Interview on September 1, 2016 with:
1) How has your collage art influenced how you think about your role as an activist?
Collaging reminds me to play to my strengths in all the work I do. I will be most effective and helpful to the climate movement while also doing what makes me come alive the most. In other words, by playing to my strengths and seeing how those actions can help the movement, I am hitting from the sweet spot. For anyone who has ever played tennis, the sweet spot is the most powerful place to be.
2) I love the idea of beauty emerging from destruction. Do you see that theme in other parts of your life?
Inevitable destruction is one of the dominant narratives told about the climate crisis. “The world is ending, and we don’t know how to solve the problem.” I firmly reject this idea. Also, it doesn’t motivate me. One of the main lessons that I pulled from Climate Journey—a six-month storytelling bicycle trek between the US and Paris for the UN Climate Conference last year—was that 1) solutions to this crisis are abundant, and 2) the people and communities searching for and realizing them are creating a more beautiful world. In fact, the magnitude of destruction and urgency of the climate crisis is providing us with the best opportunity we may ever have to create that more beautiful world.
3) Why is art important to social change?
I remember marching down 6th Avenue with 400,000 of my new friends at the People’s Climate March in NYC on September 21, 2014. It was and still is the largest climate march in history. The most vivid image that I have of the march is the hundreds and thousands of hand-held golden yellow sunflower signs. Not your typical protest symbol, that is certain, especially juxtaposed against the colossal skyscrapers of Manhattan. Long green poles served as both stems and handles. Bright yellow flowers with burnt sienna centers bobbed in waves feet above the fleet of heads. Whenever I saw one of these protest flowers, I smiled. In that moment, I knew, and the flowers helped me remember, that the movement that I am a part of is building something beautiful. Something better than what we have now. That is what art can do. Art can share stories. And stories form the foundation for how we think about ourselves and how we think about the world around us. Without art, we cannot even begin to fully express the more beautiful world we are creating.