Art as Adaptation and Other News

This week, I’ve been pushed to think of climate adjacent pop culture in a new way. When I started this column, I mainly saw that pop culture could help to bring new people into the climate movement and that the climate movement could help pop culture stay relevant. In effect, I was thinking about what pop culture had to do with greenhouse gas mitigation. However, as climate collapse unfolds, we’re going to need much, much more. We need art & culture to help us deal with the climate crisis as it happens.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC — convened by the United Nations, it is the foremost compiler of scientific information on climate change) lays out some several useful terms and definitions for this idea of “dealing with the climate crisis.” The one that feels most relevant is adaptive capacity, because it deals with individuals’ ability to live in an altered world.

  • Adaptive Capacity: “The ability of systems, institutions, humans and other organisms to adjust to potential damage, to take advantage of opportunities, or to respond to consequences”

Art helps us get through things. It doesn’t seem to be a leap at all to think that it will help us get through the climate crisis. A beautiful poem or painting will not stop the water from coming up the stairs or the fire from knocking at our doorstep, but it can influence how we act in those moments. In short, it can increase our adaptive capacity.

If you think back, you might realize (as I have) that art has been building your adaptive capacity in a myriad of ways for years. For instance, I know that the “Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose” Friday Night Lights poster I had up in my high school dorm gave me strength each day. I know that reading the story of Louis Zamperini in Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken taught me more about resilience than any class or study. I know that yelling Taylor Swift songs together has done more for team cohesion than any “bonding exercise”.

And that is not even considering the added benefits of actually creating art! Just check out this article from Psychology Today, “Art is about Resilience, It always Has Been.” Art can be therapeutic and give us all kinds of new skills.

Plain and simple, art is adaptation.

So, I hope that this week, you’ll give yourself time to appreciate or make art in any way that speaks to you. You never know, you might just be training for the future.

In other news:

  • I was inspired to write about art and adaptation after listening to this fabulous interview about climate theater on an adaptation pod.

  • On “The Problem with Jon Stewart,” it unfortunately became clear that Jon Stewart IS the Problem as he played a little too nice with the fossil fuel industry. While his heart seemed to be in the right place, and it is true that there must be a just transition for fossil fuel workers, politely pitching Big Oil executives on a clean energy transition just clearly. has. not. worked. Did you really think no one had thought of that already, Jon?

  • And my personal favorite of the week… The “melting face” emoji hits Apple devices! Talk about a sign of the times.


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