Don’t ignore culture in climate recovery, warns the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales
Culture is a powerful tool for fighting climate change, the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales will say today at COP 26.
Today (Friday, November 12), Sophie Howe hopes to inspire policy makers and others to make the connections between and value the role that creativity can play in responding to the climate and nature emergencies.
Wales’ Well-being of Future Generations Act, which puts a responsibility on public bodies to protect those not yet born, made Wales the first country to include culture in its definition of sustainable development – placing value on the power of art to improve a person and community’s well-being.
The commissioner is in Glasgow to encourage other countries to follow – and legislate to limit the impact of the climate and nature emergencies on future generations.
Visitors at an event she’s hosting today will hear stories from communities across Wales and their creative responses to the climate crisis – including via a film made by young school children, on the final day of the major climate conference in Glasgow.
It’s a collaboration between the commissioner, Wales Arts International; Eisteddfod Genedlaethol Cymru; global design studio IDEO; Size of Wales; arts project, Ynys Blastig, and Taylor Edmonds, a 26-year-old poet from South Wales who became the commissioner’s second Poet in Residence this year, and is open to the public at COP’s Green Zone.
Taylor, whose poetry is communicating the urgency of the climate crisis in Wales – earlier this month she collaborated with a flood-hit community in Llanrwst on an emotional call-to-action – will perform an ‘unfinished poem’, drawing on reflections from visitors to COP 26.
A short film, Blot-deuwedd, sees children aged five to 11 from Ysgol Rhosgadfan in Caernarfon adapt a story from the Mabinogion to inspire the protection of nature.
The first Future Generations Chair, created and designed by craftsman Tony Thomas, in partnership with the Eisteddfod Genedlaethol Cymru, will also be unveiled – a nod to the chair awarded to poets in a historic Welsh cultural tradition and featuring words chosen by campaign group, Climate Cymru.
A discussion will include Jenipher Wettaka, vice chair of a farmers’ cooperative in Uganda, and Valerie Wood-Gaiger, an 80-year-old climate activist from Myddfai in Llandovery.
In her Future Generations Report, published in May 2020, Ms Howe recommended that Welsh Government should ensure cultural agencies work better together to make connections between how culture and language are addressing the climate and nature emergencies and keeping people well.
Welsh Government is working in partnership with the commissioner on a Freelance and Public Bodies Pledge that will seek to partner freelancers with public bodies to use culture and creativity to address challenges like loneliness and isolation, mental health, climate change and town and city centre regeneration.
In Wales, there are now Citizens Assemblies in Gwent and Bridgend, and in Swansea Bay Health Board, creatives are employed in capital planning to work on patient experience, falls, mental health and primary care departments.
Community arts organsisation, Heads4Arts works with the community to encourage positive action on climate change, and Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority runs several climate and culture projects including an Artist in Residence programme, interactive wildlife sculptures to highlight the problem of marine litter and a Changing Coast Project where people can share photography to document coastal change.
UNESCO has warned climate change is one of the greatest threats facing culture today, adding it was disrupting the lives of communities across the globe, dramatically limiting their ability to access and benefit from their culture, noting artists and creators have an ‘enormous role’ to play in inspiring action.
Sophie Howe said: “Wales is one of the only countries world-wide to place cultural well-being as a statutory responsibility on public bodies as part of Wales’ world-leading legislation, the Well-being of Future Generations Act.
“Protecting our planet means protecting our heritage, language and culture, and I’m calling on all countries to fully integrate culture into their climate change policies and strategies and support cultural approaches to tackle complex issues.
“Wales is proud of storytelling and creativity– and throughout history, arts and culture communities have looked for new ways to work beyond their traditional remits, in highlighting and addressing social inequalities, loneliness and isolation, mental health and community cohesion. It’s now time to build on what we know about the power of culture and use it to address the climate crisis.”
Climate, in the Visceral Sense – An Ongoing Story in Three Acts will run at the Green Zone from 9.30am on Friday, November 12. More information can be found here.
You can watch the event live, here.
Making Blot-deuwedd - How a North Wales school is taking the message to COP 26
Children from Ysgol Rhosdagfan in Caernarfon appear in the short film, Blot-euwedd, which will be screened to an audience at COP 26 on the final day of the major climate conference in this event hosted by the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales.
Six-year-old Hana Hughes plays the main character and the film follows her story as she introduces the whole school to nature by following in the footsteps of mythical character, Blodeuwedd, a central figure in the Mabinogion, who was made from flowers.
Director, Iola Ynyr, of Ynys Blastig, said she wanted to show the power of nature and how we can all take little steps to embrace our surroundings, cherish the nature around and reducing our carbon footprint.
Ynys Blastig is an arts project which began as a creative commission by Gwynedd Council to reduce the use of plastic and promote well-being.
Iola said inspiration for the story came during lockdown when she used to go for long cycle rides to lift her spirits and would travel past Llyn Nantlle in Snowdonia, stopping by the gate looking down the lake.
The song in the film, ‘Llyn Llawenydd’, which means lake of happiness, is by North West Wales band, Papur Wal and the film is shot at the school and around Snowdonia.
She said: “I had the idea of creating a film that showed how we can sometimes feel like insignificant ‘blots’ in our world, not sure where we fit in and how embracing nature can make us feel whole again.
“The blot also represents the carbon footprints created by the way people are living, not considering its effect on nature,” adding she was ‘so impressed’ by how open the children were to express themselves creatively.
“I wanted to show the power of nature and how we can all take little steps to embrace our surroundings and ensure that we conserve and cherish the nature around us reducing our carbon footprint. I also wanted to show the beauty of north Wales to the world-wide delegates.
“COP26 is such an important event, and we feel passionately about the concept of ‘think local, act global’. We all have our small part to play, and our mission is to get local children in north Wales to take action, within their area, to reduce the use of plastics and re-discover the beauty of nature.”
Judith Ann Owen, headteacher at Ysgol Rhosgadfan, said, “The children have loved working on this project and it has opened their eyes to the huge world outside Rhosgadfan.
“I have seen a change in the way that they think about climate change and how they are the ones encouraging their families to take small steps to make a difference.”
Visitors will be gift seeded paper from the young children in the film, to plant at home and continue the story.
Notes to editors
The Future Generations Chair includes words such as ‘newid’, which is Welsh for ‘change’, engraved into wood.
It is also a symbol of voices not present at COP 26– future generations – who should have a seat at the table and its words were chosen by Climate Cymru, via its project to gather 10,000 voices from Wales to take to the global conference.
Taylor Edmonds is the Poet in Residence for the Future Generations Commissioner as part of a partnership with Wales Arts International, Literature Wales and Welsh Government.
Ysgol Rhosgadfan school is available for interview and filming pre-event.
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