Everybody's declaring a climate emergency. And to do so they're using phonebanks, conceptual art, horse parades...
It seems to be the way that organisations can best respond to the urgency of climate disruption, as hammered home by the IPCC report - to declare a climate emergency (BBC report)
A Google news search reveals a vast spread of actions worldwide. In the UK, some powerful networks have already sprung up - this one is organising council by council, all aiming at a zero-carbon performance by 2030. Over 70 councils and 170 institutions in this country have declared their emergencies (here’s a growing list of these).
As the BBC reports, “Some councils have promised to introduce electric car hubs or build sustainable homes to try to achieve that goal. It's a much more ambitious target than the government's, which is to reduce carbon emissions by 80% (compared to 1990 levels) by 2050”.
Two declarations have come to us that we want to particularly promote.
Extinction Rebellion’s next major climate change action starts on 15th April They are asking for a new nationwide phone banking effort, asking their followers across these islands “to set up phone banks in their living rooms, pubs and community spaces”.
From their newsletter blurb:
Can you get together with a few friends or family to make some phone calls and ask people to join us for the 15th April? All you need is a phone, a laptop and a spare evening - Sign up below! YES I CAN
Are you based in London? Come along, meet other people and learn a few tips about phone banking this Thursday at the XR London Office. JOIN THE LONDON REBEL RINGER'S TRAINING
Acting alone and taking on the government in this way would be too big an ask for anyone. There are thousands of people reading this email today, the same as you - Imagine if we all spread the word to just 10 people, thousands of people could turn up in April.
We explored a few of the links, and we loved Morgan’s video explainer on phonebank activism - as much for the youthful spirit of it, as for the advice:
Yesterday (Wed April 3rd), a horse-led procession through London, ending up at the Tate Modern, kicked off Culture Declares Emergency (Twitter, Facebook) a very broad-based response by the arts and culture sector to the climate crisis. Their core message is here:
Through their prodigious convening powers, the arts and culture bring people together across differences to find commonality.
At a time of emergency culture gives space to articulate our place and survival in the web of life: creating the conditions for change, transforming and renewing our stories and visions of a liveable world. We can shape new ways of being human on Earth. The human imagination is infinite: we are all creators, makers and alchemists of change.
Culture explores the fierce poetry of the heart; the pain of what we are losing and a yearning for the restoration and celebration of life.
Culture energises people’s courage and capacities for action to respond collectively to the challenges being faced.
Being bold, active players in this great re-imagining is why and how culture matters.
The declaration movement has been gaining pace internationally. It started with Climate Mobilization in the US and Australia, and is now promoted by Extinction Rebellion, Sunrise Movement and School Strike for Climate amongst others.
The number of UK councils declaring is increasing all the time – including the Greater London Authority – with councils committing resources to tackling this emergency. Their declarations state they will work with civic partners, so this is where culture comes in.
Here’s a quote from one of the organisers, Bridget MacKenzie:
Culture Declares Emergency is about revelation of truth and declaration of our intentions. It is coming together in one sound with and for many voices, in solidarity with all those affected by the Climate and Ecological Emergency. It is the first of many waves of artists and cultural organisations announcing their intentions.
It begins in London, a place implicated with the extractive and colonial histories that have led us to this Emergency. But it is also a place rich with culture that can be turned towards the task of reimagining how we relate to one another and the living planet.
They describe their website as a “toolkit” - and indeed, there are extremely useful links giving basic guidance to any group or institution that wants to declare a climate emergency, reproduced below:
Why declare emergency What is the situation? What does a declaration mean?
How to declare emergency Deciding what to do and how to do it; a template for your Declaration text
What to do next How to make a difference. Ideas and resources to respond to the emergency and keep up momentum.
Why culture matters What is the contribution of arts and culture in this emergency