Climate Art, Earth Day Plans, Eco-Activism Jump Into Digital Space

Lucy Gellman | March 31st, 2020

Climate Art, Earth Day Plans, Eco-Activism Jump Into Digital Space

Environment  |  Arts & Culture  |  Visual Arts  |  COVID-19  |  New Haven Climate Movement


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Adrian Huq earlier this year, at a Valentine's Day climate event at City Hall. Lucy Gellman File Photo.  

Adrian Huq started their week with a plea: don’t ignore one crisis in the face of another. Now they’re enlisting young artists to spread that message—safely and from their homes—in the city that so many of them call home.

Huq, who uses they/them pronouns, is the leader of the New Haven Climate Movement and a senior at Metropolitan Business Academy. Monday, they urged the city’s Board of Alders not to ignore the a growing climate emergency in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The exchange took place during a marathon, six-hour hearing on the city budget.

“Just as COVID-19 has exposed and amplified problems our community is facing, so will climate disaster,” Huq said in a testimony that also included support for the New Haven Free Public Library and the New Haven Public Schools. “The climate crisis continues to be urgent, even in the midst of a global health crisis. Climate disasters have already hit parts of America, and it is only a matter of time until we are affected too.”

Mayor Justin Elicker's proposed city budget currently includes $550,000 for climate infrastructure and sustainability, as well as the formation of a Climate Emergency Fund and Climate Emergency Mobilization Task Force. Huq has been a vocal proponent of the task force, which was born after a series of youth-led climate emergency marches, rallies, and speak outs last year and earlier this spring.

Huq testifying before the Board of Alders via Zoom Monday night. 

While they did not focus specifically on more funding in the budget, they called on alders to take seriously the increasing threat of climate disaster on the city, whose coastline may look radically different in a number of years. They pointed to the possibility of a city framework—and budget—in keeping with Green New Deal, noting that Yale University could stand to give the city more than its annual $13 proposed contribution.

“We must build a physically and socially resilient city now, with a strong safety net so people will not have to worry about the same issues around housing, putting food on the table and more when disaster strikes,” they said. “We know communities of color and low-income communities are hit hardest by climate change, forcing people out of their homes and increasing hunger and poverty. A liveable climate and social equity are necessary. ”

The call dovetails with a multimedia design contest that Huq, along with other members of the New Haven Climate Movement, is leading for artists between 13 and 19 years old across the city. Through April 11, New Haven youth are invited to submit visual art, Tik Tok videos, and essays responding to the prompt “communicate/illustrate how you would like to see action taken on climate change.”

Members of New Haven Climate Movement will choose first, second and third place winners in each category, with prizes that include gift carts to Patagonia, Ashley's Ice Cream, P&M Market, 163 Pizza and more. Full submission guidelines and a list of prizes are available on the group’s Facebook page.

Members of a "Girls Speak Out" climate rally held in early March, in honor of International Women's Day. New Haven Climate Movement Photo. 

“The idea for this contest was pretty much to encourage youth to do something through art,” Huq said by phone earlier this month. “We're now trying to figure out virtual ways to have these earth day strikes. We created the contest before the whole virus took over, but it worked out really well because this is something that they [young artists] can do from their own homes."

Originally, the winning works were going to be used on promotional materials for a New Haven chapter of a worldwide Earth Day Climate Strike. As the global strike was moved to a three-day livestream, New Haven's contest and activities also went entirely digital.

Now, New Haven Climate Movement Earth Day events are all at home, with social media sharing options that include activities like tree and bush decoration, a solo sunrise Earth Day walk or yoga, planting seedlings, an "Ice Scream for Climate Justice" video collage, postcard writing time and more. 

Huq said they hope the contest can be a chance for youth to express and explore how they are understanding, processing, and talking about climate change.

The earth, Huq pointed out, is not currently immune to climate disasters because there is also a global pandemic. In fact, it may be more vulnerable to them. In February locusts ravaged East Africa. Tornadoes have decimated Arkansas. There are floods that may strike the Midwest this spring and summer, just as they did last year with disastrous consequences. Hurricanes are getting more severe by the year. At some point, Huq pointed out, it will arrive on the city’s doorstep. 

“If our societies aren't prepared for a disease shutdown, they're not prepared for a climate disaster,” they said. “We know climate change is here and now. We need to think about building healthy communities. We’re focusing on solutions. How can we make a better world? And how can youth lead that change?"

Find out more about the New Haven Climate Movement, including rules to submit to the contest, on Facebook, Instagram, or at its website