Into The Future

This project asks what sustainable skills and practices will be needed in the near future to meet the dual challenges of Peak Oil and Climate Change (POCC); and how can creative practices facilitate effective ways in which to aid their emergence in communities?

My own artistic practice spans the areas of Environmental Art, Sustainability and Education. Through gallery based work, and working within communities, I aim to re-skill members of the community in sustainable skills and practices relevant to locally available resources. This creates links between individuals, local business and the environment; develops opportunities to generate sustainable income streams and enables transformation of local ecologies.

My perception of art has changed over the years from one where art is a commodity to be bought and sold, towards one where art is a service which helps communities of individuals and also the planet. In thisway new methods and systems of exchange need to be considered, where I no longer search to sell my work, or charge for workshops; I now accept donations and rely on the value of the information passed to participants to provide an income based on what individuals feel they have learned.

From my experiences on the Annie Lovejoy’s Caravanserai project at Treloan (See Treloan Section in this Blog) it has become apparent that a long term investment of time and energy is needed to maintain any sustainable project ideas. This is best achieved by the local community who live their lives in a particular location as they will be the ones who have an intimate knowledge of that area, and after all they are the people most affected by any project. Therefore for effective sustainability it is important, even essential, that the local population have a vested interest in anything proposed and implemented.

Historical / Theoretical Context:

This project sits within the context of the current environmental crisis brought about by the combined effects of peak oil[1]and climate change[2]. Theoretically, this project allies itself with the concepts outlined by Borgmann (1984), particularly his notion of “focal things”, which are practices that associate and link the individual with external processes and systems.

In the last 40 years there has been an increasing number of artists engaging with environmental issues such as Bonnie Sherk, “The Farm”, (1974); Platform, “Delta”, (1993); Tim Collins and Reiko Goto, “3 Rivers 2nd Nature” (2000 – 2005); and a number of key exhibitions dealing with this subject, such as “Earthworks: Land Reclamation as Sculpture” (1979); “Fragile Ecologies” (1992); “Ecoventions” (2002); “Groundworks: Environmental Collaboration in Contemporary Art” (2005); “Beyond Green: Toward A Sustainable Art” (2006);  “Radical Nature: Art and Architecture for a Changing Planet (1969–2009)”, (2009), and, “Rethink Information”, (2009).

Contemporary / Theoretical Context

Whilst many of the contemporary artists and organisations listed below are more relevant to this project, and many set out to raise awareness of POCC (e.g. Cape Farewell) there is space for further research to identify artists whose aim is to enable communities to adapt to a world which can no longer rely on cheap oil.

Contemporary artists interested in POCC include Helen and Newton Harrison, “Greenhouse Britain”, 2009; Daro Montag, “RANE Char”, 2009; Ella and Amy Gibbs, “Energy Café” (2009); Tomas Saraceno, “Biospheres”,(2009); Henrik Hakansson, “Fallen Forest” (2006).

The theoretical context comes from ecological thinking; particularly thinkers dealing with ecology and community such as Walker & Salt (2006) and Orr (1991), and also the Transition Movement (Hopkins (2008)) with its emphasis on local community resilience. Additionally, a broad educational context is provided by Quilley (2009) and Fagan (1996) who suggest that genuine community learning grows from an existing knowledge base and the informal sharing of that knowledge

Think Global, Act Local.

After all the research and knowledge I have gathered over the past years I needed to find a location where I could base myself for an extended indeterminate period to develop solid community links and relationships. Where better than my own back yard? I live in West Penwith, a rural community which is also one of the poorest in England.
The opportunity came to set up 2 projects in the local area:
  1. Plan-It Earth Eco Project, Sancreed: To set up a green Woodworking space and use this to explore how to generate income and further the educational aims of the project (For further info see
  2. Carn Bosavern Community Farm, St Just: To help coppicing existing willow, re-plant wilow as windbreaks and boundaries and explore ways to pass on Green Woodworking skills to the local community.

[1] See Hartmann(1995), Heinberg(2004) and Kunstler (2005).

[2] See Parry et al (2007), Stern (2006), Henson (2006).

2 Responses to “Into The Future”

  1. Bonnie Ora Sherk Says:

    Hi !

    Your blog just came to me;

    You may like to know of my current work, developing place-based, ecological Branch Living Library & Think Parks in diverse communities – locally and globally – to be linked through Green-Powered Digital Gateways.

    Where are you based ?

    • greghumphries Says:

      Hi Bonnie!

      Great to hear from you. I’m amazed you found me in the Blog-O-Sphere, but so glad you did!

      The Living Library Project looks fantastic, I really like the idea of hands-on education as a way to involve the community where the parks are based. In my own experience the local community are the key to sustaining projects, developing them and nurturing them. If you have the time, please could you explain a little more about how they are linked through the “Digital Gateways”?

      I am based in Cornwall, UK (for now!), so if you ever venture over this way then feel free to visit.

      All the best,


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