Jim Laukes


Remarks by J. Laukes at the Green Arts Showcase, sponsored by Citizens for a Greener Evanston

4 November 2009 Noyes Art Center, Evanston, Illinois

We’re together here because of important and pressing matters like taking action on climate change and sustainability. And there’s a lot to accomplish. I’m reminded of listening to my great grandmother as she told me about working in her garden, started over 100 years ago down on South Boulevard just a few blocks from where we are tonight. Her strawberry patch was green (***put on strawberry-top shower cap). And it was sustainable. But it was not sustainable by itself.

Climate and sustainability have lots of pieces. Yes, there are the essential biological and technological parts. Let’s remember that climate also refers to the social and cultural dimensions. Let me give one small example. Precisely 30 years ago I saw solar collectors on the roof of the White House. I saw them up close. And a couple of years later they were gone. They were not taken down because the biological and technological climate had changed very much, but because the political and social climate had shifted. This had more to do with the cultural aspects of climate than the technological ones.

A question was once posed by the old physicist, ‘If technology is the answer, what is the question?’ Our cultural, artistic and social practices play a key role in defining these questions. Defining and refining then re-refining and re-defining.

What we’re doing now and how we move ahead will evolve. Changes in recycling, ecological design, wind turbines, solar buildings, composting, local and neighborhood solutions, technologies that transcend and transform, ways to cooperate, contend and learn about ourselves, energy and resource efficiencies in transportation, manufacturing, agriculture, human consciousness in which we share.

There will be ups and downs, rolls and flips; things that are productive and things that seem like they were a waste. The root meaning of evolve is to unroll (***throw out small toiletpaper rolls). And we’ll have to compost a lot of our waste. It won’t be perfect. We will change and adapt. We’ll try this and that. Some approaches will be very fruitful and others will not. This process is a gestalt, a dynamic, living, changing interaction of technologies, social change, artistic and cultural forms. And we don’t know exactly what paths to take to reach the goals of Evanston’s Climate Action Plan.

There’s a way of describing the process called ‘laying down the path in walking’. We evolve and adapt as we go along. And we should be gently mindful along the way of making good choices and adapting to the changing conditions of the many climates: the climate of greenhouse gases, the climates of renewable technologies, the climates of health, the climates of equality and justice, the cultural and artistic climates, the climate of respect and caring among all living beings. That’s empathy in action.

Who will change all these climates? I can show you, at least a tiny glimpse (***show small mirror face, moving across audience). We are climate. We are climating every moment. We are each others’ climate: from Cairo and Capetown to Evanston, from Benares and Beijing to Buenos Aires.

When we ask how art and science can work together, we might recall the words of the American poet, e e cummings: ‘one is not half of two, it’s two that are halves of one.’

Thank you again for coming tonight and participating.