Blog post

Cimate Crisis: Facing difficult truths

By Dr Jamie Bird - 28 October 2021

As artists, therapists and researchers, academics at the University of Derby are using their knowledge of the power of the arts to aid the expression of difficult feelings, in the service of responding to the many challenges that the climate crisis presents. Here, Dr Jamie Bird, Deputy Head of Centre for Health, Psychology and Social Care Research explores the use of art as a way of dealing with the different feelings that witnessing the climate crisis has upon individuals and groups – specifically with young people.

Climate crisis is a symptom of broken economic and political systems – colonialism, capitalism and neoliberalism – which treats humans and other-than-humans as merely resources to be extracted, exploited and monetised.  Globally, millions have been living with these injustices and crises for generations. Here, in the UK many people are also now in shock, feeling vulnerable and angry, fearful of the future, unsure of how to act.

Dr Jamie Bird

Climate crisis is a symptom of broken economic and political systems – colonialism, capitalism and neoliberalism – which treats humans and other-than-humans as merely resources to be extracted, exploited and monetised.

Dr Jamie Bird
Deputy Head of Centre for Health, Psychology and Social Care Research

Climate Crisis: The Emotional Impact

Polls show that the young and old want political leaders to act now to reduce our reliance upon fossil fuels and prepare society for the changes that are coming in a fair and just way. Research shows that young and old alike are emotionally affected by climate crisis. Research also shows that coming to recognise that feelings such as anger, fear and uncertainty, are normal and healthy reactions, is empowering.  When acknowledged collectively, those feelings can lead to taking positive action with others. That action includes changing one’s own behaviour and holding those with political and economic power to account.

COP26 offers an opportunity for large-scale actions to address the climate crisis to be adopted by countries. There will be many words spoken suggesting that change is possible. There is hope that a good global response will emerge. The hard work comes afterwards, ensuring that words become actions quickly. If not, hope turns to despair. Our work seeks to work with all of the feelings that are swirling around COP26.

Object made by young person, March 2020

How we work is to offer people either basic art materials and recycled materials, or music, or dance and movement. Those art forms are then used to explore thoughts and feelings about the climate crisis. Using the arts in this way allows for the appearance of a playful and creative atmosphere. It also allows feelings that can be hard to express with words to emerge in a physical way and to be witnessed by others. As well as participants making their own individual responses, we also encourage the group to work together to create a collective response. When it feels appropriate, we ask the group to use the materials and art forms provided to help imagine how they or their community might respond and adapt to the climate crisis. We are working on ways to share these imagined responses with those people within organisations and constituencies who are tasked with seeing that actions are taken to address the climate crisis. In this way we are using art to aid participation in democracy.

On Wednesday 27 October, between 10am and 12pm, we will be at Weston Park in Sheffield to support the 'Ride for their Lives' event in collaboration with Sheffield Children’s Hospital. We will work with young people, using art to help them think about climate change and the feelings it provokes.

 

For further information contact the Corporate Communications team at pressoffice@derby.ac.uk or call 01332 593953.

About the author

Profile picture for Jamie Bird

Dr Jamie Bird
Deputy Head of Centre for Health and Social Care Research

Dr Bird is based within the Health and Social Care Research Centre. His role is focused on helping to develop the College of Health and Social Care's research activity. This includes the development of funding bids, the conducting of research and the dissemination of findings. Dr Bird's research interests include art therapy, migration, domestic abuse, and climate crisis.

Email
j.bird@derby.ac.uk
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