Culture Declares Emergency

Rebel for Life

Reading Letters to Earth – Event – PTA

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Arts and Culture organisations and individuals declare a Climate and Ecological Emergency


This toolkit explains why and helps you take part

Declaration text

Use this as a template to make your own statement

Look at the home page for basic information about expressing your intention to declare and spreading the word.

You could adapt this declaration text, including changing the pledges and adding your own detail about how you or your organisation intend(s) to respond. See the resources below to add more context to your declaration.

I ( add name, or ) We ( add name) declare a Climate and Ecological Emergency

I / We pledge to work with and support our community and local government in tackling this Emergency, and we call on others to do the same.

These are our intentions:

1. I / We will tell the Truth

Governments, and their public broadcasters and cultural agencies, must tell the truth about the Climate and Ecological Emergency, reverse inconsistent policies and communicate the urgency for far-reaching systemic change.

I / We will communicate with citizens and support them to discover the truth about the Emergency and the changes that are needed.

2. I / We will take Action

Governments must enact legally binding policy measures to reduce emissions to net zero by 2025 and to reduce consumption levels.

I / We pledge to work towards reducing our emissions to net zero* by 2025.

I / We will challenge policies and actions of local and national governments and their agencies, where we interact with them, that do not help to reduce emissions or consumption levels.

I / We will actively work to imagine and model ways that my practice / our organisation can regenerate the planet’s resources.

3. I / We are committed to Justice

The emergency has arisen from deeply systemic injustices. Arts and Culture can imagine and forge shifts in the ways we relate to one another and the world, in our values and behaviours.

I / We will do what is possible to enable dialogue and expression amidst our communities about how the Emergency will affect them and the changes that are needed.

I / We will support demands for more democracy within our civic institutions and government.

I / We believe that all truth-telling, action and democratic work must be underpinned by a commitment to justice based on intersectional principles*, led by and for marginalised people.

Declaration ends.

See below for advice on deciding how to adapt, apply and communicate this.

*Net zero means that on balance one’s activities are zero emissions, taking into account all possible Greenhouse Gas emissions and actions taken to mitigate or offset those emissions.

*Awareness of how systems of power combine to multiply the impacts on those who are most marginalised in society.

Making the decision and planning what to do

If you are in an organisation

If you want to make a declaration through an established organisation, you will need to discuss this with board, leaders or stakeholders. This is a suggested process:

Step 1: Do we all understand the Emergency?

  • Do we have a sense of what it means for each of us?
  • How will it affect the mission and longevity of our organisation?
  • See below for more about the reasons why.

Step 2: What impact do we hope to make by declaring?

  • Who do we hope to influence?
  • What ultimate change do we want to see?

Step 3: What do we have to offer?

  • What do we have to offer to our local civic institutions and communities in this Emergency?
  • Your assets can include people, qualities of practice, ideas and values, not just resources.

Step 4: What actions can we take beyond a declaration?

  • How will we show our pledges are meaningful?
  • What changes are we willing to make to respond to the Emergency?
  • See What To Do Next for resources and ideas.

Step 5: Do we all agree that we should go ahead?

  • Use an inclusive process to agree, taking time to consult and involve stakeholders, and consider funders.
  • For charities, the Board of Trustees would need to be confident that any declaration or related campaigning “must be undertaken by a charity only in the context of supporting the delivery of its charitable purposes“. You could add to your Declaration text a form of words such as “the Emergency endangers our ability to deliver [insert charitable objective] because [insert reasons]”.
  • If we can’t reach agreement as a whole, can smaller teams or individuals get support to take some action?

Step 6: How will we make the declaration?

  • What text do we want to issue? How will we adapt the template text (above)?
  • How will we announce it? However creative you want to be in your announcement, please work with us so that we can capture and share news on who is declaring. Register with us using this form.Use the kitemarks we’ve supplied. We can include you in press releases, open letters, or celebratory events such as the launch that took place on 3rd April.
  • If you all agree you’re not ready, commit to returning to the decision.

Step 6: How will we evaluate it?

  • How will we check in to maintain action and see if it is having an impact?
  • How will we review change at all levels, including operations, programming, partnerships and ethos?
  • Who is responsible amongst us?

If you are an individual

As an individual, you’re probably more able to go right ahead. You might first want to discuss implications with close collaborators or family. You can use your declaration to encourage cultural and civic organisations you work with to do the same.

  • Make an impact by being creative with your declaration. Can it be a poster, a performance, a film, written onto a garment, a poem?
  • If you work collaboratively, involve others, or organise a project. See the Letters to the Earth project as an example of ways to invite participation in creatively expressing concern for the planetary emergency.
  • Send your declaration text to the organisations you work with, your Council, your MP and with local press.
  • Use #CultureDeclaresEmergency to share on social media.
  • Tell us about it via the form so that we can list you (in future waves of announcing declarers).

Further resources for a declaration statement

Please refer to the Culture Declares Emergency movement, use the hashtag #CultureDeclaresEmergency and link to this website when you communicate your declaration.

The text that follows offers material for you to use, so that you can produce your own statement to explain your declaration. As an organisation declaring, you may choose to collectively agree a text, or make a set of individual or team expressions. The process of forming a statement could take time, as you may want to consult and involve a wider group of stakeholders or authors. The template above, and the guidance elsewhere in this toolkit, is provided to help speed this process.

Why have we made the decision to declare?

In October 2018, the International Panel on Climate Change announced that there are only 12 years to make urgent and unprecedented changes. The way things stand now, we have only 1% chance of doing this, and only a 5% chance global average temperatures can be limited to less than 2 °Celsius warmer than pre-industrial levels. The warnings of climate and ecological breakdown are all around:

Climate breakdown

There has been a gradual destabilisation of the climate due to the extraction and burning of fossil fuels, and in the last few decades this has accelerated. Droughts are getting longer and more severe, causing more scarcity of food and water. Extreme weather events are becoming more intense and destructive. Heatwaves are already magnifying the fire risk around the world and causing heat stress deaths. Widespread floods are escalating. Rising sea levels are threatening coastal and riverside settlements. Global temperatures have increased by 1 degree Celsius from pre-industrial levels. Atmospheric CO2 levels are above 400 parts per million (ppm), which far exceeds the pre-industrial base level of 280ppm.

In the past year, there are more signs that tipping points are being reached. In December it was reported that the rate of Greenland’s ice melt has quadrupled. Soon after, NASA discovered a huge cavern has opened up under Antarctica, and that a polar vortex destabilised sending freezing Arctic weather over the American mid-west whilst January was the warmest month in Australia, ever. In March, the UN reported that sharp temperature rises in the Arctic are inevitable, even if the Paris goals are met.

Human rights and justice

The Emergency includes rapidly rising inequality within and between nations, the deterioration of democracy and human rights, and conflicts over resources. This builds on centuries of historic injustices through racist colonial exploitation and annihilation of People of Colour and indigenous communities, appropriation of lands and extraction of natural resources. The world’s poorest 58% are responsible for only 14.5% of global CO2 emissions. The crisis – resulting from industrial practices and overconsumption by the richest – is worsening injustices faced by people in the Global South, indigenous land defenders in particular. Over time it will intensify inequalities experienced in every country.

There is also a generational justice issue. If we want people who are under the age of 20 to live a full life, we must stop burning fossil fuels now.

Ecological breakdown

Although it is difficult to estimate, or to project future rates of loss as the Emergency worsens, already three species are lost to eternity each hour. In February, there were reports of a catastrophic decline in insect populations which will soon affect our food supplies. The Food and Agriculture Organisation has reported that 63% of plants, 11% of birds, and 5% of fish and fungi are in decline. There is a debilitating loss of soil biodiversity, forests, grasslands, coral reefs, mangroves, seagrass beds and genetic diversity in crop and livestock species. Dead zones are growing in the oceans due to acidification and warming.

The main causes of ecological breakdown are: intensive agriculture with its use of chemicals; deforestation for logging, biofuels and livestock rearing; growing urbanisation and transport infrastructure; over-exploitation of water; over-harvesting and wildlife poaching; invasive species and diseases; pollution; and the burning of fossil fuels and climate change.

What can we do?

A major cause of injustice today is the suppression of truth by industrial and fossil fuel lobbyists – based in the Global North – so that they can continue to profit from exploiting people and plundering nature. The situation is much worse than we are told by those in power and in the media. The alarming reality needs to be named and discussed on media channels and in all cultural or civic forums. Equally vital is that solutions are clearly laid out. If speedy and drastic action is taken, if solutions within our reach are applied, governments can meet their climate goals.

The deliberate silencing of truths about the planetary emergency must end. The need to take action on climate is more urgent and more immediate than ever. The measures currently being taken are wholly inadequate to meet the current level of threat, as the destabilisation of global climate has progressed much more quickly than predicted. Failure to act is a failure of responsibility and an incredible arrogance in the face of the science.

Tackling the Climate and Ecological Emergency, its systemic causes and its unjust impacts should be the overriding priority of every politician, and to which all available resources should be immediately directed. Until they do, anyone who is able to must call for this, to communicate that sense of Emergency to others, to advocate for those unable to participate fully in civic life, and to push for the action that it demands.

See the Why Culture section for more to help you describe the contribution Arts & Culture make.

See the What To Do Next section for more ideas, to help you describe what action you will take to honour your pledges.