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GSI Seminar: Art and Agency: Eco-anxiety and creative responses to the climate and ecological emergency

Discover the transformative power of creative practice in addressing eco-anxiety and the mental health impacts of climate change. Join us for a seminar that explores the role of art, dialogue, and experimentation in fostering hope and collective action. Learn from the inspiring work of The Art and Energy Collective and their collaboration with creative practitioners in Exeter. Don't miss this enlightening event at the intersection of creativity, mental health, and environmental consciousness.

Event details


This seminar and creative exploration responds to the increasing evidence of eco-anxiety being witnessed in developed countries as the impacts of the climate and ecological emergency become knowable through both intellectual and sensory mechanisms. Eco-anxiety is a complex concept and has evolved from being a relatively marginal concern about the uncertainties of future climate change, to acute anxiety about the knowable impact of change (e.g. in one’s experience of nature) and fears concerning the immediate future (e.g. for one’s children). Indeed, eco-anxiety is clearly one manifestation of the broader mental health impact of climate change. Moreover, eco-anxiety is just one term amongst several that express the emotional impacts of environmental change, such as eco-guilt, eco-despair, climate grief, climate trauma and so on. Three key implications emerge from the current state of eco-anxiety in developed country settings. First, responses to eco-anxiety have tended to follow a conventional individualised ‘medical model’ of pathologizing, rather than exploring the role creative practice can have in enabling individuals to come together and share their anxieties through talking, playing, making and crafting. Second, there has been little exploration of the role and potential efficacy of creative practice and practitioners in supporting people to work through eco-anxiety and provide hopeful ways of living in the present and imagining the future. Third, such a re-orientation offers the possibility of moving away from individualised constructs of behavioural response to a wider understanding of collective creative practice to cope with environmental change. The seminar will provide an example from a recent AHRC-funded project of how creative practice can provide new ways of understanding, working through and generating hope from eco-anxiety. It will outline an ongoing engagement with then creative practitioners in and around Exeter, led by The Art and Energy Collective, and their work together as a group, demonstrating the ways in which making, creating, talking and experimenting can offer new opportunities for mobilising the role of creativity in the climate and ecological emergency. The seminar will consist of an overview of the project, the academic literature pertaining to eco-anxiety and behaviour change, as well as the emerging findings while also offering the audience an opportunity to themselves be creative in response.

NOTE: If you intend on joining us online for this seminar, please gather some yarn (wool, thread, string etc) and scissors in preparation. For those joining in person, these materials will be provided.


Lewis Winks is a Geography Research Fellow at the University of Exeter, and has a background in social science, ecology, campaigning and advocacy. His research focuses on nature connectedness, environmental education, behaviour change, and cultures of learning. More recently Lewis has been working with arts-based organisations to consider how creativity can support and catalyse environmental action. Lewis campaigns for public access to the countryside with the group Right to Roam and was part of the effort to return the right to wild camp to Dartmoor National Park.

Stewart Barr is Professor of Geography at the University of Exeter and has 20 years’ experience as a social science researcher in the field of behavioural change and public engagement for sustainability. His research focuses on the challenges of embedding sustainable behaviours into everyday practices and the ways in which ecological knowledges are co-constructed. His two most recent co-authored books are on Geographies of Transport and mobility: prospects and challenges in an age of climate change and Energy and Society (both 2018). He was a founding co-director of the University of Exeter’s MSc in Sustainable Development and has chaired the University’s sustainability committee.

Chloe Uden is the founder and artistic director of The Art and Energy Collective – An award winning group of artists using their skills to respond to the climate and ecological emergencies. Art and Energy specialises in designing participatory arts activities that help people connect nature for inspiration and to take creative steps towards a brighter greener future. Chloe has an MA in arts and cultural management and was a touring puppeteer and artists in education specialist. A desire to impactful work led to 13 years working in the renewable energy sector before making the UK’s first solar panel artworks in 2018.



Laver Building LT3 and online