We live in uncertain times. Climate breakdown, apocalyptic news, the global rise of the populist right, economic insecurity, extremism, an erosion of trust in our political institutions and media – all this creates a pervasive air of uncertainty, doubt, even despair.

But as Rebecca Solnit writes in a recent reissue of her seminal meditation on activism, Hope in the Dark:

“Hope locates itself in the premises that we don’t know what will happen and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act. When you recognize uncertainty, you recognize that you may be able to influence the outcomes – you alone or in concert with a few dozen or several million others … It’s the belief that what we do matters even though how and when it may matter, who and what it may impact, are not things we can know beforehand.”

Change is what is required now. Massive, fundamental changes to the way we see and value the natural environment, and ourselves within it, and to the ‘how’ of working together across differences. But also small, incremental changes in the ways we relate to each other and experience the possibilities of connection and engagement, whether that’s through the joy of live music or sharing the load around dinner – both potentially more radical than just our own pleasure. 

The impetus and groundwork for change tends to come from the margins – from artists and freaks, thinkers and dreamers, from people in tune with their altruistic, courageously human selves, from civil society (the public awake, responsive), rather than government. As Solnit puts it: “Ideas at first considered outrageous or ridiculous or extreme gradually become what people think they’ve always believed … Our hope is in the dark around the edges, not the limelight of center stage.”

The dark depths of winter is a time for reflection. In so many traditions (from European Christmas and pre-Christian solstice celebrations to Matariki here in Aotearoa), midwinter offers both a chance to come together and tell our guiding stories, and to encourage the sparking of new wishes, dreams as we turn towards the light.

Culture, as a term, includes celebration, community, creativity – in our making and explorative expression of who we are, what we value and how we came to be in this place, at this time. It’s our safe place of recognition and belonging, but also a sphere of risk-taking, of innovation, insurrection and reframing. 

Libraries, for example, serve as the sitting room of a town or city – a welcome, inclusive place for all, based on old-fashioned democratic principles. But they also hold futuristic potential in responding to, and accommodating, a society’s changing needs.

From libraries and stars, to the boundary-crossing sculptural work of Philipp Meier and the ultimate winter panacea, as you’ll see in this section of BayBuzz, culture is not a narrow subject area. In each of these pieces, however, there’s an invitation, we hope, to participate in the making and reshaping of our cultural fabric, here in this coastal, big-skied, outlying province: Hawke’s Bay.

On the day of the Schools Strike 4 Climate in May, Tara Browne (17), Petra Logan-Riley (15), Kea Templer (15) and Nina Browne (15) of Taikura Rudolf Steiner School travelled to Auckland University to attend the Climate Challenge Conference – a two-day convention on climate activism organised entirely by youth for youth.

Along with hearing speakers such renowned biologist Jane Goodall, the students attended a diverse range of workshops, some practical, some more geared towards critical and creative thinking, all “cool for developing leadership skills”. They debated the merits of the ‘Two Baskets Approach’ (which tackles both carbon and methane emissions)  vs Zero Carbon; explored climate change from different political viewpoints; designed windmills, gardens, wellbeing strategies; played interactive, collaborative, problem-solving games; and planned next steps in their own homes and communities. 

The message: “it’s easier to build an economy on carbon, but it’s not as sturdy as one built on renewables”.

Speaking with these future leaders about the conference, they had this to say: “It was super interesting, heaps of fun and very eye-opening. We felt inspired and empowered. We think every high school student should have this opportunity and would like to see, or help make happen, something like this in Hastings for our local schools to access.

“As a society, the biggest way we’re contributing to climate change is disrespecting nature, which we need to survive, and we have to challenge that. If we don’t do something now it’s just going to escalate, but if everyone does their part – biking to work, planting trees, cutting plastics – it will have a huge impact. 

“We want to start something here at our school and then broaden out to other schools and the wider community. Ultimately, we would love to see Hawke’s Bay be more open to different ideas, to different ways of living.”

In September there’s a Global Climate Strike planned. Youth are calling for adults to ‘stop business as usual’ and come on board: globalclimatestrike.net

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