Step 2: Programming

Ecological awareness: research
According to the latest report ‘Ziemianie atakują’ [Earthlings Attack] from the end of 2020, which concerned the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on environmental challenges and attitudes of Poles towards them, as many as 78 percent of Poles believe that the condition of the planet is serious and requires action. However, the attitudes behind this positive statistical data are greatly varied. There are various opinions about the reasons for the current state of affairs, different levels of individual readiness for changes, as well as different views as to who should take action. Still, many residents believe that humans are not to blame for the current crisis and that “nature will cope on its own” and that it is “none of their business”. Although anxiety about the state of the environment is generally on the rise, this is not matched by education. Those who would like to take some action lack knowledge (the average mark from environmental knowledge quiz came to E+) and tools to act.
According to the report, environmental pollution by waste, including plastic, as well as water shortages and droughts are considered the greatest environmental challenges, while climate change, global warming, and the extinction of entire species of animals and plants are at the bottom of the list of major environmental challenges. This means that, as a society, we have trouble assessing the scale of challenges and that current issues which we experience the hard way obscure the essence of the problem. The ranking of readiness to make sacrifices for environment’s sake shows that Poles are open to giving up disposable items (straws, bags, plates) and that they would consider buying and throwing away less and significantly reducing household water consumption. They are definitely reluctant to limit meat consumption, severely limit the use of their own cars and get involved in environmental protection activities. 
The results of the study also indicate that the enthusiasm for independent action and a sense of agency are still limited among Poles; they expect that problems should be solved  mainly by leaders, decision-makers, politicians and leaders. It is the people with ‘influence’, they believe, that should first of all look for solutions and take care of our future. This is also the thesis of the report, which ends with a call: “It is YOU who have to do something! People, citizens and consumers are looking for change leaders. They turn their eyes to the authorities and big companies.” 

The results of this study indicate several main directions which should be taken into account when programming pro-ecological or climate-crisis-related activities:

Knowledge. The need for education and knowledge is enormous, particularly among those interested in acting. Public discussions spend too much time focusing on people negating climate science. While negationists are definitely a minority, there is a large group of people who are aware of Earth’s crisis and are open for action but they remain passive as they do not know what else they could do than sort waste and give up single-use plastics. As many as 50 percent of those surveyed said: “I don’t know what to do about it, but something has to be done”. This presents a big potential worth building on.

A sense of agency. Another area which requires development is strengthening the sense of agency and co-responsibility. According to the research, for some people, nature-friendly choices are dictated by personal benefits and everyday pragmatics (because they are healthier, nicer, cheaper), rather than by the conviction of their importance on a larger scale. The sense of agency among Poles does not go beyond the personal sphere. There is also little faith in the possibility of exerting pressure on, for example, corporations through consumer choices or on systemic regulations through small-scale initiatives. “There is little I can do in these circumstances, I mean too little to have any influence,” replied 33 percent of respondents.

Also us. The need for strong leaders. Poles look up to leaders and decision-makers expecting them to solve a problem. Undoubtedly, the role of leaders is undeniable but do not forget that You / We have an influence as well. When asked “Who should take action to prevent ecological catastrophe?”, most respondents replied “You” (i.e. authorities, companies), but the answer “We”, i.e. “private individuals like you (us, the society)” was also popular (39 percent). 

When working on a programme, keep the above findings in mind. They show that a large number of people will be willing to implement pro-ecological solutions once they have gained knowledge and tools. It can also be assumed that strengthening the sense of agency of people willing to act can help them go beyond individual practices and broaden the area of action, inspire them to make wider change. And instead of waiting for high-level leaders to finally agree on appropriate regulations, we can become leaders in our own local environment, accelerating the implementation of necessary changes.

> Read “Earthlings Attack” reports prepared by Kantar Polska, United Nations Global Compact Poland and an agency for green transformation Lata Dwudzieste.

Culture and the climate crisis: inspirator
The possible activities (events, programmes) aimed at the audience are endless and can take various forms. It is important that they are not suspended in a vacuum and that the organisers and creators have environmental practices ‘at the back of their minds’. In the case of educational activities, it is important to take into account the needs and profile of the audience and to use language well suited to specific groups. The following list presents a variety of threads and directions appearing in the programmes of cultural institutions and organisations, as well as in the initiatives of independent artists and creators in response to the climate and ecological crisis. It is neither an exhaustive nor a closed set of directions, treat it as a guide or inspiration for your activities.

Education. According to the ‘Earthlings Attack’ report, the level of pro-ecological declarations in our society is quite high. The problem appears at the level of theoretical knowledge (what this is about) and practical knowledge (what I can do about it). Both these spheres are visibly ailing and formal education fails to respond to this need. This is why including threads concerning the climate and ecological crisis in the permanent programmes of cultural institutions is so important. Education departments can do a lot in that respect: workshops, discussions, meetings, exhibitions, publications, internet projects. The events should be addressed to children and young people, as well as adults. These activities may also relate to various aspects – from the micro level: dealing with narrower topics and giving practical tips, e.g. in the field of recycling of materials, responsible purchasing or correct sorting of waste, to broader topics, showing the global consequences of human activity for the natural environment and deepening more specialist knowledge. It is worth remembering that external advocacy and communication of practices implemented within the organisation can also be an important platform for education and dissemination of knowledge. By referring to practical examples from your own field, you shape the awareness and attitudes of the audience. (see: COMMUNICATION AND PROMOTION)

Examples of various educational activities addressed to different age groups:
> Eco-game for children aged 5-10 > Ecoexperimentarium, source: Mamy Projekt
> Educational programme for your people connecting four Warsaw-based cultural institutions KULTOUR: Art and ecology, source: Museum of Modern Art
> Theatre plays for children and young people (and reflection of Justyna Czarnota on the ecology of their production), Greta, aliens and ecological balance, source: Teatr
> A special space dedicated to ecological activities for children, young people and adults: Centre for Ecological Education, source: The Royal Łazienki Museum
> Discussion cycles for adults, e.g. Climate readings, source: Czas Kultury 

Self-education. The need for education also applies to cultural professionals. Internal training, discussions and sharing experiences connected with ecological solutions should be a permanent fixture. The interinstitutional and intersectoral knowledge transfer is also extremely important; the climate crisis provokes discussions between cultural institutions and organisations, activists and researchers. It is worth creating or joining community support platforms or grassroots alliances to share your experiences and view the experiences of others. This way, you will update your knowledge, find practical solutions to your own challenges, and gain new inspiration.

> Listen to a cycle of programmes ‘Conversations about ecology’ as part of Praktycy Kultury programme, source: Culture Zone Wrocław
> Read discussion transcripts from The First Climate Plateau of Contemporary Art, source: Galeria Propaganda
> Join an informal Facebook group Museums for climate aimed at exchanging knowledge and sharing inspirations concerning greening of cultural institutions

New approach to materials. Many projects address the issue of waste, drawing attention to the problem of environmental pollution and the need to minimise the waste produced. Revealing the problem of waste in a creative way and its creative recovery is one direction of activity, the other being raising awareness about the process of obtaining materials and looking for ways to increase the longevity of existing resources and find a more creative approach to their functionality. 

> Recycling as a subject of artistic residencies combining art and industry > Recycled Artist in Residency programme 
> International cooperations for increasing creative approach to waste recycling, e.g. project involving the Poleski Art Centre Unnecessary – useful and aesthetic. Creative approach to recycling
> A platform encouraging people to creatively search for new functionalities and combinations of found materials to extend their life cycle: Re-connecting people with materials
> Creating set design from recycled materials is an increasingly popular trend in theatres. They are built not only from the resources of institutions, but also rubbish passed on by viewers (see, for example, set design for the ‘Anhelli’ opera at the Grand Theatre in Poznań or the collection of unnecessary appliances – electro-waste – as part of the ‘Everything Will Change’ performance in Poznań’s Scena Robocza).
> Get inspired: Olafur Eliasson’s exhibition ‘Sometimes the River is the Bridge’ (source: Olafur Eliasson & Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo) presents research on sustainable and biodegradable materials and recycling techniques carried out by his studio.

Exercising post-growth. Practicing a policy of moderation provides an opportunity to create alternative economic models, repair human relations with nature and improve social relations. The direction for new thinking about social and planetary welfare is set, among others, by indigenous and local communities and their way of co-existing with the natural environment, in which the use of land, water and air is not subject to the primacy of consumption, but is based on cooperation and respect for the environment.

> Read about one of the first exhibitions about alternative economy presented at the Centre for Contemporary Art in Warsaw in 2014 > Slow Future, source: Szum
> Gdynia Design Days 2020 focused its attention on new design methods which are needed in the times of post-growth. Read the article
Designing the future. Will (Polish) design save the world? source: Polish Design Now and the internet exhibition guide Gdynia Design Days
> The world of architecture also refers to the subject of post-growth. The 2019 Oslo Architecture Triennale was held under the slogan ENOUGH. Read the curatorial text Enough: The Architecture of Degrowth, source: Oslo Triennale and the essays accompanying the event: Overgrowth, source: e-flux
> Read about an exhibition combining the perspective of a Colombian artist Carolina Caycedo and Zofia Rydet’s ‘Sociological Record’, which raised the topic of caring for common resources such as water, air and land, an approach rooted in traditional communities. > Care Report, source: Art Museum in Łódź

Initiatives that are linked to global challenges, but are implemented locally, i.e. they relate to the quality of life and specific functioning in one’s immediate vicinity, can significantly contribute to increasing a sense of agency of the inhabitants of a given place. This is a great opportunity for cultural institutions, which have close contacts with local communities, are rooted in them and can act as social engagement centres. Look around and think about what we can offer our neighbours as institutions, how to strengthen common care for the environment, and how to support grassroots pro-ecological initiatives. Remember that building relationships with the environment takes time and it is better to start with modest activities (informal meetings, discussions, creating a platform for permanent contact) to develop them over time, broadening and deepening the levels of cooperation. Specific subsidy programmes (collecting rainwater, civic budget, etc.) may become a pretext to initiate joint activities. Also, make sure that residents are involved in building the programme of your institution, so that their voice is empowered and properly represented. This may be facilitated by regular public consultations, the establishment of a social council, a programme council or discussing the directions of activities with the local partnership. Combine the topics undertaken by the institution with local history, local value systems and local heritage. You can initiate a discussion about common challenges, seek solutions together, and thus influence the integration of the local community, which may be particularly important and challenging in atomised urban environments or areas affected by a generation gap and migration away from the region.

> Use  of/by/for all methods, helping organisations connect with their local communities, source: ofbyforall
> Read how Polish museums try to build relationships with their neighbourhoods > ‘Museum Think-Tank: Museums and Their Neighbourhoods‘ source: POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews and the Józef Piłsudski Museum in Sulejówek
> See how interdisciplinary teams of artists, scientists and rural communities can jointly design their environs based on local practices and intergenerational knowledge transfer: Co-designing for Resilience, source: CoDesRes
> Get inspired by the idea of combining the categories of locality and urbanity based on the programme Urban Ecologies, source: Art Museum in Łódź

Gardens. The cooperation of neighbours, cultural institutions or local authorities can create a real effect in the form of a friendlier environment, including community gardens. Many gardens currently operate at cultural institutions, such as the Powszechny Garden at the Powszechny Theatre in Warsaw, the Common Garden at the Służew Cultural Centre in Warsaw, the Open Garden at the Górna Cultural Center in Łódź, and the Theatre Garden at the Zagłębie Theatre in Sosnowiec. The aim is to create a green space for meetings, talks, recreation, joint cultivation and use of goods, and at the same time getting to know your neighbours, exchanging experiences and mutual help. The meeting of a cultural institution with its neighbours around a joint activity is an important gesture from the perspective of strengthening the sense of agency – it tangibly confirms that together we can create an environment we desire. Activities of this type do not have to be based in a particular place, they can also take the form of intervention, such as the joint planting of trees or regular initiatives related to the joint discovery of the local ecosystem, such as local ecological paths, walks or nature workshops.

> Get acquainted with one of the many community gardens in Berlin, which aims to grow plants organically in the city and share the results with others  > Prinzessinengarten (source: Visit Berlin) and a British example of a community garden which transformed from a Todmorden neighbourhood initiative into a global movement > Incredible Edible
> Read about a social garden in Warsaw Motyka i Słońce, source: Sztuka krajobrazu
> Find out about Porta Posnania’s project consisting of ecological educational path and discovering the local ecosystem: Porta open onto the river

Interspecies communities. Humans are not the only species residing on Earth. Therefore, when we talk about building a good community, we must not ignore flora and fauna. Our co-existence, which is customarily conceptualised as a binary opposition of culture and nature, is in fact a permanent form of cohabitation. Therefore, as pointed out by artists and activists, the relationship with other species, so far based on power and exploitation, requires transformation into a more equal and empathetic one, while the non-human perspective requires empowerment. This is connected with searching for new project possibilities, not focused solely on humans but taking the needs and rights of plants and animals into account as well. Some initiatives transfer the issue of a fair approach to nature onto a legislative level, fighting for amending the international law and recognising ‘ecocide’ as a prohibited act. Questions about whether such an extended community is possible and on what foundations an interspecies understanding should be built, brings together people and initiatives from many fields: artistic, activist, ethical, legal, scientific, design, and speculative.

> Read about selected artistic work of Cecylia Malik–opposition against mass tree felling and artivist actions in favour of protecting the last natural rivers of Europe > Polish Mothers on Tree Stumps source: smoglab; River Sisters
> Read an interview with Diana Lelonek by Marta Jeleń ‘People and their neighbours’, source: Polisemia and ‘Interspecies Manifesto‘, created by Diana Lelonek and Anna Siekierska, source: Obieg
> Find out about Forensic Architecture website and its Centre for Contemporary Nature, which deals with the relationship between breaking human rights and violence against nature. See an example of an exhibition dealing with the topic of ecological crime > Race and Forest, source: Biennale Warszawa
> Become acquainted with an example of an exhibition on non-anthropocentric design: Zeopolis: Design for plants and animals, source: BWA Wrocław and the lexicon of basic terms associated with this topic prepared by the curators of this exhibition Monika Rosińska and Agata Szydłowska: Design for plants and animals, source: NN6T
> Find out about ideas and examples on how to facilitate the transition from the industrial age to the ecological age by translating solutions functioning in the world of animals and plants into design that is good for humans: Biomimicry Institute, Ask Nature

Understanding and empathy. Programme activities are a space for exercising care, developing the ability to communicate without violence, also with people representing other views, and caring for the inclusive language of dialogue. Provide support to people who feel anxious and stressed about the scale of the climate crisis. Feeling overwhelmed and helpless can lead to climate grief, withdrawal and becoming passive in the face of the scale of the challenges. Participating in group initiatives which bring together people who see the threats, but also see the possibilities of preventing them and act for change can be helpful in counteracting such situations, i.e. the feeling of loneliness and lack of agency.

> Find out about initiatives connected with empathy development in the cultural sector such as Congress of Empathy, source: Art Museum in Łódź.
> Read about culture’s responsibility for language and about how words and definitions impact building respect and a sense of social representation: Words Matter: An Unfinished Guide to Word Choices in the Cultural Sector, source: Tropenmuseum.
> Get to know about Climate Support Group, source: CzujCzuj.

Activating your imagination. Culture has enormous potential to change thinking patterns, activate individual and collective imaginations, anticipate phenomena, experiment and test alternative scenarios of functioning together in the world. It is a space for bold utopias, speculative action, ‘impossible’ projects which, by boldly shifting the horizon of questions, may help in ‘shifting’ reality. First, we need to imagine a possible better world in order to be able to pursue it. As Naomi Klein asserts: “we must dare to dream big and out loud.” Even if the proposed utopia exists only in our imagination, pursuing it may turn out to be an effective generator of real events.

> Read Naomi Klein’s text Let’s Demand Utopia, source: Przekrój.
> Read Ida Ślęzak’s text about ecological imaginarium in the theatre: Nature is not decoration, source: Dialog.
> Find out about the speculative Museum for Future Fossils, based on the idea that plastics become a new fossil layer.
> Get to know the speculative project The Parliament of Things, which draws on the philosophy of Bruno Latoura to create a vision of a common parliament of humans, animals, plants and things.
> Reach out for the resources of the Apocalypse Reading Room – a collection of books relevant in the context of the environmental and social crisis, encouraging a discussion on fair future

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