The power of stories and art in creating a sustainable, just world

The power of stories and art in creating a sustainable, just world

LinkedIn Pulse | October 14, 2022
Incoming Co-CEO of Leaders’ Quest, Director of Dialogues & Events at Climate Champions for COP26/COP27

What is the role of fossil fuels between now and 2050? How do we accelerate the transition to a clean-energy economy while also prioritising energy security and climate justice?

These are the big knotty questions we explored at TED Countdown in London last week with global leaders from science, business, civil society, government and the arts.

It was a difficult, emotional and inspiring couple of days, where we engaged with diverse – and divergent – views on how to reach a net zero world asap. These kinds of discussions can be deeply divisive, but the curated talks and workshops created a refreshing space for deep listening, empathy and a chance to find common ground.

One of the most inspiring talks I heard was from Xavier Cortada, an American Cuban artist based in Florida, who uses art to engage the public around climate issues. One of his projects,“Underwater Home Owners Association ”, depicts South Florida’s vulnerability to melting glaciers and rising sea levels. It’s designed to invite community members to problem-solve together, and to plan and better prepare (themselves and their heirs) for climate impacts.

Xavier says “Art is a process. It lives in the interaction between different people around a shared challenge and creates a sense of empowerment and agency.”

In a world that is increasingly polarised, I’m struck at the power of using stories, art and creativity to help people connect with a shared sense of humanity. The TED conference demonstrated that human beings are capable of listening with their hearts and respectfully disagreeing, when they are convened in this thoughtful way.

I think polarisation is one of the biggest threats to reaching a sustainable, equitable future for all. We need more dialogues like this to help us build empathy with people we may not agree with, like, or trust. This is fundamental to achieving collective action at the scale we need.

And we don’t have to wait for the next TED conference to do this. We can do it today – in our organisations, our communities, our networks. What stories can you share to build a bridge with someone who sees the world differently to you?

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