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The arts have a key role for public engagement for sustainability in England so why not in Ireland too??

A walk on Mt Leinster for Earth Day 2014, organised by Cathy Fitzgerald. Photo: C. Fitzgerald
A walk on Mt Leinster for Earth Day 2014, organised by Cathy Fitzgerald. Photo: C. Fitzgerald

Art and sustainability programmes originating in England (Julie’s Bicycle) in the last decade, and also evolving rapidly in Scotland (Creative Carbon Scotland) have proven increased public engagment with eco-social concerns and also provided significant energy costs for their respective art sectors.

Ireland has no developed policy in this area (Fitzgerald, 2017) but it is certain that we mustn’t ignore culture as part of national response to the unfolding ecological emergencies.

Art has immense social power to engage and inspire a national conversation to envision the values for sustainability that are important and relevant to Irish rural and urban communities.

Alison Tickell, CEO, Julie’s Bicycle [England], said of their art and sustainability programme report published in late 2018: “This report shows how a deceptively simple policy – Arts Council England’s Environmental reporting requirements – can prompt big shifts. Hundreds of creative organisations are demonstrating how a sustainable cultural ecology can work. Environmental literacy is inspiring deeper connections between climate and social justice, investment and innovation, clean energy and new materials, empathy and biodiversity, the past, present and why we must shape the future.”

The Chairperson of Art Council England also commented:

In six years we have seen a 23% reduction in energy consumption and a corresponding 35% reduction in carbon emissions. Theatres, libraries, museums and concert halls of all sizes – in cities such as Birmingham, Exeter and London and across the country from Cumbria to the Thames estuary – are taking significant steps to highlight the issue in their programmes and improve their own environmental practice, installing solar panels, switching to energy-saving lightbulbs and reducing travel… We have seen the power of encouraging the arts and cultural community to go on a collective journey. (Guardian, 20 Nov, 2018).