Philip Clayton is a prolific author and researcher, having written more than two dozen books and hundreds of articles that explore the intersection of environmental science, culture, and theology. 

He’s been advocating for bold climate action for more than two decades as the founder of the think tank EcoCiv. But he feels the urgency of his calling now more than ever as a mood of desperation creeps into the scientific literature on the state of the planet. 

“The world’s leading science journal, Science, just this morning published an article that said that we are past the tipping point on six of the major environmental items studied and six are in limbo as to whether we move closer to 1.5 degrees of warming,” he told Global Citizen over Skype.  

“The most incredible team of scientists said it is too late for some stuff, but there is still time for hope and action,” he added. “That means all hands on deck. And who are the people in society that inspire change that inspire imagination of a new world, of a way that we can be that we haven’t been before? Well, that’s the artist.”

Scientists have been advocating for climate action for more than a century, in some cases, and now that the evidence is incontrovertible, literally unfolding in real time, it’s time for the artists of the world to kickstart a revolution, according to Clayton. 

And so EcoCiv is teaming up with fellow eco-nonprofit Reboot the Future during the upcoming United Nations’ Climate Week in New York for an arts workshop open to the public. Tickets for the event — from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 22 — are available on Eventbrite and the event will be available for viewing online afterward. 

The two-hour experience will feature performances from the Theatre of the Oppressed, the actor and activist David Rysdahl, and the rapper Hila the Killa, along with workshops and group exercises guided by Clayton’s son Seth, an actor and musician. The audience will be asked to imagine what a world that centers ecological well-being and climate justice would look like. As the impacts of the climate crisis fall most harshly on the countries least responsible for greenhouse gas emissions, a transformed world would necessarily involve a fundamentally different economy.  

“If you want a passive event of watching and listening, it’s not for you,” Clayton said. “They have set up the room with a jutting stage, and recycled materials are the lights and the props. It’ll be all around you; it won’t feel like a bunch of suits around you with a straight line with seats.”

Past EcoCiv workshop

The UN Climate Week in New York features hundreds of events, many affiliated with the Climate Group, that lead up the UN General Assembly on Sept. 23. The following day, on Saturday, Sept. 24, Global Citizen Festival: NYC will take place in Central Park, the ultimate merging of art and policy, where artists and activists will call on world leaders to take bold climate action in between performances by Metallica, Charlie Puth, Jonas Brothers, MÅNESKIN, Mariah Carey, Mickey Guyton, and Rosalía. 

Collectively, the week aims to generate unstoppable momentum for climate action, accelerating the global push for a just transition away from fossil fuels. The eco-arts workshop will be just one node in a constellation of efforts, but Clayton hopes that the people who attend will be inspired to manifest a new way of being in the world. 

“Human life on the planet is fundamentally ecological, and I am stressing the role of the arts to be transformative,” Clayton said. “The goal is to bring artists together with the public and funders to name the path forward and start walking it.”

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