Climate Is Culture

Can the creative arts reframe the language of climate change? David Buckland thinks so – telling hundreds of student activists that climate is culture.

Hundreds of officers and sustainability activists have come together at The University of Bristol Students’ Union for #SSS15.

We’re enjoying two days of talks, workshops and networking, helping students to collaborate on sustainability and social justice over the years ahead.

Artist and film maker David Buckland gave the opening keynote, telling delegates about his experience of communicating climate change through art, as director of Cape Farewell.

We caught up with him to ask about his work and how climate is linked to culture.

What exactly is Cape Farewell?

Cape Farewell is a charity set up by me 15 years ago to address the challenges of climate change through culture and the creative arts.

We have produced films for the BBC and Sundance, inspired Ian McEwan to write Solar, had worldwide exhibitions in Natural History Museum, London, in China, Australia, New York and Moscow, inspired operas and pop songs and brilliant poetry.

Check out our web site and

Why do you think we should be using art and culture to take action on climate change?

Our pitch is that 'Climate is Culture'. Over the past 200 years we have evolved an extraordinary global culture which is now in danger of destroying itself by not addressing how we produce energy.

A post carbon culture will be different than the one we have today, it will be better and cleaner and it will require a (global) cultural shift. Creative activity is instrumental in visioning and achieving the new culture we should all be aspiring to achieve.

What do students have to do with all of this?

My generation has, through excessive indulgence, left the next generation - yours - with a monumental task. It will need your best creative endeavour to build the new and those who leave our universities hold the reins to that trajectory.

Oh, by the way, sorry!

What’s the best piece of climate related art you’ve seen or heard from a young person?

Try a poem by Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, a young woman from the Marshall Islands, which she read out to the whole UN assembly.

Get in touch to talk about how you can get involved in sustainability through your student union, and sign our petition for bold action from our government at the UN climate talks in a few weeks.