People have used art for centuries to show how humans have altered their natural ecologies.
During the era of climate change, artists have turned toward addressing social and ecological issues linked to the climate crisis, such as food access, melting glaciers, and deforestation. This work, immediate and bold, packs an emotional punch that’s difficult to ignore – documenting a pressing reality and inspiring action. As the environmental writer Bill McKibben said, future generations will look to the art we’re producing to understand what the rising temperatures meant for our populations.
In California’s rural communities, climate change impacts the lives and livelihoods of farmers, farmworkers and their families through heat waves, drought, fire, flood, pests, and disease. Farms produce greenhouse emissions that contribute to climate change, and they can also offer climate solutions when they promote practices like carbon sequestration, water stewardship, farmland conservation, renewable energy use, and climate equity.
In 2021, the UC Davis Institute of the Environment launched a new initiative to integrate public art into agricultural communities throughout California. We’re working with students, youth groups, educators, farmers and agricultural organizations to create a series of murals to show how climate change affects agricultural communities and how these communities are combating the climate crisis. Murals will be created on the sides of barns and in community parks and gardens. They will be objects of beauty in landscapes where public art is scarce or nonexistent, and their message will be clear: the climate crisis is real. We must act now, and here are the ways how.