Sustaining the Environment Through Culture & Design

At MAIA, we have always been interested in the role(s) of artists within society - in particular, how they address the challenges we face, how they respond to moments in time, how they create narratives and how they collaborate with other fields.

Recently, the world’s leading climate scientists warned that we have until approximately 12 years to prevent climate catastrophe. To be specific, they claim global warming must be kept to a maximum of 1.5C, beyond which even half a degree will significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people.

From consulting on industry-wide environmental activism, to illustrating the ways inequality has been systematically designed, here are five projects and organisations working at the intersection of culture, design, art and the environment.

 Source: Ekene Ijeoma presents  Wage Islands: Immigrants

Source: Ekene Ijeoma presents Wage Islands: Immigrants

  1. London-based charity Julie’s Bicycle supports the creative and cultural industries to act on climate change and environmental sustainability. Julie’s Bicycle believe “that the creative community is uniquely placed to transform the conversation around climate change and translate it into action”. As such, they provide a programme of events, free resources and public speaking engagements, which contribute to national and international climate change policy development. JB works with organisations and independent professionals to embed environmental sustainability into their operations, creative work and business practice.

  2. Radical Renewable Art & Activism Fund (RRAAF), initiated by Ellie Harrison in 2015, aims to be an autonomous funding scheme. The intentions behind the project were to use a wind turbine to generate renewable energy that would fund a ‘no-strings-attached’ grant scheme for art-activist projects. This follows Ellie’s practice that explores the workings of our economic system, through artistic creation and direct political campaigning.

  3. Ekene Ijeoma's Wage Islands: Immigrants sculptural installation project highlights New York’s salary disparity. The work submerges a topographic map of NYC underwater to visualize where low-wage immigrant workers can afford to rent. Elevations are based on median monthly housing costs, but it also speaks to the threat of flooding amidst climate change and environmental threats. Using art and data, it hopes to expand the relationships between housing and accessibility and wages and affordability in the city

  4. Creative Carbon Scotland works with artists and individuals, cultural and sustainability organisations, funders and policy makers, connecting them to the change process and exploring how the cultural sector can contribute. Since Creative Carbon Scotland was established in 2011 to embed environmental sustainability within Scotland’s arts and cultural sector, the organisation has developed significantly. From aiming to help arts organisations to report their carbon emissions, they are now focusing on exploring the sector’s role in transforming our society to address climate change.

  5. In his recent TED talk, Why the "Wrong Side of the Tracks" is Usually the East Side of Cities, Stephen DeBerry makes the case that disparity has been designed into cities, based on wind dispersion. Wind and pollution from industrialisation has driven marginalized communities to the east. Stephen is a Silicon Valley veteran and founder of Bronze Investments, where he makes and manages innovative investments that align strong financial returns with positive social impact. Bronze’s Eastside Investment thesis argues that pushing innovation from large categories like health, education and financial services into communities on the social and economic margin is a viable strategy to drive sustainable economic growth.