Culture Declares is a community of cultural sector individuals and organisations who have declared climate and ecological emergency. We launched as a professional sector declarers movement in April 2019 because we believe that Culture leads the way in responding to crises and imagining paths to a more just and regenerative future.
We are now a community of 1000 declarers and have been joined by many other declarers movements including Architects Declare and Music Declares, with whom we collaborate on leveraging change.
Vision: that the UK cultural sector declares and takes action on the climate and ecological emergency
Mission: to grow and support a diverse community of cultural sector declarers
Values: to tell the Truth, take Action, and seek Justice in the face of the emergency
How does this strategy sit with the Covid-19 crisis?
Culture Declares makes a twin declaration of climate AND ecological emergency. Covid-19 has arisen as an impact of the ecological emergency.
Covid-19 is a zoonotic disease, a result of deforestation and consumption of wild animals, exacerbated by global trade and tourism, and more severe for people exposed to air pollution and poor diets.
BAME & indigenous people are most at risk. Social and ecological injustice goes hand in hand.
It is expected to be the first of more pandemics to arise from environmental harms, so this is not a question of ‘how to recover after this is over’.
Biodiversity collapse, climate breakdown and health pandemics, amongst other breached planetary boundaries, will interact with each other to ramp up their impacts. Climate breakdown will continue to be the most devastating of these three breached boundaries.
Response to the planetary emergency by the Cultural sector (and all others) continues to be as important, if not more so, now.
Culture Declares aims to grow the community of declarers, and together increase our understanding of the complexities, uncertainties and possibilities for system change towards a just and regenerative system.
At this time when the precariousness of cultural workers and organisations is sharply felt, community is vital to explore this big picture of causes and solutions. Culture Declares has offered two weekly online gatherings since the start of ‘lockdown’ to support the community.
Covid-19 is widely seen as offering opportunities to tackle the climate emergency. It is showing how people collaborate and care, and how they can rapidly shift their behaviour and rethink their values on a global scale. Government has shown that it can respond at speed to provide for people’s income and wellbeing.
Cultural declarers can play a significant role in this reframing, prefiguring regenerative ways of living and in supporting people in their wellbeing.
However, Covid-19 is also showing how culture, technology and media can be hijacked to suit harmful agendas. Power is grabbed, laws changed without oversight and environmental regulations are seen as barriers to rebooting the economy. In the UK, the context is the takeover of democracy to engineer a hard break from the EU, strongly pushed by fossil fuel interests. It is harder in lockdown and the ‘shock’ mode of crisis to convene, expose and resist these changes.
Cultural declarers need to address these injustices and democratic failings, and to counteract misinformation.
Facing truths about the Earth crisis, taking action to reduce harm and change the system, and seeking Justice are all more important than ever now that the ecological emergency has started to impact humans on a global scale alongside climate breakdown
Truth: It is vital to be sensitive and practically helpful to those in need due to the pandemic, and to avoid preaching.
However, cultural declarers could inform people about systemic causes and solutions of the pandemic, because knowledge is empowering.
Action: Many levers to tackle the Earth crisis are multi-solving - enabling the wellbeing of humans, biodiversity, and the climate. These solutions include biomimicry, rewilding, local supply of food and energy. These and thousands more actions can be prefigured, enhanced and accelerated with the involvement of Culture.
It’s possible for cultural organisations and funding to be geared to health rather than wealth. It should actively contribute to a regenerative system.
This work should be underpinned by values of Justice: being aware of the extractive systems that place some people at risk of death, displacement and trauma more than others, particularly in the Global South but also in the UK. Cultural workers are among those losing livelihoods but many individuals and organisations within the sector have experience working creatively with communities around themes of climate change, ecological and social justice. Solutions to these injustices include collaboration (e.g. on UN Sustainable Development Goals and on the European Green Deal) enabling community food growing and access to land, a Universal Basic Income and bolstering a free NHS. As a community, cultural declarers can be bolder in calling for such policies and working in solidarity with movements for social and environmental justice.
In our response to the ACE 10 year strategy, we called for one further priority beyond Creative People, Communities and Nation, to include Planet. This would mean always starting with the question: How does this help...
to regenerate the Planet,
the nation be healthy,
local communities be resilient,
individuals to be empowered and creative?
These 4 priorities should also be applied to cultural strategies and activities in response to Covid-19 and the wider ecological and political crises it is connected to.