People often approach the climate crisis as a set of technical problems to be solved, like cleaning up energy production and sucking down emissions. But achieving a just and sustainable future also requires re-engineering our minds toward equity and longer horizons. Artists help create this shift. They reveal new ways to understand our current predicament and envision better days to come.
Every year, the Grist 50 list highlights emerging leaders — we call them Fixers — with new solutions for creating a more sustainable, equitable world. These five artists will give you something to look at or listen to — and lots to think about.
1. Craig Santos Perez, poetry
Poet and teacher Craig Santos Perez captures what it’s like to be alive during a climate crisis and tackles environmental racism through writing infused with grief, anger, and humor.
“Climate poetry can humanize data and give us the human voice behind everything that’s happening,” he says. “I try to capture that range. It’s hard to feel despair and anger all the time.”
2. Mika Tosca, art and data
Climate scientist Mika Tosca left the lab to teach art students how to incorporate data into their work, crafting new collaborations between scientists and artists.
“Artists and designers start the process with human engagement,” she says. “They interact through intense, radical collaboration, which is something scientists could do more of.”
3. Benny Starr, hip-hop music
Hip-hop artist Benny Starr creates moody, jazzy sounds that reverberate with the energy of the South Carolina low country where he was raised, with a unique focus on the life-sustaining and life-threatening power of water.
“We want to educate you, groove you, make you feel and think, but also want to let people know that there is power in our voices and our stories,” he says.
4. Cannupa Hanska Luger, sculpture and storytelling
Indigenous artist Cannupa Hanska Luger creates monumental, collaborative works that explore themes of resilience, compassion, and optimism, all with a reverence for the natural world. His latest work, which he calls “future ancestral technologies,” combines sci-fi, technology, and Native sensibilities and ideas.
“Science fiction creates a tunnel into the future, which is a shadow for us,” he says.
5. Lyla June, spoken-word art and music
Poet, musician, spoken-word artist, and graduate student Lyla June speaks and sings about Indigenous land, food, and culture, and the new world that can rise from the one we live in today.
She describes her focus as: “Indigenous food systems and land management in gentle, tactful, and cross-culturally sensitive ways.”
Discover more Grist 50 honorees working towards a more sustainable, equitable world:
- Social media gurus who will uplift your feed
- 5 innovators changing the way we think about food
- Explore the full 2021 Grist 50 list to discover more Fixers making a better future happen today