiring environmental organisations
Resources and ideas for environmental and social change. Many of these organisations already work in partnership with cultural organisations and practitioners and are keen to do more.
Atlas of the Future: Lots of solutions, includes a map of creative/arts projects working on social & ecological challenges
Centre for Alternative Technology: offers practical solutions and hands-on learning to help create a zero carbon world. See Zero Carbon Britain. Works with cultural sector.
Climate Outreach: Provides resources to ensure climate change and its impacts are understood, accepted and acted upon across the breadth of society, creating a truly sustainable future.
Commons Abundance Network: Group working on the commons as core paradigm for sustainability and social change.
Common Cause Foundation: Training and research on Values and Frames towards social and environmental impact. Works with cultural sector.
Earth Protectors: Campaign to make Ecocide an international crime against peace. Founder Polly Higgins (sadly lost to us Easter 2019) has worked with arts and culture to explore and promote this idea.
Natural Climate Solutions: Creating a better world for wildlife and people.
Permaculture Association UK: Helps design intelligent systems which meet human needs whilst enhancing biodiversity, reducing our impact on the planet, and creating a fairer world for us all.
Public Interest Research Centre: Works with civil society to develop stories and strategies for a more equal, green and democratic society.
Rapid Transition Alliance: Evidence-based hope for transition, because the climate is changing faster than we are.
Schumacher College: Internationally renowned learning community offering ecology-centred masters programmes and short courses.
Transition Network: A network of communities coming together to reimagine and rebuild our world.
Zero Carbon Britain: An initiative of CAT, since 2007 it has offered the hard data and confidence required for visualising a future where we have risen to the demands of climate science. It has helped to show that it is possible for the UK to rapidly transition to net-zero emissions with existing technologies.
Deeper reading: Publications, toolkits and ideas
20 types of cultural response to emergency: Bridget McKenzie
Dark Mountain: books and blogposts
Designing Regenerative Cultures: Book by Daniel Christian Wahl
The Deep Adaptation Agenda: Paper by Professor Jem Bendell
‘Playing for Time: making art as if the world mattered’ Book by Lucy Neal and Charlotte du Cann, 60 narratives of artist activism looking at planetary challenges.
The Memory We Could Be: Overcoming Fear to Create Our Ecological Future, by Daniel Macmillen Voskoboynik
Resources on Declarations of Emergency
Climate Emergency (UK)
Climate Emergency Declaration (Australia)
Demand a Climate Emergency Action Plan (Centre for Alternative Technology, UK)