How Art Works, Climate and the Arts

As a climate scientist, I was pleased to be invited by the National Endowment of the Arts, to help frame the five year implementation plan called How Art Works (See, even if I was invited as the token geek. The experience led me to add “Arts” to the description of my company CASE – Climate Arts & Sciences Expertise, as I learned it is art that speaks to how humans communicate with the world.

Unlike art, science writing is devoid of emotion, gender, color, and lacks reference to meaningful cultural events, in time or space. Science stands on its own. Works by Newton are as meaningful today, in a scientific sense, as when they were first published. The peer-review process of science strips out the cultural context of the times in which the science is explored, so that science can stand for the ages.

Art, by contrast, works to emote. Art creates. Art speaks to how humans perceive, feel, decide, and take action. Art speaks to who we are now, in our present world. Opposite of science, which is designed to last lifetimes, art explains our present world to us, as in movies, film, sculptures, paintings, plays.

I am saddened to read plans to chop the budget for the National Endowment for the Arts. Perhaps this claim is false to my science side, but my artistic side hopes it is true that when Winston Churchill was asked to cut arts funding to support the war effort, he replied: “Then what are we fighting for?” Indeed, what are we living for, if not for the expression of ourselves through art?