Back in September 2010 the University of the South Pacific in Fiji hosted the Oceanic Conference on Creativity and Climate Change, which looked at using the arts to educate and motivate communities.
The conference came up with new ways of presenting the issues, and its proceedings have now been incorporated in a special edition of the literary journal Dreadlocks.
Earlier today I spoke to the journal's editor and the Director of the Pacific Writing Forum, Mohit Prasad, from the University of the South Pacific.
He explains how the idea to combine creativity and climate change came about.
Presenter: Helene Hofman
Speaker: Mohit Prasad, Director of the Pacific Writing Forum and editor of the literary journal Dreadlocks
PRASAD: This is one of the areas that I was pushing for coming from Humanities, Social Science background and being a creative writer myself and I thought we are missing out on an opportunity to address climate change through creativity especially here in Oceania where many of the explanations about place, about the whole genealogy of being actually comes from a very, very creative kind of impetus other than just the more scientific or the more economic aspects of climate change. So that became a genesis of that particular of the Oceans, Islands and Skies Conference and that actually opened the way for recognition that creativity has a very, very definite place within all kinds of studies, within all kinds of responses to climate change. We had story tellers telling stories about climate change in indigenous languages, for example. We had primary school students who had participated in different awareness programs and how they actually used theatre, for example, to bring about awareness on climate change. So we had a whole range of events in that particular program.
HOFMAN: So it's mostly about awareness building. In the past, there have been criticisms that in the whole struggle against climate change, the issue is that there isn't enough accessible scientific information. Is there a danger in encouraging people who aren't necessarily experts to be the ones responsible for delivering a message?
PRASAD: I think we went from the point of view that expertise comes from defying notes and the lead experience comes from being on the islands for example, and experiencing climate change, being able to see parts of their village, for example, getting washed away over a period of time. You don't need to have kind of scientific data or any kind evidence for your basis to that. It's just things that you can talk about. So the idea of misinformation, of course, is another ball game but we actually decide to marry a kind of scientific analysis and basis of climate change to the more creative responses we had.
HOFMAN: Were you surprised by when you went to look for people in the creative community to take part in this project, were you surprised by the levels of engagement they had in the climate change issue?
PRASAD: Yes, I think I was greatly surprised, because we didn't actually have any precedence over here in terms of engaging, for example, with local artists and communities. Once they came to know in terms of what we were doing, they all came out with different angles, different approaches in terms of how they were willing to address issues.
HOFMAN: And have you gotten a good response from members of the public?
PRASAD: We did. I think the main reason, it takes it out of a very, very restrictive domain when it comes to science and knowledge as opposed to the community and knowledge, trying to just get to the point of making science accessible as well. So, for example, in these story telling sessions, we had contextualisation within the kind of scientific knowledge we have now of the knowledge that was handed down to the oral stories and traditions about climate change and how it affected people, for example, the movement of birds at different points to signify changes in climate, which is something which goes back to ancient, but which is also the subject of more recent scientific studies. I think accessibility was the key over here in terms of trying to redefine the purveyance that exist around climate change.