Cultural adaptations and climate change: 3 things we’ve learnt

We hear from Creative Carbon Scotland, a charity connecting arts and sustainability, about their innovative cross-European project Cultural Adaptations and the top 3 things they’ve learnt from this experience so far.

How must our culture adapt, be part of making a society that is responding to our changing present, and create a positive future? Find out what happens when cultural organisations work closely with city governments to adapt to the impacts of climate change…

Cultural Adaptations – some of the team in Ghent, Belgium

Cultural Adaptations is a 30-month Creative Europe co-operation project led by Creative Carbon Scotland (Scotland), with Greentrack Gent (Belgium), TILLT (Sweden) and axis Ballymun (Ireland), and co-funded by the Scottish Government.

In each country, cultural organisations are paired with climate change experts and city governments to explore how culture can adapt to the impacts of climate change, and how creative practice can influence and shape how cities across Europe approach transformative adaptation.

3 things we’ve learnt so far

  1. Diverse cultural organisations face similar climate change challenges…and opportunities

Cultural managers working in visual art, performing arts, literature and festivals are variably at risk from things like flooded venues cancelling events, heatwaves affecting audience health, increased humidity damaging resources, and increased costs of insurance and travel. But with anticipation and engagement, adaptation to climate change can also complement artistic programming, create a more strategic role for cultural organisations, and strengthen resilience and overall sustainability. In each partner country, we’re hosting workshops with local cultural managers to help develop a method for assessing risk and planning.


2. Artists have skills which are valuable to climate change adaptation experts

Adaptation is a complex task, requiring new types of thinking for this new problem. In each country we have one artist embedded within an organisation working on climate change. Their task is not to create a piece of work, but to influence thinking and process, making new connections and bringing a creative perspective. Our Scotland-based artist is contributing to the strategic work of Climate Ready Clyde – the organisation defining adaptation for the 1.8 million people who live in the Glasgow City Region (1/3rd of Scotland’s population).


3. We all need to work together to find new solutions for a positive future

Cultural Adaptations is a bit of a ‘weird’ project: a Creative Europe project with equal numbers of cultural and non-cultural organisations. But taking new risks, forming new partnerships and working beyond established roles is necessary for truly transformational change. We’re creating resources, reflections, toolkits and templates from this project to help inspire and inform future collaborations in Europe and beyond.

Mark O’Brien, Artistic Director and CEO of Irish partner axis Ballymun, talks about the project and the impact that climate change is already having on his cultural organisation

More about the Cultural Adaptations project

Climate change is the most challenging problem we collectively face. It transcends borders and generations and is already changing the lives and work of societies around the world. Cultural Adaptations focuses on north-west Europe, where we’re experiencing warmer winters and summers, more rain and less snow, and more intense and more extreme storms.

Whereas current discussions on climate change are dominated by mitigation efforts (how to reduce carbon emissions to reduce the impact of climate change), we concentrate on adaptation activities (how to adapt our world to the climate change already happening and projected). Cultural Adaptations is an action-research project: experimenting with new methods and new approaches, with the aim to refine and share tools and resources to support organisations across Europe.

Cultural Adaptations culminates in a final conference in October 2020 in Glasgow, Scotland, for practitioners and policy makers working in culture, climate change or urban adaptation. Taking place during Scotland’s Climate Week, and one month before the UN’s COP26 climate negotiations in the city, the event will finalise the findings and outputs of the action-research of the project. Details and tickets will be announced in January 2020. Register interest.

Catriona Patterson, Cultural Adaptations (EUCAN) Project Manager

The Cultural Adaptations team

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