Responding to Crisis: Interventions for Sustainable Futures
A two-day event to which all students of Berlin University of the Arts were invited was held at the start of the 2021/22 winter semester. Lectures, workshops, performances and installations addressed the question of how each and every one of us can respond to the manifold effects of climate change and how we can seek to counteract it politically, as activists, or by deploying the creative repertoires of art and design.
The climate crisis has long since evolved from being a purely ecological problem into one with social, geopolitical, realpolitik, economic and fundamentally cultural aspects. As such, the climate crisis now represents a wicked problem, one that has manifold effects and is influenced by numerous factors. All too often, this complexity engenders resignation, fatalism or cynicism. A multitude of initiatives and projects have nonetheless emerged – in fields including political activism, policy making, citizen participation, education and research, the arts and design – that focus on pinpointing specific problems and finding effective solutions to them. By bringing stakeholders from these different fields together, Responding to crisis – Interventions for sustainable futures provides students and staff with opportunities to exchange ideas with them and to gather inspiration for and discuss ideas and projects of their own.
Image: Athena Grandis
The structure of the two-day event geared to creating space for varied forms of presentation and participation had three thematic tracks:
(i) Mapping the Anthropocene: Using the term “Anthropocene” to mark a new epoch in the history of our planet was proposed in 2000 by chemist Paul J. Crutzen and biologist Eugene F. Stoermer. The two researchers have focused on changes in the atmosphere and in fresh water in their work and have specifically been concerned in depth with the far-reaching effects of human activity on the planet. This impact is now so pervasive that it cannot be absorbed and integrated by ecosystems as happened during earlier periods in the history of humanity. The traces left by human influence have wrought changes on the planet that are impossible to overlook and will persist for hundreds or thousands of years – as global warming and radioactive incidents demonstrate. The Anthropocene has thus been posited as the new Earth age following the Holocene, the warm period that lasted for some 11,000 years including the twentieth century.
(ii) Spaces of Cohabitation: The forms of our social coexistence are shaped by guiding ideas and negotiated in social processes. Many of the structures within which we live and work together have resulted from historical constellations and historical logics. In the context of multiple ongoing crises, a renegotiation has begun of who participates in the social construction of these structures, the factors that are borne in mind, and the shape of relationships between stakeholders. New approaches integrate stakeholders that were previously not considered (such as non-human actors or future generations) and champion a redefined common good.
(iii) Transforming Initiatives: We are gradually all realizing that creating desirable versions of the future that meet the needs of future generations requires us to radically question and correct the actions taken by our society as a whole. A growing number of initiatives from civil society are now calling with ever more clarity for a socio-ecological transformation. These initiatives all demand the negotiation of a reconceived common good, participation, and – especially in connection with climate change – intergenerational justice. Diverse constellations of actors linking citizens, activists, associations, research institutions and representatives from politics and administration are emerging from this process of co-shaping new living environments.