Art, Science and the Good Life
Art, Science and the Good Life
A Powerful Voice for Conservation
By Jeffrey Whiting
As we head deeper into the 6th great extinction event in over a billion years of life on Earth, human culture has yet to fully appreciate its scope and importance. Bees, bats, tigers, lions, a latest scourge of rhino and tusk poaching… Even the surviving dinosaurs from the last great extinction event 65 million years ago – birds – are in serious decline. Despite this, life is still “good” for the majority who will read this.
Interestingly, the “Good Life” through consumption of luxury items such as original fine art, may have a pivotal role to play. Ultimately it is society’s culture, driven in large part by the arts, which will decide the fate of the planet’s biodiversity. Will society value it enough culturally, to preserve what’s left?
Many artists today are active participants in an important movement channelling artistic talent toward achieving a sustainable future. At the forefront of this movement is Artists for Conservation (AFC) – an extraordinary group of 500 gifted artists from 27 countries, collectively dedicated to conserving species and to reaching out to the public by celebrating it, and communicating important issues in their art.
Issue-driven art projects can be an effective way to engage the public in dialogue. In June of 2012, I was privileged to have participated in an expedition to the Great Bear Rainforest with 50 of BC’s leading artists, to do just that.
The project was the brainchild of AFC artist Mark Hobson, from Tofino, BC and led by the Raincoast Conservation Society. The project inspired critical dialogue about the wisdom of running a pipeline carrying diluted bitumen through the world’s largest remaining intact stand of temperate rainforest. The exhibit made national news when it went on display in Calgary’s City Hall and was a critical tool in engaging public and media in meaningful dialogue.
As I write this article, a team of volunteers are hard at work preparing to host a remarkable event at the top of Grouse Mountain in North Vancouver. The 3rd annual Artists for Conservation Festival is an international art and environmental event, built upon the world’s top conservation-themed exhibit of original art. The festival connects art and science through educational programs, film, music, cultural performances, lectures, workshops, wildlife encounters and nature walks. Artists from around the world attend every year. Festival Patron, Robert Bateman calls it “a gathering of the clans”. The festival will also play host to the first annual BC Conservation Symposium, featuring several of BC’s top conservation leaders as they discuss some of the most pressing issues facing the region.
Artists have always played a central role in social change. They train themselves to see and feel in ways most people cannot. Art and science can work together in inspiring ways to change the world for the better. When emotive messages in artistic expression are based on scientific truths, the results can be remarkably powerful… But it’s up to patrons in the “good life”, to drive arts and culture where it matters most.