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Earth Day: Appetite for Justice

View down a central atrium of building decorated with colourful fabrics
View down a central atrium of building decorated with colourful fabrics
Earth Day (photo: Ana Blumenkron)
Written by
Teleri Lloyd-Jones
Published date
27 April 2022

This Earth Day, 22 April, the Colleges across UAL saw a wellspring of activity from staff, students and alumni. At Central Saint Martins, workshops, performances and talks filled the communal and public spaces highlighting creative and optimistic ways towards ecological justice.

Organised by the UAL Climate Emergency Network, Earth Day: Appetite for Justice invited students to “take a seat at the table”. Using the table as both metaphor and prop for communal experience, the day disrupted the usual curriculum to share projects and form collective connections.

"It's been so encouraging to watch UAL develop their programme for Earth Day. The students and staff understand that we are living through crisis and they are stepping up so that they can be part of the solution. After more than half a century of Earth Days, with too little climate and ecological action, we need the brightest brains and most creative industries to transform our culture and to plot new ways forward. How inspiring, then, to witness the wealth of creativity that UAL's Climate Emergency Network has brought to the table. It may be five minutes to midnight, but with creative imaginations such as these on the job, we really could be just six hours before the dawn."

— Tamsin Omond, Climate Activist and Author

Spaces throughout the College were taken up with stalls sharing nascent and established projects. Current students sharing their work: Derk Ringers, MA Industrial Design, bought his Plant Backpack for people to rethink their relationships with nature while Molly Simpson and Purvisha Sutaria, MA Innovation Management, presented Fortune Tell-Us inverting the tradition of fortune telling asking their audience to be their own oracle and envisage their own futures. Through the UAL Climate Emergency Network, the duo were able to collaborate with Lu Zheng, a student at London College of Communication, to bring the project into being.

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    Purvisha Sutaria (left) and Molly Simpson, MA Innovation Management, presenting Fortune Tell-Us during Earth Day (photo: Ana Blumenkron)
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    Derk Ringers, MA Industrial Design, Plant Backpack modelled during Earth Day (Photo: Ana Blumenkron)
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    Lu Zheng, a student at London College of Communication, presenting Climate Collapse during Earth Day (photo: Ana Blumenkron)

Speaking about the day, Molly said: “For me, coming from a marketing background into this creative space, it's just been phenomenal seeing the different ways you can show up. It’s not just about what we would typically think of as ‘activism’, but using all the different kinds of creativity to show up for climate justice. There's no right or wrong way to do that, that's why I really enjoyed today.”

Kahdijah Carberry, a student on MA Cities, ran Generous Waste workshops to rethink supply chains while Santa Ramaherison, MA Material Futures presented biodegradable packaging made from oyster shells.

Mariam Aslam and Chris Gabe, alumni from M ARCH, brought their Growmobile Project, a collaboration with the Borough of Lewisham. They have designed a tool to kickstart growing communities, partnering with local housing associations to deliver workshops on permaculture and healthy eating. MAKE @ Story Garden had a stall to share the local projects that have already happened at the community making hub that Central Saint Martins help to set up.

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    Claire Farrell reading Letters to the Earth during Earth Day (photo: Ana Blumenkron)
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    Earth Day (photo: Ana Blumenkron)
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    Earth Day (photo: Ana Blumenkron)
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    Earth Day (photo: Ana Blumenkron)

In Tributes to the Earth, a special collaboration with the Climate Emergency Network, Letters to the Earth invited the UAL community and members of the public to write to the planet to give to passers-by for it to be read aloud. Jon Slack from Letters to the Earth, reflected on the day:

“It's so wonderful to see such diversity of the creativity and care, that really shows… It can be overwhelming, inconceivably challenging to think about climate emergency – what am I supposed to do? So, communities are so important. I've met friends here today, people I know but loads of people that I haven't met before. I feel this affinity, our shared concern is also a shared sense of purpose. We can do this; there's something that we can make happen.”

Guests Nowadays on Earth ran workshops on guerrilla gardening, aiming to re-establish connections with nature in this digital age:

It’s refreshing to see how creative communities perceive the climate crisis. They bring a fresh perspective on how change needs to occur within society. And how I see creativity as a movement building space is because it allows us to connect to our feelings and move away from linear thinking.

— Kalpana Arias, founder Nowadays on Earth

The day also offered a platform for infrastructural action from within UAL. For Earth Day, all canteens across UAL were dedicated to vegan food. The canteen at Central Saint Martins collaborated on a Floating Table installation with MA Art and Science student Duong Thuy Nguyen, hosted Risa Ueno’s Edible Yarn work and generously donated bespoke vegan offerings for the eco-party that closed the day. The Swap Shop returned to the College to encourage students to share their discarded and used materials. The project – started by technical staff as a response to the amount of waste material – has been piloted and is now finding ways to become permanent. “We've really noticed how much basic materials have gone up in cost,” says Pete Smithson, Technical Resources Manager, “It's becoming much more expensive for students to make work. Our test event was super successful and we’re hoping to make this permanent. It’s about encouraging that generosity of spirit going forward.”

At Central Saint Martins, the day ended with Earth Night curated by BA Fashion and MA Material Futures alum Alisa Ruzavina. The ‘party with purpose’ doubled as a fundraiser for the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine. The richly curated programme brought together food, drink, music and performance, from Queer Botany poetry readings by recent MA Narrative Environments graduate Sixto-Juan Zavala as well as a sonic collaboration with mushrooms by Kate Shorey, MA Fine Art.

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    Earth Night (photo: Ana Blumenkron)
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    Mushroom dj-ing at Earth Night (photo: Ana Blumenkron)
Our latest action on Earth Day brought the University together in a spirit of hospitality, curiosity and reciprocity. 
Even in the midst of unrelenting, intersecting challenges, of disconnection and despair, we gathered around a shared purpose, aiming to restore a sense of hope, possibility and belonging – to each other and to our precious world.

— Kate Keara Pelen, Creative Director, UAL Climate Emergency Network and Head of Creative Projects, AKO Storytelling Institute