“Do artists have the right kinds of tools to imagine new ways of living for the earth and its inhabitants?”

Listen to interview with ecological artist-educator Cathy Fitzgerald Ph.D., about her 'Essential Ecoliteracy course for Creatives and Art Professionals', with writer and radio journalist Rachel Andrews, RTE Lyric FM. Produced by Luke Clancy, 11 November 2019.


WHY ECOLITERACY? – As creatives (in all art disciplines), art and craft teachers, art managers, art researchers and cultural policy-writers, you might already be asking:

  • “How can I approach the urgent realities of the ecological emergency effectively and confidently in my creative work and for others that I might teach?”

  • “Does this mean I have to learn about science, ecology, climate change, biodiversity, sustainability? “

  • “Cathy – I know nothing about these areas! Isn’t it all too complicated!!?

Why is this important, urgent topic so difficult for the art sector?

As I was to find through my adult art education and work in the art sector, there is little understanding that an overview of environmental science, environmental philosophy and ethics, are essential for creatives (and everyone really) to address the inter-related crises of the ecological catastrophe. Modern education which separates science and art education is largely the problem and ecoliteracy in the arts and the wider public is poor. I was able to develop an ecoart practice because I had a previous career in research science, but advancing work with little peer or sector support was slow and difficult.

  • In developing my ecoart practice, I found few in the arts who are teaching art and ecology courses. The few tutors who had in-depth practical knowledge were overseas – and only a handful of art and ecology programmes exist in the world!

  • Given the gravity of the unprecedented ecological emergency for the survival of our species – will mean this will change – IT HAS TO!! But poorly-funded art colleges (and struggling more now with the pandemic) will be slow to provide new ecoliteracy curricula for the arts.

  • The art and ecology field suffers accordingly, with art educators, students and cultural policymakers viewing it as a marginal activity in contemporary art. Thus, important cultural responses in this area are little recognised and poorly funded.

The Haumea Online 6-week Essential Ecoliteracy course

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Why Ecoliteracy? A profound paradigm shift to Earth-aligned values and learning is needed because...

'It is urgent that we assume the duty of fighting for the fundamental ethical principles, like respect for the life of human beings, the life of other animals, the life of birds, the life of rivers and forests. I do not believe in love between men and women, between human beings, if we are not able to love the world. Ecology takes on fundamental importance at the end of the century. It has to be present in any radical, critical or liberationist educational practice. For this reason, it seems to me a lamentable contradiction to engage in progressive, revolutionary discourse and have a practice which negates life. A practice which pollutes the sea, the water, the fields, devastates the forests, destroys the trees, threatens the birds and animals, does violence to the mountains, the cities, to our cultural and historical memories.' – Paulo Freire, Brazilian educator and philosopher who was a leading advocate of critical pedagogy

My thanks to:

philosopher nikos patedakis ph.d