Talking with artists and climate scientists about climate feelings

Image of a chestnut by Flavia Parone

The University of Bergen is running an initiative they call the Art and Science Research Group, an innovative programme in which artists are paired with climate scientists for a joint learning experience. My delightful colleague Gillian Ruch and I recently led a workshop with the programme participants to enable them to explore their feelings about the climate crisis.

They are writing a blog about it: Part 1 came out this week and I just loved it. As you might imagine, the blog contains some beautiful images. I was particularly struck by the way the drawings of chestnuts (by Flavia Parone) speak so eloquently about grief, about sorrow and about defences cracking open. With the permission of the course leader Aleksandra Mir I have reproduced the chestnut here for your delectation. Do read the blog as well – it’s very touching and thoughtful.

Working with artists and climate scientists reminded me of how difficult it can be to do climate science. As one of the blog contributors says, ‘as scientists we are taught to be objective and just focus on the science – leave the rest to politics. But as an individual I sometimes struggle with this role. Will I make enough impact with this little thing I am doing, or should I maybe be more active in the public space? Studies take a long time, but action already needs to be taken now. I am afraid I that am not doing everything in my power to combat our problems.’

It’s so important to be objective about the science. But it’s also important, in my view, to acknowledge one’s own feelings and there is often very little space for this in the science culture, as Rosemary Randall and Paul Hoggett found when they interviewed climate scientists. That’s one of the reasons I felt so pleased to contribute to the Bergen initiative and help provide a bit of the space for emotions.