Take a few minutes to look at Time Magazine's cover of April 26/ May 3, created by the artist Red Hong Yi.

How do you feel? What kind of emotion do you experience?

What does this cover tell you about our relationship to ourselves, others, and our natural environment?

Scientific data or the cognitive mode of knowledge can make us aware of the threat human activities represent to the environment.  Still, they cannot pretend to connect us to our emotional self. Artistic expressions such as painting, dance, photography, or music have this power.  They mobilize our senses and our emotions.  In other words, they enhance our sensibility, and in this sense, they represent another mode of knowledge based on emotions and perceptions.

“People have always been looking for artistic expression to find meaning in their lives and to articulate their experiences. It is a vehicle for expressing fantasy. Simultaneously, it provides the means for communication through common representations and unites people through symbols and themes that are considered important” (Papavasileiou et al.  The role of art in environmental education, p. 61)

In a climate emergency, art generates individual and collective emotions (fear, anger, disgust, joy...) that strengthen the connection with our natural environment. These emotions help us to reconsider and renew the way we inhabit our planet. These emotions combined with the cognitive mode of knowledge can influence deep-rooted values that motivate an individual to change his/her behaviour.

The role of art in environmental education has been coined in a concept called «Arts-based environmental education, AEE.»  In 1995, Finnish art educator Meri-Helga Mantere defined AEE as a “form of learning that aims to develop environmental understanding and responsibility by becoming more receptive to sense perceptions and observations and by using artistic methods to express personal environmental experiences and thoughts” (from: ] Jan van Boeckel. Arts-based environmental education and the ecological crisis: Between opening the senses and coping with psychic numbing. In. Barbara Drillsma-Milgrom, Leena Kirstinä (Editors). Metamorphoses in Children's Literature and Culture. Publisher: Enostone (Turku, Finland); p. 146-147.)

The value of employing art in environmental education is something that we explored during our webinar called the Pedagogy of Green competences organized in March 2021. During this webinar, we asked participants to identify and download an image of a contemporary artwork (1960 - 2021) that anticipated the future of our planet.

Through art, participants expressed their feelings and thoughts.  Contemporary art stimulates their imagination and critical thinking.

We will investigate further this approach in our next training course on green competences.

Further reading

Photo credits: April 26 issue of TIME Magazine

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