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Earth Day 2022: UAL leads practical action on climate change

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University of the Arts London (UAL) and guests from the creative and cultural industries are uniting this Earth Day (22 April) to progress practical and creative leadership on climate change.

Over Earth Day and Earth Night, UAL Climate Emergency Network presents #Appetite4Justice: a series of collective experiences in the name of social and ecological justice. Staff and students will be joined by external guests from the creative and cultural sectors, all coming to the table to transform our culture and plot new ways forward, after more than half a century of Earth Days with too little climate and ecological action.

Tables will be hosted by the UAL community, alumni and guests across UAL’s London sites where ideas can be shared, justice defined and fought for, collective action planned and where ritual, ceremony and the unexpected are welcome. All 6 UAL canteens will be serving an entirely plant-based menu to mark Earth Day. As the daytime activity wraps up, the theme continues with an Earth Night takeover of Central Saint Martin’s Platform Bar with a programme celebrating nature and creative action, while fundraising to support the Disasters Emergency Committee’s Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal.

Building on over a decade of progress on sustainability, UAL is working to deliver an ambitious Climate Action Plan launched during COP26 on top of a commitment to Net Zero by 2040. The plan confronts climate justice: acknowledging the role of political-economic systems in accelerating climate change and its unequal impact on people around the world. It focuses on pledges across 4 key strands: academic discourse and action learning; governance and policies; co-designing a climate justice movement; and ecosystem infrastructure.

A world subject leader in art and design at both undergraduate and postgraduate level, since 2019 sustainability has been a compulsory part of every course across the UAL curriculum, spanning design, fashion, science, performance, media and screen and creative computing. On Earth Day, UAL will consult with students on how elements of the Climate Action Plan can be further embedded in teaching during the next academic year.

A number of UAL research and Knowledge Exchange projects lead on exploring alternative futures and systems that reduce human impact on the planet and interventions that address pressing climate and challenges. UAL’s Social Design Institute and BOP Consulting co-developed the framework for the pioneering Design Economy research platform, on which a report will be published after Earth Day. Led by Design Council, this ongoing programme has developed new evaluation and research methods to capture the environmental and social contribution of design to the UK, in addition to the significant economic value generated by the design workforce.

UAL students and academics are building a dye garden at Stave Hill Ecological Park in East London. The aim of this initiative is to encourage the local community to learn about the processes of growing fruit and vegetables that can be used to dye textiles, and how those practices can help to maintain the park’s natural elements. As part of this project, UAL’s Centre for Circular Design will be running workshops open to UAL students and local residents.

In September 2022, UAL’s Central Saint Martins will welcome its first students on MA Regenerative Design, a pioneering new Masters degree that transitions from sustainable and circular design thinking towards a new culture of repair, to restore and replenish what human activities have radically deteriorated.            

Quotes

I look forward to UAL’s Earth Day, as I do any opportunity to meet people to celebrate our planet and our togetherness, eyesight to eyesight, creatures of the same earth. When we treat each other as equals there is growth for all – because in this amazing life we are all teachers, and we are all learners and when we are reminded of this, miracles happen.” Orsola de Castro, fashion designer and author and creative director of Fashion Revolution.

Talk of sustainability and transformation is now ubiquitous, yet there is a lack of deep exploration of what these terms really mean and how they might be realised. Sustainability is about the recognition of the fundamental interdependence of all phenomena and an understanding that, as individuals and societies, we are all embedded in the cyclical processes of nature. It’s about imagining and realising another story of being human in a more than human world.” Professor Dilys Williams, Director of Centre for Sustainable Fashion, UAL

Science has done its job; we have the data and clear targets to reduce our carbon and biodiversity footprints. So now it is up to us to use the power of our creativity to shape a culture where ecological abundance is integral to what we do. This Earth Day is designed to uplift our agency and stimulate our creativity towards a future we can all be proud of as Earth citizens.” Professor Carole Collet, Director Maison/0 and Co-Director Living Systems Lab, Central Saint Martins, UAL

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