Artists and Environmentalists

In 2010 Linda Stout shared her personal vision with TogetherGreen Conservation Leadership Fellowship Program.  Run by the National Audubon Society, TogetherGreen was looking for leaders who wanted to learn across disciplines and work with others to achieve results and engage new audiences in conservation. As we think about Christian Cooper, a birdwatcher in Central Park trying to keep his environment safe from unleashed dogs, and how he was threatened by Amy Cooper, for being a Black man and environmentalist, we want to share this vision again.

I have a personal vision: we all live in communities with clean air to breathe, fresh water to drink, and healthy soil where food is grown. We protect the ecosystems and habitats that are home to the rest of the planet’s co-inhabitants. We heeded the call and changed: as individuals, families, communities, institutions and corporations. We are living in sustainable ways. Our planet is in ecological recovery and will thrive once again.

I grew up with a love of the natural world where I found solace. I continue to be inspired by its beauty and awed by its inhabitants. I believe everyone has a right to this experience. I live these values.

I am an environmentalist. As scientific research expands our understanding of the environmental crisis and the green opportunities before us, I grow and change. We can only ask others to do what we ourselves are willing to do. I bring my values to work as a community activist, artist and organizer, working for environmental justice alongside racial, economic and gender justice.

We are living in urgent times: we are near the end of our ability to rely on oil, our carbon footprint is out of control, more than one billion people live without potable water, the endangered species list grows longer – the list goes on. We are bombarded by research, news reports and documentaries that call for change. Yet many remain disengaged while others are immobilized by despair.

What will it take for people to change their behaviors in an enduring way? How can artists provide novel experiences and hopeful messages that will inspire change? How can people feel good about change? How can we make it easy to change?

I believe artists have an essential role to play. We can speak directly to the heart. We can engage and inspire people in new and hopeful ways.

As an emerging artist, I created Water Dances, public hoop-dancing events to fresh water sites, to explore these ideas. Drawing on the work of Dr. Masaru Emoto, Water Dances began on the vernal equinox and two days later we danced on World Water Day in Cambridge, MA. People of all ages gathered and learned to hoop in the battery-operated, illumined hula hoops I built. Their dance served as a gesture of appreciation to the water. I continued Water Dances throughout the spring and summer of 2009 and hundreds of people came.

We need to continue to explore new and artful ways to engage and inspire people as an artist, while understanding how to be more effective ambassadors in the green movement. So it is critical that as a national, non-profit we are mindful about our impact on the environment which is central to Spirit in Action’s mission: to support, sustain, and connect those who are passionate about justice, love, equality, creativity, and sustainability to work collectively for deep and lasting social change and for the protection of the planet, for our children and grandchildren.

Something else that might interest and uplift you is this article by Rob Johnson of Stanford University’s Global Carbon Project, “Stanford researcher envisions energy and environment landscape after COVID-19.”