The ROCK project brings together 32 partners from different countries and different backgrounds. This month we learn more about Julie's Bicycle with Lucy Latham, project manager, who talks to us about the organisation's approach to making the creative sector more sustainable.
The environmental dimension of cultural heritage management is frequently overlooked in favour of focusing exclusively on tourism, culture, and historical preservation. There is a need for cultural heritage to position itself in the context of climate change, biodiversity loss, air pollution, and other environmental challenges facing our societies at present. There is an urgent need for cities and administrators of cultural heritage to explore the relationships between preserving the past, engaging audiences in the present, and shaping a sustainable future so that cultural heritage can continue to be enjoyed and valued by generations to come.
Julie’s Bicycle’s vision is a creative community with sustainability at its heart and our mission is to provide the inspiration, expertise and resources to make that happen. We are very excited to support the ROCK cities in developing their narratives, strategies and practices connecting culture and climate, make use of the vast economic, social and cultural opportunities available, with the overall ambition of supporting the preservation of cultural heritage and its contemporary relevance to a 21st Century context.
Climate change and environmental degradation are resulting in incalculable losses to our shared and unique natural and cultural heritage. It has been frequently documented that severe weather and rising sea levels are more likely to cause catastrophic or progressive damage and destruction to cultural heritage; furthermore as our physical environment degrades, intangible heritage values associated with the environment will also be lost. This will likely lead to difficult choices on what to try to preserve and what to let go (ICOMOS). Managing this challenge requires stewardship of a different order altogether.
However, it also presents opportunities. Many custodians of cultural heritage are already reframing environmental action as an opportunity to demonstrate civic responsibility, increase public engagement, access new funding and investment, and improve health and wellbeing. Critically, arts and culture’s response promotes positive environmental action and behaviour in society and enables the shifting of cultural values and perceptions on climate change and environmental issues. Responses have been diverse and creative, reflecting the uniqueness of their buildings, sites, monuments and collections.
There are so many cities and civic networks doing really exciting work at the moment, for example, Manchester Arts Sustainability Team (MAST) united in response to Manchester Council’s first climate change strategy and has gone on to significantly influence the city’s second strategy; it has also achieved an average CO2 reduction of 7% every year since 2011/12. New York’s Materials for the Arts has reimagined its waste materials as art supplies and has set up a facility to share them. Melbourne has been exploring the role of culture in building climate-related disaster preparedness in its project Refuge. There is also an exciting interplay between city-level and national policy-making which holds huge potential. Successful initiatives when proven, can be scaled up to national level. For example, London’s creative community guided a set of environmental resources, which in turn, influenced the embedding of environmental sustainability into Arts Council England’s national funding requirements.
You can read more in the Culture and Climate Change handbook. In collaboration with Julie's Bicycle and the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, World Cities Culture Forum has produced this handbook for city leaders to inspire and help build environmental sustainability into cultural policies, programmes and solutions.