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Blogs - short snappy pieces, often topical, sometimes informal

Peter Gingold of Tipping Point discusses despair, imagination and the artist’s contribution to mobilising society about climate change.

TippingPointLogoLargeTippingPoint is part of the intriguing ecology of small organisations that have made the UK something of a world leader in the field of artistic engagement with climate change. One way of putting our work is that given the way conventional political and policy processes are stuck in various types of log-jam, we are working in our various ways to encourage creation of works of the imagination that might mobilise society to take action, or give politicians the confidence to take the sort of decision they currently believe to be sure-fire vote-losers.

Examples of this fast growing body of work can be found on our website, on Cape Farewell’s, and in many other places. There are many artists asking themselves the very difficult question of how to bring the subject into their work without sounding hectoring or didactic, without getting themselves inexorably branded as a ‘climate change artist’, and yet communicating images and ideas that are intended to have some type of constructive impact.

A central part of our own practice is to hold events which bring artists of many types together with people with expertise in climate change – researchers, policy-makers and others. These are often very intense gatherings lasting two days or more, and the objective is of course to stimulate as deep and fruitful engagement as possible between people who would normally never meet – leading to who knows what sort of outcome.

We have done this all over the world, and a few years ago, working with our sister organisation TippingPoint Australia, we held a series of events in Australia. In Sydney one of these was a public event including about a hundred people from a cross section of the environmental, activist and arts community.

Group discussion in Sydney

A technique we use a lot is Open Space, in which those present choose the subjects for discussion, rather than having them imposed by the event organisers. I had just finished Clive Hamilton’s long cry of anguish ‘Requiem for a Species’, and being of a melancholic disposition was (and remain) strongly moved by his point: we have blown it; it is too late.

I found myself suggesting ‘Looking into the Abyss’ as a topic for discussion. And to my amazement, a good half of the people there, about fifty, joined my group. It became very clear that the majority of us were labouring under much the same problem – we were struggling with keeping our motivation or indeed mental well-being in reasonable shape when a perfectly rational understanding of the future is so bleak. There are plenty of walking wounded in this field.

I‘d love to report that we all went away from our hour-long discussion energised, or at least equipped with a useful and practical list of coping mechanisms! But while we certainly smiled it would be more honest to say that apart from gaining strength from the fact of being in good company we didn’t make a great deal of progress.

The nature of this problem will come as no surprise to many readers of this site. Perhaps I might take this opportunity to remind the therapeutic community of what I think is a clear need: for a structured programme, something other (and cheaper) than individual therapy, that might support the many activists, researchers, artists and others who labour daily in this field, and the significant proportion who struggle with it.

As far as I am aware the nearest thing to this are Joanna Macey’s programmes ‘The Great Turning’ and ‘The Work that Reconnects’; they are wonderful in their own way, but they are largely restricted to the USA, and are also ‘strongly flavoured’ in a way which I think will not appeal to all.

So here is a request: let’s have a programme of support for people who find the fact of a future world less comfortable than our own, perhaps much less so, troubling to the extent that it affects their ability to function. I don’t have much doubt that there would be takers.

- Peter Gingold, December 16 2013