On July 29, the Cranbrook Climate Hub and Kimberly Youth Action Network co-hosted an art night for climate action with the goal of coming together to voice their concerns for climate change through art.
The event was a success, and they did just that, with youth, kids and adults all getting involved.
Lori Joe is a Kimberley artist and Coordinator of the Kimberley Youth Action Network. She was one of the co-hosts of the event, alongside Meghan Reiser of the Cranbrook Climate Hub (CCH).
Joe says that the event was timely, as wildfire smoke fills the air and the heatwave presses on.
“The reality of climate change is so in our face right now. The timing of this event also coincided with the 350Canada day of climate action,” Joe said. “We took this time to create art and articulate what matters to each of us as individuals. Through art and words, we demonstrated how we feel about the lack of climate action.”
350Canada is a people-powered movement for climate action, focused on stopping fossil fuel expansion and transitioning to more sustainable systems.
Sue Cairns of the Cranbrook Climate Hub and Citizens’ Climate Lobby for East Kootenay was also an organizer of the event. She says that getting the message across in a caring way is one of the reasons CCH and KYAN decided to have an art night.
The organizations presented their art to MP Rob Morrison in hopes that he will put climate change policies at top of mind during the potential upcoming federal election.
“We are asking for a response to climate change by our elected representatives that matches the magnitude and long term nature of the mounting crisis we are in,” Cairns explained. “We want to support one another as we live through this time and amplify our expectation that our elected representatives take action that endures beyond four year election cycles. We are seeking legislation that supports all people on a transition that supports life, health and livelihood and doesn’t leave anyone behind.”
Joe says that the artwork created during the event was indicative of these asks.
“One common message across most of the artwork was the lack of a plan in place from leadership. There is anxiety about this for people of all ages. Here we are, sitting in the wildfire smoke and drought wondering – where is the plan? Where’s the hope for young people?” Joe said.
“It feels like a can being kicked down the road. We need a plan now. It’s going to take a long time to transition so we need to start now,” Cairns said.
Enter, elected officials.
“It’s our responsibility. We can’t just be quiet. [Rob Morrison] is our voice in Ottawa. If we are headed into an election, we need him to know that we care. We’re not going to just sit back. No matter which political party, we need the expansion of fossil fuels to stop.
“We’re in a climate emergency. We want to come together as a community and find voices to express how we feel in a completely non-partisan way. This event was neat because whatever is concerning you, you were able to bring it out. Being able to express your feelings and have the bravery to do so in a supported place.”
A national fact sheet from the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE) says that, according to the World Health Organization, climate change is the greatest health challenge of the 21st century and threatens all aspects of our society.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says that humans must cut climate emissions by 45 per cent by the year 2030 if we want to prevent catastrophic levels of climate change.
Extremely hot days will persist and are projected to double or triple over the next 30 years if we don’t reduce emissions, says CAPE. Add to that air pollution, mental health impacts, insect-borne diseases, safe water and food security and extreme weather events.
Fossil fuels are used to make a massive amount of products and commodities that are used by millions of people every day. Petroleum makes over 6,000 products from nail polish, eye glasses and shoes to life jackets, fuel for vehicles and anesthetics.
Even cell phones are constructed from a variety of metals, as well as products that are derived from petroleum.
So what would you say to people who ask how we can live without fossil fuels?
Reiser responded saying that, often, that question is asked as a way to shut down the conversation.
“Are there challenges to transitioning away from fossil fuels? Yes, of course. Any sort of large-scale transition is going to take a lot of time, effort and planning. So how do we make that happen? We have to support the workers who are in the fossil fuels industry and help them transition into renewable energy jobs. We need to focus on our economy, absolutely. It is a real concern [not using fossil fuels] but the solutions and transitions need to be discussed and implemented.”
Joe asked, what is the cost of not transitioning?
“The cost to our economy, our futures, our quality of life? How does it benefit us to keep going the way we are going?” she asked.
Cairns echoed those questions, saying that it takes more than just an art night to make these things happen.
“We want an economy that’s fit for the future, and it’s going to take all of us together to do that. We need our leaders to take an active role in planning the transition. It’s incredibly complex,” Cairns said.
“Climate work is incredibly technical. One thing that I loved about this event was it was a really accessible way to talk about it and approach it. It shows that regardless of technical knowledge or political beliefs, people care [about climate change],” Reiser said. “On a personal note, it’s a really scary time right now. Being able to come together to chat, support one another and paint, it was needed.
“The climate hub is a place for people to come together. There is strength in diversity. The only thing we need to have in common, is that we care.”
Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.