How can stories, histories, art and music help comprehend a planet in crisis?

Conveners: TORCH, The Oxford Martin School

Speakers: Amanda Power (History), Fiona Stafford (Literature), Daniel Grimley (Music), Nayanika Mathur (Anthropology)

Climate crisis seems a threat out of nowhere that we didn’t deserve and that doesn’t fit with how we see ourselves and our future. It’s both overwhelming and difficult to imagine. This panel discusses how stories, histories, art and music can help with the complex but necessary process of rethinking the world as we know it. Existential fears, moral complexities, loss, mourning, hope, and the struggle for liveable futures are not new experiences for humanity. On the contrary, they’re profoundly familiar and all societies have many ways to explore them. Yet, the climate crisis makes these struggles to understand the present and consider the future so much more complex. In this panel we argue that histories help people understand a situation that has been millennia in the making; stories allow us to re-see and reimagine the familiar; art and music open up novel forms of experiencing the world. Collectively we make a case for moving beyond an overwhelming absorption with climate science and its communication to, instead, centre the humanities and social sciences in the creation of necessary forms of critique, resilience, adaption and transformation.