Art as Creative Engagement

By Kari Miller, A Rocha MB Environmental Education Coordinator

At the beginning of my undergraduate degree, I was eating lunch when a professor joined me. He asked what I was planning to do with my studies and I explained that I did not know. I was overwhelmed by the amount of need I saw in the world and was unsure what I could do. He paused for a moment and responded: “Well, there must be a creative solution.” For the next few minutes we pondered creative ways of engaging in the problems I saw. I held those words tightly as I continued to move throughout my degree, looking for alternative ways of engaging with the world.

When I entered the COP26 grounds last month, I felt similarly overwhelmed as I had many years ago. It was evident that the climate crisis was urgent yet it seemed that policies were being made ever so slowly. I saw the need for change towards caring for the Earth and the people within it, yet I did not know how to find my voice. I was simply an environmental educator; not a politician, not an
advocate, not even a loud person. How was I to
engage in change?


While walking through Glasgow, I stumbled upon a small paper bird tied to a tree. Inscribed upon its wing was a demand to stop cutting down trees. I was reminded of my professor’s words; “Well, there must be a creative solution.” This simple coloured bird I discovered was, quite literally, a creative solution. It was a way for someone to speak out and press for change, while doing so in a way that fit their talents and engaged other people.

Throughout the streets of Glasgow, as well as within the COP26 venue, people from all walks of life created art that stood in solidarity with the earth and those fighting for change. Some of these art pieces included  leaves drawn by kids in the midst of a busy walkway, knitted flowers tied to a tree, a boat made of smaller paper boats with prayers. Throughout the two weeks of COP there was a group of artists who painted a mural at the heart of the venue, advocating for climate promises to be kept. I knitted a quilt with people from the quaker church, engraved with ways that they are taking care of their earth. Artwork was a profound tool of expression used in COP that was accessible to everyone (even myself – a quiet environmental educator). Though I do not think art is the solution to climate change, I was inspired by the way people were able to creatively engage in a problem they saw and work towards a solution. 

In case you missed it, Kari was part of a cohort that recently attended COP26 in Glasgow, an important global climate conference. Read more of her reflections here, and read some of Rick’s reflections here