An Antidote to Eco-Fatigue

Earlier this year, the title of an article in American Scientist caught my eye: How Can Art Move Us Beyond Eco-Despair?

In the article, author Robert Louis Chianese describes a 50-page publication issued by the American Psychological Association reporting that climate change news, which comes across as grim unrelenting warnings of impending ecological disaster, is causing a loss in social cohesion and an increase in violence and aggression that, far from motivating change, creates instead a sense of helplessness, fatalism, resignation and cynicism, a state of mind that Chianese refers to as “eco-despair”.

His point is that the very warnings intended to motivate us to take constructive action may be setting us against each other, robbing us of our sense of community and shared mission, and leaving us feeling isolated and helpless—certainly not the ideal frame of mind for coming up with imaginative solutions or taking energetic constructive actions.

The solution, according to Chianese, may be art. Art, Chianese maintains, can bear witness to climate issues yet focus our attention in a more personal energizing way that stirs us to action. And the best art, he points out, has the capacity to give us an alternative experience and thus shift our perspectives.

In his article, Chianese limited his discussion to the visual arts. I would argue that sound art has an even greater capacity to reach deep into our psyche to present, to challenge, to shift our thoughts, and ultimately to motivate.

December 2015



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