Between melting glaciers, rising seas, and a choking atmosphere, the prospect of global warming is so overwhelming that some people simply shut it out.
That approach is what Climakaze Miami, an innovative and ambitious arts-environmental conference launching this weekend, aims to address. A mix of performance festival, climate change workshop and call to action, Climakaze aims to bring artists, with their ability to engage people, together with environmental activists to find ways to address and inspire action on climate change.
“It’s horribly depressing, this promised massive Armageddon that is so slow but so massive that there’s no way we can stop it,” says Elizabeth Doud, the performance artist and activist organizing Climakaze.
“It’s really hard to hear that and have any sense of hope or action. You get this fatigue and you stop listening.
“What artists do is create stories you identify with and characters you empathize with. We connect you emotionally so you can wake up and make change or get involved. If [we artists] are connected to larger movements, we can help them take that action. We could be an important glue.”
Presented by nonprofit arts group Fundarte, the event features dialogues, or daylong brainstorming sessions, Friday and Sunday at Miami-Dade County Auditorium, a sponsor of Climakaze; and a day-long expedition to the Everglades on Saturday. Evening performances include Polar Bear Fever by Mexican dancer and performer Antonio Salinas, which looks at similarities between humans and other living things; and Colorado artist Michelle Ellsworth’s Preparation for the Obsolescence of the Y Chromosome, a humorous multi-media speculation on extinction and the possible disappearance of the human male. The event finishes with a Sunday afternoon picnic in Miami Beach. People can register for all three days, or a single daylong session, or simply attend the performances or picnic.
Doud’s partner in Climakaze is Mario Yanez, an organic farmer in Homestead and founder of Earth Learning, a nonprofit group that teaches organic farming and other practices aimed at creating self-sustaining communities based on the environment of the Everglades in Southern Florida. Yanez says the group’s goals are nothing less than helping people to remake the region from suburban sprawl to 21st century villages that would generate their own energy and grow their own food. In a way, Yanez has added homesteading and renewable energy practices to the urban planning movement towards more centralized, human-scale cities (seen in the book Sprawl Repair Manual by Galina Tachieva of Miami’s Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co., one of the movement’s leaders).
Yanez says his ideas are not radical but practical.
“The systems that are currently dominant are going to fall apart under their own weight, they’re not sustainable, and they’re abusive to people and the environment,” he says. “We want to bring about a life-sustaining culture … a local economy and culture that knows how to provide its own water, soil, food, that involves wind and solar technology.”
Yanez, who will lead the Everglades expedition on Saturday, became involved after meeting with Doud several months ago. He hopes Climakaze will attract not only artists, but others who long to do more than fill their recycling bins and shop at their local farmers market.
“The event is to pull in artists and activists and community leaders and whoever wants to come because they think this is important,” he says. “To galvanize and inspire them … about what needs to be done. The arts have the capacity to reach people in so many ways. People every day are waking up to this. The most we can do is create positive examples of alternative ways of doing things. They may be short lived, but they raise the bar and spark people’s imaginations.”
Doud, a former dancer, has made performance pieces on environmental issues, including one on colony collapse disorder, a malady that is killing honeybees, and another inspired by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. She was also artistic director of MDC’s performing arts series from 2009 to 2011, and is working on a Ph.D at the Federal University of Bahia in Brazil.
For Climakaze, she has brought in others with hybrid skills and experience. They include Peter Kulchyski, head of indigenous studies at the University of Manitoba in Canada, who will present what Doud calls a “manifesto” — a mix of research paper and performance on indigenous rights and environmental issues. Scott Perret, a former actor and director and an environmentalist trained in leading creative group discussions, is one of two people who will shepherd the day-long dialogues.
Doud hopes the artists will be inspired by the conference, as well as inspiring others.
“When a wetlands is the start of your show, creating stories from that is really tricky,” she says. “How do we make people care? How do we interface with science? What is the poetic part of the story?”
If you go
At Miami-Dade County Auditorium, 2901 W. Flagler St., Miami.
10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Climakaze Dialogues (includes lunch)
8:30 p.m., performance at On.Stage Black.Box at M-DCA, with eight-minute manifesto by Peter Kulchyski and Antonio Salinas in “Polar Bear Fever” (in Spanish with English subtitles)
At Everglades National Park:
8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Climakaze dialogues and Everglades excursion (includes lunch).
8:30 p.m. performance at On.Stage Black.Box at M-DCA, with eight-minute manifesto and Michelle Ellsworth in “Preparation for the Obsolesence of the Y Chromosome”
10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Climakaze Dialogues at M-DCA
3-6 p.m., Picnic on Miami Beach