Christopher Barnatt on Sustainability and the Cultural Sector

Christopher Barnatt is a regular contributor to the Short Courses. Here he discusses sustainability and the challenges faced by the cultural sector.

Humanity is increasingly consuming more than the planet and future generations can endure. Against this backdrop, there is a rising focus on ‘sustainability’ – or in other words, on living today without compromising tomorrow. Unfortunately, while this is a laudable goal, it is also an impossibility as all forms of life, art and business and physically consumptive. The whole sustainability debate therefore comes down to making ethical and practical judgements about how much we may reasonably steal from those to come.

For some, the answers lie in new technologies – from wind, wave and solar power, through to genetic modification and synthetic biology, and even the use of 3D printing to allow objects to be created on demand with minimal waste. However, there is no basket of technological fixes that will allow us to go on living as we do today.

In the near future we must therefore all learn to consume less and value more – and this will require a change in the core narrative of our civilization. Given their ability to touch our collective soul, it is also the culture industries that may well be best placed to help us achieve such a critical narrative change . . .

Read more in the first chapter of Christopher Barnatt’s SevenWaystoFixtheWorld, or in his recent Guardianarticleonsustainability.


Themes Climate Leadership