Why is collaboration among artists and scientists important in your view?
Communicating and engaging with the public is a huge part of practicing science. Science communication is no longer about one-way transmission of knowledge and facts. As scientists, we need to listen to the public, meet them where they are, and consider how their perspectives can shape our research and communications.
Increasingly, citizens encounter data, and are asked to interpret and make decisions based on data. If we want citizens to understand how a climate scenario showing an increase in global average temperature by 2.0°C by 2100 might affect the lives of their children or grandchildren, we have a responsibility to translate our datasets into accessible, far-reaching material that tells stories.
From my experience, artists and scientists ultimately have the same goal: to shed light on processes and experiences that are important in the world. Although we employ different tools and methods, we share the same goal of affecting positive change in society. Environmental protection requires a societal-wide shift. We need to mobilise our aggregated skills across disciplinary boundaries to create a different future. New ways of thinking, working, and creating knowledge.
Artistic work evokes an emotional response in a way that traditional science communication cannot. Artworks can be viewed as conduits that allow messages to really strike a chord with the public, invoking action on climate change. It is vitally important that atmospheric and climate scientists work with the public to ensure that no citizen is left out of the climate conversation. Through this transdisciplinary approach to collective learning, we can recognise that solutions come from locally embedded knowledge as well as “expert” institutions.
Long-lasting climate solutions should be co-created with all stakeholders affected by the problem at hand. When it comes to climate change, all inhabitants and species are stakeholders. While technological and scientific innovations are key in mitigating and adapting to climate change, collaborations across art and science remind us of the importance of place, history and imagination. These are all core factors in this project.
Various community groups are now driving significant climate action across Galway, and all over the country. We are delighted to have connected with organisations embedded in these communities, such as Baboró, Bádóirí an Chladaigh, Westside Resource Centre, Coiste Stiúrtha Pleanála Teanga Chonamara Láir, Fighting Words Conamara, Ealaíon na Gaeltachta, and Galway City Museum. We look forward to working closely with these organisations to bring this project to the public.
What can we do to ensure under-represented communities have a voice in conversations surrounding environmental challenges?
So many people are aware of these challenges and care about the environment, yet we are often overwhelmed by information, and left feeling powerless to act. Climate action may also seem unattainable for citizens already under immense pressure, whether that’s societal, time or financial pressure. Vulnerable and marginalised members of society bear the burden of these pressures.
Only when all voices are heard and considered can we truly imagine a just transition for a more sustainable future. As part of this project, we want to engage those in rural Gaeltacht regions who do not have access to regular public transport, those who rely on turf for home heating. We will also work with people in Galway city that might identify as the “squeezed middle” – members of society who are time-poor, locked into economic situations that make positive climate choices seem unattainable. For example, someone priced out of the housing market has little control over household energy consumption.
We will work too with older members of society, who have a wealth of knowledge and experience having lived through the pre-consumerist era. Drastic change is essential to environmental sustainability, but policy makers must suggest changes that are fair and attainable to members of the public. There are complex pressures to be considered.