In a climate emergency, anxiety can easily paralyze us. When it’s too much to bear, it can feel like we can’t act. And yet, despite the danger we’re in, we have the opportunity of a lifetime to shape the future that we want.
As an urban artist, I see opportunities everywhere. The streets are my canvass, and there is so much to tell.
Like most of you, I know that a pressing deadline looms over our heads: 11 years to stop runaway climate change. I listen to Greta Thunberg and I think of my three kids. I watch the student strikes around the world and I realize that everything is at stake.
By 2030, the world needs to slash its global carbon emissions by more than half, to scale down our consumerism and to fundamentally change our systems.
And I wonder, where do I fit in all of that ? As an artist, how can I contribute ? Why aren’t our policymakers responding to the scale of the urgency ?
I can turn parking stripes into dandelions or urge drivers to get out of their cars and onto bicycles, but it seems to me that the need is larger than the answer we’re giving it. While climate disasters multiply, how do I keep faith that we can solve the crisis ?
And then, it dawned on me, that with despair comes hope. They go together. Our reaction cannot be discouragement and fear. To make our political leaders budge, it only takes us: the people. We can build pressure from the ground up and create the green, healthy and renewable-powered future we want.
So what better way to fight climate despair than through art ?
You and I can make the small changes on an individual level, but it will take much bigger changes for things to move. That means that the change needs to come from the biggest polluters: the oil companies. Oil companies and other fossil fuel producers are the largest emitters of greenhouse gasses driving human-caused climate change.
The international People vs. Oil movement made me realize that the equation really is as simple as that. It is about us, the people, fighting the villains to save the future that we want for ourselves and the generations to come.
So when Greenpeace invited me to create a more artistic forum to talk climate change, I felt compelled to embark on this new adventure. I’m a Montréal-based artist and I can see for myself the consequences our changing climate is having on my city.
Climate Disasters: Offered to us by…
The art installation showcases the key climate disasters that people in Canada are facing directly or indirectly: floods, forest fires, extreme storms, droughts. This “culture-jamming” activity spoofs sponsorship advertising of some of the oil companies most responsible for the human-caused emissions driving climate breakdown.
I hand-painted each of the banners to portray a climate disasters which are offered to us by Exxon, Shell, BP, and Suncor. It is important for people to understand that climate change will make droughts, wildfires, floods, super-storms more frequent and more intense. Activists in Russia created their own installation too.
Climate disasters have already cost lives around the world. It will only get worse as extreme storms, floods, droughts, and fires become stronger and more frequent. Meanwhile, oil companies have spent millions of dollars on misleading advertising and lobbying to block climate action.
The 100 biggest fossil fuel companies, including Exxon, Shell, BP, and Suncor, are responsible for the majority of the pollution that has triggered the climate crisis.
International day of creative activism
Culture jamming activities like this to expose the oil industry’s role are happening all over the world. The cities where posters were placed in public spaces include Manila, Moscow, Athens, Oslo, Amsterdam, and New York. Similar subvertisements will appear in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal as the day unfolds. And, throughout the day, Greenpeace activists also reclaimed the public space in 25 cities around the world to mimic how oil companies proudly tout the benefits of their products, but instead brings attention to the harm they cause. I am glad to have been a part of this international day of action empowering, communities to hold the oil industry accountable as the true villain of the climate crisis.
Roadsworth, is a well-known Montreal-based street artist renowned for his signature artwork that always sends a striking political message. This time again he used urban Montreal as his canvass to send a message about the climate crisis. And as he says ‘civil disobedience is justifiable and necessary. Changes will not come from the top.’