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Why the environment needs art activists

For thousands of years, humans have expressed themselves, their emotions, and their experiences through art, whether it be through cave paintings, intricate sculptures, or hastily drawn sketches in the back of a notebook.

More than just a fun pastime, the creation of art can also be thought of as the creation of culture, as these two cannot exist without one another. Art not only contributes to and shapes culture, but reflects culture as well.

Seeing that culture is often thought of as the defining characteristic that separates humans from other living species, it is only natural that humans are drawn to art, whether that be creating or viewing it.

Since art is such a significant part of the human experience, it can, and often is, used as a tool for conveying important messages. I love to see when art is cleverly used as a tool for environmental activism!

Images vs. words

Sometimes numbers and statistics just aren’t enough to make us truly understand the detrimental impacts of climate change and all its related processes. While facts are important and may aid our understanding, art is a great way to communicate environmental issues, as it is used as a means to express the human experience in ways that words alone cannot.

When you think about it, environmental issues associated with climate change are deeply personal and emotional, as they have long-lasting and detrimental impacts. People all around the world are impacted both directly and indirectly by climate change, creating many varied experiences that should be shared in order to raise awareness and find climate change solutions.

Art and emotions go hand in hand. This is why art is such a great medium for expressing the emotional aspect of climate change experiences and activism. Through a work of art, the artist is able to convey the way these issues make them feel, the gravity of the situation at hand, and just how important it is to create an open dialogue about climate issues.


There are so many artists and activists around the world who are creating pieces that draw attention to the dire environmental consequences that we are facing now and will continue to face in the future. You might just be surprised at how creative and impactful these art pieces are!

Rare Earthenware

For example, “Rare Earthenware” is a really interesting project that was created by Unknown Fields Division, a design studio located in London, England.

The project consists of three ceramic vessels which are modeled after Ming vases. The twist is that these vessels aren’t made out of your typical sculpting materials. They were created using mud from a toxic lake in inner Mongolia.

Image sourced from:

Each ceramic vessel is made from the amount of toxic waste that is created in the production of three common items of technology: a smartphone, a laptop, and the cell of a smart car battery.  Technological items such as these use rare earth elements in their production.

The Unknown Fields Division team traced these elements back to their origins, leading them to a lake in Mongolia which is located near Baotou. Now, this lake definitely is not for swimming. It is contaminated with toxic waste that is pumped out from a refinery that processes the rare earth elements which are sourced from nearby mines.

Image sourced from:

This art project is both a visual indicator of the environmental damage caused by the production and consumption of technological devices, and a commentary on the way our values and conceptions of luxury have shifted over time.

While Ming vases have long since been seen as an object of luxury, these vases made out of toxic sludge showcase how electronics (along with their negative environmental impacts) are the new face of luxury and desire. This project is intended to make you rethink how you choose to spend your money and manage your electronics (for more information on electronics recycling, check out this article!).

Melting Panthers

Another example of environmental activism in the form of artwork is Bob Partington’s Melting Panthers. As we know, the effects of climate change have and will wreak havoc on living species around the world. We are currently living through the Anthropocene Extinction, an extinction event of species as a result of human activity.

Over this period, we have seen numerous plants, mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish and other invertebrates go extinct. We need to be the voice of those who cannot speak for themselves. Bob Partington’s art piece addresses this issue in regard to one species in particular: the Florida panther.

Bob Partington’s art piece is a wax sculpture of a Florida panther and her cub which was displayed at a non-profit zoo in Tampa, Florida. At first glance, the sculpture seems relatively straightforward. It isn’t until the sun comes out that this sculpture’s message becomes loud and clear.

Image sourced from CNN

Once warm enough, the wax began to melt from the sculptures, distorting and disintegrating the panther’s bodies. After a few days, the mother panther’s body cavity had melted, revealing a short but impactful message that read “More heat, less wildlife.”

Click this link to see a time-lapse of the sculpture melting over time!

Sometimes images speak louder than words. Perhaps you may be able to find environmental activism art pieces that resonate with you and share them with the people in your life. Maybe even try creating your own activist art pieces!

We see amazing and powerful messages through all forms of art. The Instagram based Climate Illustrated project uses beautiful imagery and personal stories of climate change to connect us to the issues.

Nature artists use natural materials and the landscape itself to help us see beauty and meaning in the natural world. Perhaps you want to express your creativity through an art project, or get some children involved. Just leave the glue and glitter behind. Making art can be done with natural materials and can also make a statement about what society should be turning to.

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