Efforts by artists and scientists to engage public in climate change

by Yijing Zhang

David Buckland (2012) argues that climate science needs a broader platform to engage the public in the discussion of global warming. In his opinion, the Cape Farewell project is such a perfect means for scientist to work on cultural factors of climate, together with filmmakers, writers and poets. Cape Farwell is a good fit because it involves all the people, including artists, architects, and musicians, who know how to measure and evaluate climate changes in terms of topics most interesting to the public. The project consists of many journeys into areas most susceptible to climate change, in order to let participants see and examine how human activities are influencing our habitats. According to Buckland, these expeditions provide “a different language of climate change with which to engage the public.” As an international affair, more than 140 participants have taken part by writing down their stories, creating their artworks, or videoing their experiences. These practitioners use their own artsy ways to offer public a cultural explanation of cause and effects of climate changes.

To both scientists and artists, voyages are filled with unknowns, but the unpredictability allows participants to meet unexpected elements that might be shed light on climate changes. The combination group of scientists and artists are mutually beneficial, as they share the same objective that the earth is exploited by human activities. Artists are able to understand complicated hard science and in turn, incorporate their understanding into their artworks concerning our planet. To scientists, works of art, including songs, books, films and paintings, can effectively relate to public’s emotion, thus engaging people and transforming their perception on climate issues.

One expedition in 2011 witnessed an island community striving to undergo a sustainable cultural change, by installing an electricity grid that would mainly powered by renewable resource. Buckland points out that Cape Farewell has switched its attention from raising awareness to searching for solutions. In the end, Buckland concludes that the expedition itself is becoming part of the solutions required to boost optimism of moving forward in the climate change movement.



Buckland, D. (2012). “Climate is culture.” Nature Climate Change 2: 137-140.

Click to access nclimate1420.pdf




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