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The Sustainable Artist

Are creators and makers bad for the environment?

This question has been bothering me a lot recently. 

I am an artist. 

It's taken me a long time to figure that out. It's taken trial and error, a lot of dark days and a lot of soul searching. 

This much I know: I am moved to create. 

On the other hand, I am also very keenly aware of the troubles of the world. 

I read about the degradation of the rainforest aged 9, and was so upset that I organised a fundraising event at my school with my friends Elsie and Anna (who, interestingly enough are both artists now!). 

I joined a rainforest conservation project in Cambodia aged 18, and was deeply moved by the poverty and social injustices I saw there. 

I ended up studying International Development and learnt all about poverty, social injustices and climate change when I went to university. 

I worked for Oxfam, and lived in Delhi, India for a short stint which led to my mental health break (more on that later!).

More recently, I have been inspired by the work of The Minimalists, and other spokespeople who advocate a life with more intention, less mindless consumerism and far less "stuff". 

My life since India has been mired by depression, anxiety, and addiction to junk food, junk media and the consumption of stuff to soothe my troubled soul. Don't get me wrong, this time has also been positive in many ways too. I got together with, and married, my soulmate, welcomed my beautiful daughter, and created a lovely family home for us all in that time. It's not been all bad! But I have felt spiritually, emotionally and physically weighed down (literally- I gained over 30kg in that time!) by all this overconsumption. 

This has led me to feel extremely conflicted. 

Do I have the right to be an artist in a world that's in environmental crisis? 

Am I just contributing to the pollution of the environment? 

Is selling people more stuff just adding to the culture of consumerism? 

How about the materials I'm using- how ethical is the production process and supply chain of the paints, paper etc that end up in my hands?

I've done a little research on this, and not come up with any conclusive answers. So I'm going to start looking into it. Possibly by reading up and writing blog posts. Possibly by talking to other people who have grappled with this question themselves and woven it into their own artist practices. I might start a podcast. I might write a book! Watch this space. 

In the meantime, I invite you to think about your own creativity and how it fits into the wider environmental picture. 

I'd love you to send me questions or comments on this topic

(originally published on 20th October 2018)