Culture in the Green Shift Debate

Anne-Britt Gran

How can creative industries in general, and the culture sector in particular, contribute more to the green shift debate in which we find ourselves?

COMMENTARY: Anne-Britt Gran on creative industries

Creative industries are essentially distinguished by being green businesses, and seen as such, they contribute to sustainability, but their potential is greater - significantly greater.

First, a brief explanation of the word: "Creative industries" refers here to the culture sector and the entire media sector, as well as to design and architecture. The reason why these industries are located in the same industry category is that they are considered in essence creative, aesthetic and communicative - all at the same time.

It refers to form-conscious communication, a sensitivity to genre, style, materials, techniques and technologies. The green shift debate needs these kinds of capabilities. In addition, the industries have some other characteristics that make them particularly interesting as tools in the green shift.

The culture sector is generally not enthusiastic about instrumental approaches – that art should be a means of achieving something else or used for other purposes – no matter how noble that purpose may be. For historical reasons, cultural life has defended the sector's autonomy (the freedom of art) as a spinal reflex. This should not mean being completely blind to climate issues for that reason.

Sustainable economy

A very important feature of several of the creative industries – music, books, films, computer games – is that they are based on copyright and so-called intellectual property rights. The actors involved earn royalties on the work for many decades after its creation, as it is used and the copyright maintained.

This intellectual property rights economy is sustainable, and digitalization is a driving part of the economy's growth. In the EU, it accounts for around 5 percent of the economy, and in the United States, it is larger than the automotive industry. Growth in creative industries is significant and directly contributes to the green shift. The industries can use this fact much more on the offensive in political contexts.

Greener solutions

Furthermore, some of the creative industries contribute directly sustainable solutions. Not in the least, this applies to architecture, in making the choice for green materials and energy-saving solutions. However, the architecture industry is dependent on the client's blessing and financial situation, and public bodies have a major responsibility to lead the way by choosing sustainable solutions.

The same applies to the design industry, which can also contribute to smart service design, as far as the client requests and chooses it. The festival sector can offer eco-friendly food, drinks, sustainable logistics, etc., of which Øyafestivalen is good example. In many different ways, the industry contributes directly to the green shift.

Affects and changes attitudes

For many people, films, literature, art, music, computer games, fashion, etc. have an existential meaning of life dimension to them. These aesthetic expressions have the ability to touch people deeply, influence attitudes and even change them, something that seems quite needed in the green shift debate.

An important contribution to the green shift could be that the actual contents of artwork and cultural products be more about climate, the environment, going green, the oil sector, etc. and done in a way that does not discourage us (purely dystopian scenarios).

Gert Nygårdshaug's authorship as featured on the table of contents page here, as well as Maja Lundes' The History of Bees and Blue are examples of fiction that can influence and help reinforce the green shift debate. The computer game industry has definitely a great deal of potential.

The green shift debate not dominant

Moreover, the Norwegian culture sector seems to be characterized by not using climate issues and the Norwegian oil sector as major themes, neither in the public debate nor in the art/culture that is created. Important exceptions exist, such as the action group 'Stop the Oil Industry's Sponsorship of Norwegian Cultural Life', and the artists in by:Larm who said "No, thank you!" to compete for a grant from Statoil, on the grounds that they did not want to win oil money.

There are certainly more examples too, but the green shift debate is not dominant in the Norwegian culture sector. Without having research to back it up, it seems that the reorganization of the scholarship scheme in Arts Council Norway has attracted much more interest from the culture sector than the government's proposal to offer 93 new blocks in the Barents Sea and 9 new blocks in the Norwegian Sea during the 24th licensing round on the Norwegian Continental Shelf. I sincerely wonder if the publicly funded culture sector has simply become anxious about criticizing its oil-financed patrons.

Enormous potential for content contribution

The potential is nevertheless great in terms of the sector's content contribution to the green shift debate. Creative industries are also known for being visible and reinforcing profiling: art, design, architecture, museums, music, literature and films are identified with nations, regions and cities.

Individual creators and artists have great impact upon traditional media as well as social media. These industries and their individual actors can definitely also be used in other profiling tasks, to profile and participate in the green shift, to talk about sustainable solutions and to criticize opposing views.

A green shift will be dependent on a change in mentality and (climate) psychology, on persuasive arguments and on changes in attitude, rhetoric, rationality, reason and emotion. In other words, right up the culture sector's alley.

Not in the least, this sector contributes to public infrastructure, democracy and the freedom of expression; the media and literature are historically the core of public life. The sector contains the arenas where the green shift debate takes place, including this new journal. They are beholden to do their part.

This article was published in the journal Pan on September 12th, 2018. Pan is a journal for green political debate and reflection published in collaboration with Harvest.

Published 2. October 2018

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