The Mission

From its inception, CCANW was intended to be a ‘not-for-profit’ organisation which explored new understandings of our place within nature through the arts. Its aim was to use the arts to provide insights into today’s pressing environmental and social challenges. Its belief was that new art forms could provide us with valuable tools to raise eco-consciousness; to help people appreciate the importance of their everyday surroundings and the resources they might take for granted or otherwise abuse.

This vision was reinforced through correspondence and conversations with many colleagues over the years, notably Jonathon Porritt who wrote in our support in 2002: “At the heart of today’s ecological crisis lies a terrible failure to understand the essence of our relationship with the natural world. One can of course address that failure rationally and empirically; but the arts (particularly the visual arts) offer different insights into that relationship, and touch people in ways that conventional education and advocacy can rarely do”.

Whilst my background as CCANW’s founder brought a wide knowledge of the arts to the project, input from the philosopher Kate Soper helped to articulate what exactly one might mean by ‘nature’; a term whose meanings are frequently misconstrued. From Shelley Sacks and the development the University of the Trees came an understanding of ‘social sculpture’ which speaks of art being an ‘instrument of consciousness’ rather than an ‘object of attention’. From W.H.Auden’s Bucolics: part 2. Woods came the idea of our Wood Culture programme, and from Graham Harvey’s The Killing of the Countryside the idea of Soil Culture.

These, and other influences, have found their way into the articles and presentations written over the years, from Nature and I are Two based loosely on a quote from Woody Allen, to Bringing the Arts Down to Earth. See a list with links in the Appendix.

However, whilst many of our programmes addressed today’s environmental crisis, it was our final programme Games People Play which identified a deeper malaise affecting society today, and that was an inability to be conscious of the forces that drive ‘human nature’ and determine the choices we make. It is that urgent need to rethink our biological natures that now seems essential in order to reach a more balanced and peaceful relationship with each other, other species and the environment.

This need has already been expressed in a range of subsequent international conflicts, from the emergence of extreme right-wing populist movements, the contested election in the US, the takeover by the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

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