Art At Its Heart

The eARTh Initiative brings art to the heart of climate action

CSTEP launched the eARTh Initiative on 14 October at the Bangalore International Centre, Karnataka, bringing art to the heart of climate action. Vasu Dixit — musician, composer, and the lead singer of the band Swarathma — inaugurated the Initiative by watering the Tulsi plant, symbolising an auspicious beginning. Belting out crowd favourites such as Nadiyolage, Pyaasi, and Ragi tandira, Dixit stressed the power of music to convey profound thoughts. ‘There is immense power in music to send a message across, but, unlike a bomb, it is a very gentle tool,’ quipped Dixit during his keynote address.

The event included performances by Anoushka Maskey, singer-songwriter, and the Bangalore Little Theatre, who performed a short, interactive play ‘Thermos’, which is a comic and irreverent examination of global warming and climate change. Artist Kanchan Ratna, whose paintings are made of newspapers, flowers, and other waste materials, exhibited her artwork at the event.

During the panel discussion titled ‘How can art and the artist contribute to the climate conversation’, Artist Gigi Scaria noted that art can open certain new areas for engaging with citizens and motivating them. ‘The change brought in by art is gradual but happens at a deeper level’, he said. Ms Usha Rajagopalan, writer and lake conservationist, shared her experience in engaging communities to revive the Puttenahalli lake in Bengaluru, Karnataka. ‘Bureaucrats and ecologists cannot do anything by themselves. The public needs to be brought into the climate conversation,’ she said.

Stand-up comedian and podcaster Sundeep Rao of the SoapyRao Show fame spoke about the perils of growing consumerism and the need to rethink our choices. ‘I am part of the problem (climate change) if I am not thinking about my choices and actions,’ he observed.

Journalist and documentary filmmaker Shawn Sebastian, whose short film ‘The Mangrove Man of Kumbalangi’ was screened on the occasion, pointed out that art can help spread hope through stories of the resilience of communities. ‘To communicate about climate change, we need evidence and science, but we also need human emotions, and this is where art and artists come in,’ he said.

‘eARTh’ is supported by the Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation and India Climate Collaborative as knowledge partners.

The Initiative aims at sustained engagement with the artist community to trigger climate-positive behaviour change among citizens. An artist collective to mentor young artists and encourage climate art and a climate fellowship for students to enable them to create solution-oriented artistic narratives around climate change are in the works.

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Center for Study of Science, Technology and Policy

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