Creating Climate SmART Communities

Today’s post comes to you from Peter Handler, a member of the leadership group of Philly PA IPL.  Join Philly PA IPL for a Prayerful Protest on April 10.

detail from Arctic Ice Reliquary Peter Handler 2011 (figure carving by Casey Gleason)
detail from Arctic Ice Reliquary Peter Handler 2011 (figure carving by Casey Gleason)

For over three years,  I have been working with two partners, one in New York, and one in Washington DC on a project called Honoring The Future.  We are committed to using the work of artists to raise issues, to educate, and to move people, not only through their heads, but also through their hearts.  We believe that art reaches people, in part, emotionally, and can reach people sometimes in a way that pure science may not.  We consider that artists may be the prophets of our day, telling us the things that we may need to know and not want to hear.  As artists, we talk about what is, what may happen, and where we would like to go.

Our first public event, Climate SmART: Artists Respond to Climate Change, will be on April 16 at 7PM at the International House. 3701 Chestnut St., on the U Penn campus. As artists, we look at the problem, where we can see the changes ongoing, and we look at what individuals and communities can do to make a difference.  The event is free and open to the public.

I want to warmly invite members of Interfaith Power & Light to join me at an important art event taking place in Philadelphia on April 16.  Some of the region’s most creative artists are joining the Penn School of Social Practice and Policy in a truly ground-breaking program.

Climate Change is the moral issue of our age.  It is the most critical issue that humanity has ever had to face.  The fate of the world, and all life on it is at stake.  What we are facing (amplified by the IPCC Report that just came out) if we continue with “business as usual”, continuing to burn fossil fuels, is a climate heating faster than has ever been recorded in geological history.  For life to continue to thrive on earth, and for the human race to survive, we need to act, as the human race, to make profound changes in the world.

We need to stop burning fossil fuels.  We need to learn, act and build habits that sustain “Climate Smart” communities, for only in community can the kind of changes we need to make be meaningfully carried out.  These communities can be villages or cities, they can be whole countries.  Governments need to act, to make change on a policy wide level to help protect our sacred home, our Mother Earth.  And, we need to act individually as well, where a “sum” of individual actions adds up to amount to collective action, making our own lives and homes more climate friendly.   These actions will only reach a society level as we reach a critical mass of people convinced that our planet, our lives, our children’s lives, and their children’s lives are at stake.  This is acting for the sake of the future, or as Native Americans have phrased it, acting in the interest of “the seventh generation”.

You may have seen the latest scientific report in this week’s NY Times.  It warns that climate change is already having a sweeping effect on every part of our world and the problem is likely to grow substantially worse — unless we act.  What that means for Philadelphia is: more severe storms, flooding, power outages, and heat waves in the short term —  and higher utility, food, housing, and medical costs in the long term.

But we — and the Penn School — think artists can use their creativity to lead our city in charting a better future.  So our program —which is free and open to the public— introduces the public to the climate-related work of America’s top contemporary artists (including visionaries like Maya Lin, Alexis Rockman, and James Balog) and to the Philadelphia and mid-Atlantic artists in the forefront of this emerging arts field to begin a discussion of “what we can do” to respond.  A special guest from the Philadelphia Water Department will be on hand to lend her expertise.  And there will be time for audience interaction with the artists, experts, and community leaders.  (All the program details appear here.)

We are reaching out to all of our networks to spread the word about this program as widely as possible in wider community.  Please join us, be in at the very start, and lend your voice and wisdom to this important discussion.

Peter Handler is a member of the Philadelphia PA IPL leadership group which has been busily planning the upcoming Prayerful Protest event.  He is a also an award-winning craft artist who specializes in furniture, including liturgical furniture and Judaica.  See more of his work here, or  read his artist’s statement about his Canary in a Coal Mine series, including Arctic Ice Reliquary, of which a detail appears above.