Sustainable Playground
Sustainable Playground

Closer to a sustainable world through the arts

The Radboud Impact Festival on 4 June sheds light on the role of the arts towards a sustainable world. A role not to be underestimated, says researcher Peter Scholten. 'A lot has already been written about sustainability and we talk about it all the time. But we fall short of action.' Environmentalist Scholten investigates how the arts can get us moving.

As a reason why our thinking does not turn into doing, Scholten cites our rational approach to the sustainability problem. 'In theory, it is clear that we are not going to make it if we continue like this. And that we are not changing fast enough. But although we know it, we like to leave the doing to others.' According to Scholten, our rational boxed vision, at least in the Western approach, sidelines the other potentials.

Scholten is studying how to use art experience to tap into those other potentials. 'It's about giving physical-emotional intelligence a much bigger place, to make room for physical experience. This creates opportunities to reach outside the accepted pattern of thinking, and give more out-of-the-box perspective on an imaginary world, which can become reality.' In doing so, Scholten also paves the way for hope, an optimism he finds so lacking in the sustainability debate. 'The idea that we're not going to make it anyway, we need to turn it into something hopeful.'

Connection through music

Scholten knows the power of environmental art from a project he co-led in his hometown of Rotterdam, where civil servants had to shape their ideas not behind their desks, but in replicated small houses. An exhibition was set up with an array of houses, which gave an impression of the diversity of Rotterdam's inhabitants. 'With these officials, unlike in the office, new registers were tapped, other senses were stimulated.'

In his now ongoing research, Scholten is the first to take a close look at theatre art. Still on the agenda are the visual arts and music. As a practised bass guitarist, he particularly champions the power of music. 'With music, we feel differently, we also feel a different connection with the people around us, with the space around us. I am very curious about the effect if you were to open a meeting by singing a song together.'

Policy as theatre

Scholten has completed the first trials of his study into new forms of policy processes. 'Using theatrical interventions, we are trying to find out whether people come to different decisions.' In his research design, groups of stakeholders are literally given the stage, on which they play out certain scenarios while improvising. 'Then you become very aware of the physical space you occupy, also the space to each other. The question I am now trying to answer is how this more physical and emotional setting affects the policy process and decision-making.'

Even though the outcome of his own research is still uncertain, for Scholten there are enough signals to give these alternative scenarios a serious chance of success. 'The way we are doing it now is not working, or the transition is going too slowly. We are in a hurry, we need to move now.' Scholten quotes a wisdom from Einstein, inspiring him to further explore the power of the arts: "We cannot solve a problem with the thinking that created it." 'We can pull out our spreadsheets for the umpteenth time to draw attention to the impoverishment of biodiversity. But that's really not going to win the battle.'

During the Radboud Impact Festival, come and see how art can contribute to transformative change towards a sustainable world. Tuesday 4 June, 12.00 - 18.00 | Radboud University Campus, Pieter Bondam Square | Organisation: Radboud Green Office

Radboud Impact Festival 

Radboud Green Office

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Radboud Green office
Sustainability, Art & Culture