Anita Greenhill explores how unity, music and business can help address climate change impacts.
The COP conference in Glasgow was notable for highlighting the stark challenges of striking effective deals between the West and those developing nations which are most in the front line of climate change impacts.
I was particularly interested in the negotiations given my own long-held interest and research into the power of the creative economy to promote social unity in developing nations. In particular, my work has taken me to the West African country of Senegal and a few years ago I visited the Niomoume Islands in the south of the country on the back of my collaboration with Manchester-based Senegalese artist Sens Sagna.
During my visit I saw for myself the impacts of climate change which are only exacerbating complex social conditions relating to poverty and regional isolation. Indeed Senegal is facing a barrage of challenges from climate change such as rising sea levels (which leads to the salination of fresh water), increased temperatures, decreased annual rainfall leading to more drought in the north of the country, but also increases in the intensity and frequency of heavy rainfall events too.
Creativity and eco-tourism
It was through the Digital Creativity project in Manchester that I first started working with Sens on the positive impact that creativity can provide in the development of eco-tourism, and I visited Senegal after he was approached by the organisers of an inaugural music and arts festival in the Niomoume Islands to be their cultural ambassador.
The festival was the first ever artistic and cultural gathering for the islands and its people and aimed to combine the creative industries and eco-tourism under the umbrella of peace and unity to come together to solve the islands’ social, environmental and economic problems.
The resulting success of the festival, which will be held for the fourth time next month, shows how the creative economy can be so powerfully harnessed. Islanders have not only learned and applied the knowledge associated with running and managing a culture and heritage festival, but also learnt how to run a festival in a rural setting that has minimal industrial infrastructure.
The festival has illustrated the value that the creative economy can build, and how it can go far beyond the economic or commercial benefits, reinforcing how the creative industries sector can drive social unity and the integration of marginalised groups.
It has also been linked to wider work around the construction of new water storage facilities and public lighting, while it has also encouraged a number of small scale local businesses to begin packaging and distributing island herbs and fish products.
I have since been looking at how to learn from these Senegalese initiatives in order to explore how unity, music and business can work together for eco-tourism and help address climate change issues.
As part of my research I have been specifically exploring the unifying values that creativity produces as opposed to the predominantly economic focus that we see in development theory. The value of the creative economy is increasing exponentially, but harnessing such an approach is still not fully understood and, in many instances, still undervalued.
As such I am now looking further at how to learn from these Senegalese initiatives, seeking to gain a deeper understanding of what has been involved in order to develop a framework that others could replicate or apply.
Indeed I am planning to travel to Senegal next month to work further with my Senegalese partners and develop a prototype for a structured process to creative production that generates social, cultural and economic value.