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Republic of Learning 5: Imagining Climate Futures

Last Friday we held the fifth Republic of Learning workshop and second in our current theme of "Imagining Climate Futures"at MAKE at Story Garden. We are continuing to use art, crafts and model making as a way to share ideas about how we can respond to climate impacts – to frame and host conversations about futures that many are finding bleak and frightening as the news remains full of stories about extreme weather events, disturbing natural phenomena and sudden changes to the usual patterns in our climates and environments.


The aim of the workshops is to establish a creative and convivial space in which people can come together to discuss these issuesand to explore together what sort of responses to climate impacts we can have, whether they have expert knowledge in any related field or are just curious or concerned. Using craft and makings skills as a vehicle for conversation changes the dynamic (from more traditional discursive spaces) by slowing things down and providing a focus on attending to the material world instead of the purely abstract world of ideas and opinions.


From working with felt to create 'climate emblems' in our last workshop, we shifted to working with clay to manifest ideas. The very different material qualities of clay, and the need to work directly with the hands – to knead and work it, keeping the clay moist and pliable – makes this activity a more contemplative one. It took place during the school half term, and so we had been advised that there may be families attending as part of the "Busy Hands" week across the StoryGarden. We adjusted our plans so that the workshop could accommodate people of different ages dropping in and just making things without needing to get engrossed in the more complex aspects of the theme.


We identified three key climate impacts – fires, storms and changes to the seasons – which people could respond to, each of which have either been in the news (e.g. the extraordinary Australian bush fires) or which we have had direct experience of, such as the recent series of storms to batter the UK (Ciara & Dennis) or the early onset of Spring as visible in blossoms and flowers appearing from late January through February, many of which are a month or six weeks earlier than usual.


What we think these Republic of Learning workshops enables is a space in which we can begin to explore these questions not just from a personal perspective, but from a more collective dimension. What will it mean for us to become 'resilient' in the face of the kinds of impacts and changes that may be wrought upon us as climate change becomes the 'new normal'? How can we feel a sense of empowerment to cope with changes – social, cultural, political, economic, environmental – by facing these together, as communities and not just as isolated individuals for small family units?


The conversations flowed from highlighting personal responsibilities in our contribution to climate change (the 'carbon footprint selfie camera') to ideas for making better use of existing social infrastructure for homeless people who may need temporary shelters during the increasingly frequent storms, to ways to better share the excess materials ('waste') from local industrial or artisanal production for making new things, to placement programmes for urban dwellers to spend time in nature working on projects to restore or re-wild natural environments – thus connecting with and gaining a direct experience of nature and natural forces, to having rural dwellers take part in urban projects to 'green' our towns and cities, on similar placement-style schemes.



In addition to the Thinksheet above – for which one of the facilitators acts as scribe and tries to capture ideas and themes emerging during the workshop – we also devised a simple worksheet for participants to self-document their own creative activity and ideas:


And below are some photos of the objects made:


We have created a booklet documenting the workshop, which can be viewed online or downloaded, printed out and made up into a paper booklet.




Our next Republic of Learning is on Friday 20th March 2.30-5pm at MAKE@StoryGarden. Sign up for as place at : https://republicoflearning.eventbrite.co.uk/ Everyone is welcome.


Erin Dickson, Rachel Jacobs & Giles Lane