Tomorrow, the Fish May Die

Artists are perfectly equipped to use their creative outlets to show support for, protest, and spread awareness of political and global policies they are passionate about

Convincing our people that climate change is a real and present danger has proven to be a daunting and often frustrating challenge for scientists. Despite the growing evidence of climate change, and humanity as the driver of that change, a huge percentage of our population rejects the whole notion of it. A large number of Indians remain unconvinced that humans are causing it. And on top of those dismal statistics, most of us believe that climate change does not represent a threat to us. The mentality of “As long as it is not in my backyard” has long since become a backwards approach to our conservation efforts. Apparently, scientific information, no matter how solid, is unable to persuade a good many people of the reality of climate change. I wonder if art can do the trcik. After all, great art inspires us to think, communicate and act. Its power to move us is almost as remarkable as the work itself. Every day, the images, sounds, and smells of the so-called real world literally surround us and assail our senses. Yet we tend to go about our lives consumed by day-to-day struggles and routines, oblivious to the marvels that abound. But then an artist comes along and interprets this very same world — through images, music, a story, a performance — and suddenly we are moved. Engaged. Really powerful art can change lives. Little wonder, then, that artists, whose work beckons us to contemplate and experience the world around us, play a unique and important role in marshaling people’s energies to steward and protect the natural world.

Creating pieces that have an environmental focus is a powerful form of activism that distills complex information into a compelling image. Don’t get me wrong; I think words hold an immense power. But a dense text on how industrial and mining activities were disturbing the ecologically fragile Western Ghats region of Kerala won’t stay in your mind as long as a photo of the people and animals dying there due to the floods. Painters, photographers and illustrators continue to grapple with the complex issue of climate change, and the resulting works turn an intangible problem into a tactile work of art. Artists like Parvathi Nayar and Manohar Chiluveru are by no means the only ones who are trying to reach people about the environment through community artworks. In fact, there’s a pretty rich history of this kind of art. It’s quite a list and one that could go on, but maybe it’d be better to take a break and go seek this stuff out. That’s the whole point of the art, after all. To see and experience it. It could just be, and there’s some science to support this, that the novelty of these artistic approaches will wake people up to the problem — and spur action. I’m a firm believer in the power of art to slice its way into our collective unconscious and compel us to see the world as it really is and to come together to preserve and steward that which is irreplaceable and beyond value. Art and the environment: the two link past, present and future and connect us to each other and to our common experience and heritage. I find it a fascinating subject to explore. Join me.

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