We can be whatever we have the courage to see

Art by Jhon Cortes – 350 Just Recovery Art Kit
This piece was originally sent as our TAO the GND newsletter. If you like what you’re reading, please consider joining us for occasional ruminations and updates.

It can feel daunting to look forward when the past is still unresolved and the present so precarious. It can also feel pointless to dream up an entire new world when the one we’re in is needing all hands on deck just to put out one (metaphorical and literal) fire after another. I’ve certainly had my share of moments just since the launch of The Art of the Green New Deal during which I questioned the validity of taking a bigger and longer view when the hardship and loss (experienced disproportionately by those who did the least to cause it) is so tangible right now.

How can we worry about climate change when a virus and heavily armed police are killing Black and Brown people? Who cares about solar panels when people are losing their homes and livelihoods? What good is a Pachamama mindset respecting the rights of nature when oil companies keep extracting fossil fuels with no regard for such rights? Do we change our personal habits or work for better policies? And of course, how can you make art when the world is on fire?

But then I am reminded that the Green New Deal vision in itself is the antidote to this kind of binary thinking our minds are so good at seducing us with. It was conceived in the knowledge that climate change is but a manifestation of the physical, social, economic, and belief systems at the root of our unsustainable and inequitable modern industrial ways of living and that to deal with this greatest threat humanity has ever faced we have to re-envision and -create these systems though a kaleidoscopic rather than single-focus lens.

And while it may feel overwhelming or too ambitious to think in terms of all things concerning all beings rather than compartmentalizing into a series of single issues, it is in fact liberating when we get out of the never ending maze of competing worries and into a mindset of rudimentary, holistic planetary and human relational healing. And what better way to be transported into that transformative space of possibility than to hop on the creative train? As Naomi Klein so powerfully posits in the closing chapter of On Fire, artists are able to show us that “we can be whatever we have the courage to see.”

In the last chapter of On Fire – The (burning) case for a Green New Deal, Naomi Klein makes the case for why creatives have such an important role in helping envision big structural changes. It spans from the power of art to inspire transformation as one of the original New Deal’s most lasting legacies to the Message from the Future video. By their ability to expand our minds beyond the temporal and spatial status quo we are conditioned to dwell in for most of our existence, artists are able to show us that “we can be whatever we have the courage to see.”

You can see an example of how this kind of bold visioning can lead to real world change in our brand-new feature, The Green New Deal is Art, Sierra Club Connects with Artivists. In it, I talk to a diverse trio of young and outspoken artist-activists (ARTIVISTS!) about how their creative vision for a more just and imaginative world moved an environmental organization as big and established as the Sierra Club to embrace art and inspiration as a way forward on the most daunting ecological challenge humanity has ever faced.

While the interview took place pre-COVID and the current Movement for Black Lives uprisings, the themes that came up were poignantly prescient in their holistic assessments of remedies needed to address the intertwined crises of human and environmental equity. It’s a long piece but I believe worth every line. It also features lots of amazing art, so a visual scroll alone will whet your creative appetite.

Despite the multiple overlapping crises we are grappling with at this moment, there are encouraging signs that the visionary power of a new generation fighting for big structural change is at a tipping point. With GND resolution co-author Senator Ed Markey (MA) cruising to a decisive primary victory this week powered by the inspiring young activists of the Sunrise Movement, the beltway narrative that a Green New Deal is all just too much, too soon, and too fast was blown out of the water, proving once again that we can be what we have the courage to see. To put it in the political terms so intricately linked to the overall vision, bold action is a winning message.

But it’s not just on the big political stages the Green New Deal is making its presence felt. New excitement, ideas, and initiatives are bubbling up everywhere, from A Message From the Future being nominated for an Emmy to the Green New Deal Arts Coalition now in full swing every 1st Friday of the month, to the U.S. Dept. of Arts & Culture’s announcement of The People’s WPA, a cultural organizing and storytelling project that seeks to uplift essential forms of labor in an effort to build an inspiring vision of our shared future.

We’re also excited to share what some of our featured creatives are up to:

Sarah Cameron Sunde, who has been exploring time and scale of the climate crisis in durational performances with the sea is inviting y’all for a live-streaming of a full tidal cycle this Saturday from 6:43am-7:09pm at the edge of the water in Hallet’s Cove to kick off the research and process of making a site specific work in NYC.

The Climate Music Project, which has been translating the abstract into the personal, is calling all singers, ages 7-13, to submit short videos of themselves singing the chorus for their newest campaign “What If We…?”, a musical and spoken-word composition that tells the story of the effects of sea level rise on people and the planet.

Youth vs. Apocalypse, the group of bold young activists we featured when they burst onto the national scene after confronting CA Senator Dianne Feinstein about her dismissal of the Green New Deal, is producing an Electoral Engagement EP that aims to engage frontline youth and their communities in ending the Climate Crisis through Hip Hop & Climate Justice in the upcoming 2020 Presidential Elections.

And the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture (CUESA), whose The Food Change project we introduced a little while ago, released Caring for People, Animals, and Land During COVID-19 in collaboration with photographer and TAO the GND artistic advisor Anne Hamersky, a video of on-farm footage and selfie interviews about humane rancher Dede Boies and her wife, daughter, and adorable pasture-raised chicks, piggies, and farm dogs at Root Down Farm in Pescadero, CA.


And last but not least, I’ll leave you with David Solnit‘s latest creation for a #JustRecovery. You can find this and many other artists’ work for download in’s Just Recovery Art Kit.

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