Sustainable future

The world is waking up to the need to make our future sustainable. From the UN Sustainable Development Goals agenda (SDGs), to the marches for the climate, people question how we produce, work, learn and relate to the environment. What do we need to take into account in our social and cultural practices to bring about positive, inclusive change which leaves no one behind? And how can organisations, (including public, private and civil society organisations) in the cultural sector and beyond, transition towards more sustainable practices - caring for people, caring for the earth and sharing fairly within communities?

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  • A footnote to the Chatroom. In September 2013, several global networks campaigned for the inclusion of one specific goal devoted to culture in the UN 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Devlopment Goals. We wrote a manifesto. This one: Culture as a Goal
  • I've become interested in the circular economy and how the term 'currency' has been redefined: we think of it as finance, which is an intermediary form of transaction, but circuar economies can make more direct connections between supply and need in ways that bring social cohesion. Think instead of currency as being resources in whatever kind exists in any community. It would be good to see the EU supporting innovative developmental models like this which build on indigenous local cultural traditions, products and services. It is also being mirrored in the aims of Blockchain - eliminating the vulnerabilities of intermediary markets and strengthening the bonds between people. Sustainability is about such new 'ecosystems'.

    • This is an important area of discussion. It is very valuable to think of local economies as mechanisms to strengthen people’s bonds, rather than break them. We are at a good point in time to rethink concepts that we take for granted, such as ‘currency’. There are great examples of new ways to explore currency, like local currency apps that allow the exchange of goods in particular streets or neighbourhoods. This has been very popular and positive for the community in places like Liverpool

  • Does the Creative Europe programme anchor the policy areas of climate & environment to the EU`s culture policy through specific project activties? Climate is a highly-profiled issue nowadays and the arts & culture sector plays a role in rallying everyone to (pro)actively deal with the matter. It behooves MEPs to take notice of the underrated potential of the arts to advance the cause of caring for the environment.

  • Food seems to be an underexplored area where culture & arts can engage with sustainability.

    Today's food system is responsible for about 30% of greenhouse gas emissions, is the main driver of global deforestation & biodiversity loss, in Europe it's a major contributor to air pollution (it's not cars only), an important driver of antimicrobial resistance (the threat of antibiotics losing their effectiveness) etc. etc.

    What we eat and how we produce food is, quite concretely, a threat to our common future. Paradoxically, eating - which should be the source of our well-being - is also the single largest cause of ill-health today. The upside is that it could be quite different.

    Discussions such as these should occur more frequently I think:

    In times like these, no-one can stand at the sidelines.

    • Food provenance is both a sustainability issue - reducing 'food miles/km' - and definitely a cultural expression, but socio-environmental impact is still marginal. It has the capacity to achieve so much within and between societies and their identity. The relationship between place and the human food chain is part of intangible heritage, which Europa Nostra is actively nurturing.

  • Reframing the definition of sustainablity within arts and culture is for sure a good point to start. Partially this already happens, when Oil Companies et al are asked to stop greenwashing their image through culture.

    What else can we do? From which sources funding will come from, if we get picky? Do we need to rethink our structures more?

    And: are we in the cultural sector on the same boat, when it comes to sustainability? Do we talk about the same thing?

    • I agree with Jordi, we are not yet there. Taking the example of sustainable cultural mobility - something that ECF has been trying to tackle for over 5 years now, but did not quite succeeded! It is complex: we want to encourage "environmentally responsible travel", by encouraging artists to travel by train, instead of by plane. However, infrastructure in many places in Europe (incl. EU) does not offer such options. How green the energy used for the trains, is another question. And we are only a small drop in the ocean of work mobility...


    • Hello Alex. I am impressed by the huge number and the outstanding quality of the dicussions in this Chatroom.

      You are right. This is one of the key questions. My answer is "no". We are not on the same boat. We do not talk about the same thing... Yet?

      In 2015 the European Cultural Foundation (hello Philipp, Isabelle, Tzveta) asked Jon Hawkes and myself to publish a conversation on "culture as an essential pillar of sustainable development". The result is the article Navigating Through The Pillars. Indeed, the "cultural sector" has severe conceptual and methodological challenges ahead. We urgently need "our" advocacy coalition boat to be stronger. And perhaps we should acknowledge that "we" cannot do it alone...
  • to be honest, the only really sustainable way for our future is to end capitalism, reform our governments, smash the patriarchy, establish worldwide equality, etc..
    only radical actions can lead to a "sustainable future" at this point.

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