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The Culture Lens: Environmentalism for Art

This week I want to detour from my usual artist think piece and move on to a bit about culture. Environmentalism, slowly but surely, is taking over our feeds. The impressive work of National Geographic has been documenting our changing climate for years. More and more news sites relay the overwhelming statistics from the UN’s Climate Change report. For months, every article I read quoted the same terrifying stats about rapid climate change. It sent me in a bit of a crisis, not going to lie. I’m not sure about anyone else, but this isn’t helpful at all.

I’m tired of reading about the fact that we need to change something because it’s daunting and intimidating and I have no idea where to start. And, I’m sure, neither do you. I’ve already given up plastic straws. I’ve given up, to the best of my capability, plastic bags and plastic cups. But is that really enough? It surely isn’t satisfying. So, we get it, we need to change. But what the heck do we do? Or where do we start? What if we talked about climate change through the game changers and the progress? Lead by inspiration, not fear. What if we talked about innovation?

A couple of months ago I stumbled upon a website called the Exxpedition, an entirely female-driven crew completing voyages around the world to “make the unseen seen,” like the toxins in our oceans and our bodies. Since 2014 they have been leading oceanic studies of pollutant and plastic samples in the water. This then begins to feed into larger studies and seminars of education around the world to teach people about the environment.

THIS. This is what we need to be reading about. How is it they’ve been game changers for the last five years and I fell into them in some roundabout way, and not by reading a glowing article on the New York Times. This would have addressed the emergency of climate change and the dangers of ignoring the warnings, but it would have done so by inspiring us to the amazing things already being done. If I had found this five years ago, I guarantee I would be much farther along in my sustainable quest.

In the same light, I started discovering how other brands were pursuing such unique avenues for combating climate change. Adidas and Parley partnered to lead new innovative strategies to prevent plastic from ending up in the oceans by turning threat into thread. This new line features tons of products that don’t use any virgin plastics. In fact, they use upcycled waste from beaches and oceans. Literally taking it out of our environment to put it into something positive.

As future creatives and industry leaders, maybe we can use school to start experimenting with our own efforts. What can we do? I know some people working on sustainable fibers, making them from organic products (like mushrooms!). As a future advertiser, I am hoping to create awareness for brands in environmentalism. I can use my voice to further theirs. But what if there were things that each of us can be doing as artists or creatives alike to establish a conversation bigger than the negative one blaring through our screens. It’s not enough to say we need to change but to actually pave the way to it.

Written by Kylie Ruffino

Graphic by Kylie Ruffino