The Conference on Communication and Environment (COCE) is taking place this week in Vancouver, Canada. Organized by the International Environmental Communication Association, the theme of this year’s event is “Waterlines: Confluence and Hope through Environmental Communication.”
Thrilled to be a part of it, I will be giving a presentation titled “The Power of Perception: Art, Climate, and the History of US Environmental Policy”. It looks at the role art has played in helping to build the political will behind several landmark environmental policies over the years and how it can help with climate change communication today.
From the Yosemite Land Grant of 1864 to the present, images have helped give the public, and the policy makers they elected, a new way to relate to and understand the issues of their time. In many cases, images mobilized public concern that helped drive legislation. The publication of photos of the Cuyahoga River fire of 1969 in Time Magazine, for example, helped spur the passage of the Clean Water Act and the creation of the EPA in the 1970s.
While environmental issues have changed over the years, so has technology and the way we relate to images. As such, this presentation also poses questions about what form of art will reach the most people and motivate them to speak up on climate change today.