Climate Justice is a term linked to a movement intrinsically related to Social Justice that acknowledges climate change can have differing social, economic, public health, and other adverse impacts on people, communities, and ecosystems globally. Climate justice is a concept that addresses the ethical dimensions of climate change, and climate justice in producing practices requires artists’ acknowledgment of the short and long-term impacts of production for the planet and all living things, now, and generations to come.
There are many terms for this type of work; environmental justice, land and water justice, eco-conscious theatre, sustainable theatre, green theatre. Each term holds its own nuances and ideologies, but at the core, relate to the relationship between human action and the planet.
Humans are a part of the natural ecosystem and our actions, policies, industry, and lifestyle has caused the climate emergency. Realigning ourselves and our work to be in service to the land towards Climate Justice will require radical shifts in thinking and practice.
This work is often centered in Host nations’ Natural Laws and ways of being. Indigenous Peoples associate their own laws with the laws of the natural world, which are formally known as or translated as Natural Law. These laws are not related to the Canadian Government's legal system. We are all responsible to the land and the people whose land we are creating on. For non-Indigenous artists, this takes listening and spending time as a witness in Indigenous-led spaces over a long period of time.
Climate Justice is a personal and collective responsibility. It is not exclusively about theatre-making or art-making, but rather, it is a commitment to think critically about our values and decision-making processes which will in turn inform our choice making as artists.
“Land Back Is the reclamation of everything stolen from the original Peoples - Land, Language, Ceremony, Medicines, Kinship” – LANDBACK Manifesto
The Land Back movement is deeply rooted in Climate Justice. Consider how you can listen and support the leadership of Land Back movements, based on your lived experience, artistic practice, and positionality. Indigenous artists may choose to make art or tell stories about Land Back. Non-Indigenous artists may consider amplifying, supporting, and making space for Indigenous story-telling.
Consider supporting the Land Back movement more directly by finding out what Land Back movements are happening within your community. Is it possible to support the leadership of these movements via donations, amplification or other resources?
Some recent or current re-occupations in so-called Canada:
- Kwekwecnewtxw: traditional Coast Salish Watch House
- Sqeq'petsin - Secwepemc'ulecw
- 1492LandBackLane in Six Nations of the Grand River Territory
- Gidimt’en Checkpoint - Wet'suwet'en
Working towards Climate Justice in the arts and in all sectors is intergenerational work. Restructuring and system change steps today allow for future generations to continue to create and share art. Climate Justice in producing involves planning beyond our year-end annual reports impact and considering the impact our producing choices will have on future generations.
The Seventh Generation value is an example of how this mindset is imbedded into all decision-making and life for the Haudenosaunee Confederacy (from the nations’ website):
“Among the nations of the Haudenosaunee is a core value called the Seventh Generation. While the Haudenosaunee encompass traditional values like sharing labour and maintaining a duty to their family, clan and nation and being thankful to nature and the Creator for their sustenance, the Seventh Generation value takes into consideration those who are not yet born but who will inherit the world. In their decision making Chiefs consider how present day decisions will impact their descendants. Nations are taught to respect the world in which they live as they are borrowing it from future generations. The Seventh Generation value is especially important in terms of culture. Keeping cultural practices, languages, and ceremonies alive is essential if those to come are to continue to practice Haudenosaunee culture.”
Equity and Justice within your Organization
As our communities are a part of the ecosystem, authentically caring for the environment includes caring for ourselves, our organizations, and the people within them. This includes:
- Committing to pay a Living Wage as determined by the Living Wage Calculator to all employees, plus manageable schedule and workload
- Pay Equity and flexible schedules
- Community Agreements
- Protocols for Accountability
- Artist and Audience Accessibility
Research your donors and what projects they fund. Does your funder fund extraction projects? Divest from sponsors that fund extraction projects. For example the Trans Mountain Pipeline (also known as the TMX) is funded by TD Bank and RBC Bank. You can find all the TMX funders https://www.nationalobserver.com/2017/12/18/news/vancouverites-urge-td-bank-divest-kinder-morgans-trans-mountain-pipeline-expansion|here]
The approach to Climate Justice in Producing will differ greatly depending on whether you are a small independent project as compared to a large scale touring organization.
Independent artists and small organizations tend to be more eco-conscious by nature. Many of these tendencies arguably come from a scarcity of resources, however as we all begin to be more conscious of our impact on the environment these practices have become something to be proud of. Some examples are:
- Trading and thrifting are common practices
- Often small scale projects do not have office spaces and therefore do not use the energy associated with having an office space
- Sets tend to be smaller
- Don’t tend to tour as often or go to as many conferences
- More digital sharing
There is of course work to be done at all sizes. Examples of what small-scale projects can focus on are:
- Consider where your props/set come from, can you buy local or trade or thrift?
- Transportation to and from rehearsal
- Carbon Offsets while travelling
Larger scale organizations have a greater impact and more resources and therefore have greater shifts to make to lower the impact of their producing.
Tools to lower impact:
- Creative Green Tools via Julies Bicycle is a tool that can be used to track your carbon footprint. It factors in an organizations':
- Energy use - electricity, gas
- Water use
- Waste to landfill, energy, recycling and composting
- Audience Travel
- Everyday good practices (ex. Energy efficient lighting, solar power, vegetarian food, sharing public transportation routes, increasing biodiversity)
- Governance and Leadership (ex. Environmental Strategies, budget for environmental initiatives, formally acknowledging environmental responsibilities in job roles)
- Creative Programming and Engagement (ex. reporting on environmental impact, sharing data with community, producing work with environmental themes)
- Benchmarker tool via Broadway Green Alliance : The information and resources on this page will help guide your organization’s sustainable impact measurement. Modules include Benchmarking & Certification; Measuring Environmental, Social and Financial Impact. It also includes suggestions on Trainings, Design and Production, Facilities and Operations, Administration, and Travel.
- Greener Re-opening Toolkit via Broadway Green Alliance: This guide outlines solutions that directly address the needs presented by COVID-19, to keep the health of our planet and all who inhabit it at the forefront of our efforts to rebuild our industry. We know that some of these suggestions are changes in the way things have been done. It includes three sections:
- Environmental Health and Safety
- Backstage and Run of Show
- Operations: Food and Hydration
- Ready. Set. Recycle: North America’s first recycling company for the entertainment industry, Resource recycling for theatre and film. They help keep scenery, props and costumes out of landfill by listing them here for sale (or to give away).
- Air Travel and Carbon Offsets: While many sectors are beginning to reduce their emissions, aviation’s have continued to grow. Carbon emissions from the airline industry grew by 75 per cent from 1990 to 2012. It’s expected they will continue to grow rapidly until 2050. If left unchecked, they could consume a full quarter of the available carbon budget for limiting temperature rise to 1.5 C. A carbon offset is a credit for emissions reductions given to one party that can be sold to another party to compensate for its emissions. Carbon offsets are typically measured in tonnes of CO2-equivalents and are bought and sold through international brokers, online retailers and trading platforms.The Gold Standard is widely considered to be the highest global standard for carbon offsets. It ensures that key environmental criteria have been met by offset projects that carry its label. Only offsets from energy-efficiency and renewable-energy projects qualify for the Gold Standard. These projects encourage a shift away from fossil fuel use and carry inherently low environmental risks. - David Suzuki Foundation
- Green New Theatre by Groundwater Arts: a document outlining ideas, strategies, and principles that will help individual artists and arts institutions working in the American Theatre change how they work in order to adapt in the face of the climate crisis. Its Principles include: community accountability, publicly transparent budgeting, decolonized leadership practices, sustainable resources, right relationship to land & history, immediate divestment from fossil fuel interests & sponsorships. Read about Groundwater Arts' Divest to Invest Campaign to move arts workers and institutions away from fossil fuels and towards a regenerative future.
Examples of Independent Artists focusing on Climate Justice
There are many organizations doing climate justice works but a really good place to start is reading about independent artists’ work:
- Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun
- Cease Wyss
- Anne Riley
- Jolene Andrews
- Ocean Hyland
- Christi Belcourt
- Issac Murdoch
- Jeneen Frei Njootli
- Manuel Axel Strain
- Roxanne Charles
- Jessica McMann
- Buffy St Marie
- Billy Ray Belcourt
- Joe Martin
- Lindsay Delaronde
- Beric Manywounds
- Ronnie Dean Harris
- Carrielynn Victor
- Jacky Yenga
- Tanya Tagaq
- laakkuluk williamson bathory
- Gladys Rowe
- Sunny Drake
- Cassie Norton
Examples of Organizations focusing on Climate Justice
- Debajehmujig Debajehmujig was the first - and remains the only - professional theatre company located on a Reserve in Canada. The company creates original work based on an Anishnaabag/Chippewa Nation worldview and builds bridges between cultures, generations, and territories. ‘De-ba-jeh-mu-jig’ translates as ‘storytellers’ from the Cree and Ojibway language. Many of their productions are produced outdoors, incorporating materials from the land into the design. Their Six Foot Festival is an Annual Celebration of Land, Art and Food. They also host biannual seed swaps.
- Artists for Real Climate Action (ARCA) is a non-partisan collective of Canadian actors, filmmakers, writers, musicians, playwrights, graphic designers, directors, digital marketing folks (and more) all sounding the alarm over the climate crisis. You can sign up to join their “artforce” and share how you’d like to contribute via an online form.
- Groundwater Arts shapes, stewards, and seeds a just* future through creative practice, consultation, and community building (*climate justice = racial justice = economic justice = a decolonized future).
- Broadleaf Theatre creates multidisciplinary performance based on local, national and global environmental issues, making little-known topics entertaining and accessible.
- Blooming Ludus is a company that makes theatrical performances, games and playgrounds that explore our connection with the environment. Through community workshops, story gathering and devising, we create performances where the audience is invited to co-author, discover and ask questions!
- Animacy Theatre Collective (ATC) is focused on the creation of original, experimental and interdisciplinary theatre works. ATC tells stories that: are driven by women, use humor and physical storytelling to raise social awareness, and create characters who defy pre-existing borders (human, nonhuman, gender, sexuality).
- Vines Art Festival Vines is an arts organization and festival that is responsive to and nurturing of artists that are working toward land, water, and relational justice. We support underrepresented voices in developing their work.
- https://www.theonlyanimal.com/ https://www.theonlyanimal.com/" rel="external">The Only Animal The Only Animal creates immersive work that arises from a deep engagement with place. The natural world is our media: water, sand, snow and ice and trees. We mix this media with theatrical adventurism, and a love of the extreme. Our work seeks to re/connect our human nature with Nature. Here we forge new ways of understanding of how to be on earth.
- Common Weal Community Arts Common Weal Community Arts creates programming in collaboration with socially-engaged artists and Saskatchewan communities in pursuit of an equitable and just society.
- 2 Degrees Festival Since 2009, Artsadmin’s 2 Degrees Festival has invited local, national and international artists, activists and audiences to engage with urgent conversations around climate justice and how we might act together to build a more positive future.
- Artists for Climate and Migrant Justice & Indigenous Sovereignty (ACMJIS) exists to support & bring together artists and activists who want to take action to fight climate change. ACMJIS asserts that climate justice must explicitly include sovereignty for Indigenous communities & justice for migrants. There are many ways to get involved and the group is always looking for new community members. ACMJIS hAS an inclusive definition of both ‘artist’ and ‘activist’.
- The IM4 Lab was created by Indigenous filmmaker, Loretta Todd, alongside media matriarchs Doreen Manuel, Cease Wyss, and Tracey Kim Bonneau. IM4 is in collaboration with Emily Carr University to offer workshops training Indigenous peoples in XR. IM4 is dedicated to Indigenizing VR/AR/360 by enabling Indigenous communities to find effective ways to incorporate these technologies into educational, cultural, language, artistic and commercial applications.
- Digital Creation Lab - A project in development by SpiderWebShow that will offer a digital resource for long distance theatrical collaboration.
- The NAC Climate Change SummitThe NAC Green Rooms 2020
- Explore the Julie's Bicycle resource hub for practical tools and support on how to take climate action now, to get up to speed on policy and to learn more about JB’s rich and varied programme.
- GeneratorTO YouTube Playlist
- BGA's "Green Quarantine" on-demand video sessions on a variety of environmental-related topics.
- HowlRound Green New Theater series discussing and expanding on the Green New Theatre (GNT) movement building tool that provides a set of actionable principles for the arts field to adapt and evolve in the face of the climate crisis.
- NAC: Climate Change: The Earth is Watching... Let's Act
- NAC The Green Rooms (YouTube Playlist)