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By Mara Schneiders

Cold snaps and heatwaves! Has weather worsened because of climate changes, or is this part of nature’s cycle? The debate is ongoing, yet there is concern by some that the time for talk is past and action is needed.

In towns around Australia, and the world, May 5th signalled Climate Impacts Day and local groups invited the community to ‘connect the dots’ between extreme weather and climate change. Their aim to raise awareness.

In Northern Tasmania, Climate Launceston, a local Tasmanian environmental action group joined with Oxfam Launceston Group to highlight the issue, and urge people to respond.

Connect the Dots event in Launceston for Climate Impacts Day

On a crisp, yet sunny autumn Saturday, people in the city mall were asked to consider recent events such as flooding, droughts, heat waves and rising seas.

Connect the Dots is a project of 350.org – a grassroots global movement which aims to solve the climate crisis. As campaign organizers say:

“Across the planet we see ever more flood, ever more drought, ever more storms. People are dying, communities are being wrecked — the impacts we’re already witnessing from climate change are unlike anything we have seen before. But because the globe is so big, it’s hard for most people to see that it’s all connected”.

Launceston locals, Anthea and Roger were out shopping. “It is really interesting to see the extremes of weather and look at the map at how continents have had record droughts and record floods” Anthea observed. Invited to add a dot to the world map on display, Roger chose Tasmania for the flooding that happened in the North East last year.

Yet not everyone agrees on climate change.

Jess works in one of the clothing shops in the area.  Whilst she believes climate change is a concern, she said not all her colleagues think the same.

One guy says don’t worry about it until all the trees are cut down”

Local organisers said the response to their event had been mixed.

Some people insist there is no such thing, but others say yes, it is an issue, what can I do?”

Whilst the debate continues nationally and internationally about what governments should do in response to environmental issues, local organisers believe that people can make a difference.

Kim Beasey is a geography student at the University of Tasmania. She has established EcoAction, a University Student group. She believes that whether you are a climate change believer or not, we can all do things which contribute to a better world.

350.org have collated footage from around the world which demonstrates the link between climate change and extreme weather. For them, and local climate change groups, the evidence is all around. Just look out the window they say.

 

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Liz Bennett discussing arts funding with Mara Schneiders

Are the Arts a Luxury?

Amidst the current economic turmoil attention has been drawn to funding for the arts. How important are cultural events to a community?

Tasmanian Opposition Leader Will Hodgman stated in a media release on May 13th that if elected, they would halve funding to the biennial Ten Days on the Island arts festival.

Ten Days on the Island is Tasmania’s state-wide biennial multi art-form festival. Ten Days report that the 2011 festival included over 260 events, in 111 venues in locations across the state. They estimate more than 150,000 people – Tasmanian and visitors – took part.

Will Hodgman argues that the festival has been running for over a decade and should become more self-sustaining.

The Festival costs taxpayers $1.25 million each year. In the current climate, Tasmania cannot afford it.

Ten Days executive director and producer, Marcus Barker, told The Examiner recently that such an investment has huge returns for the community. Referring to an economic impact study by KPMG, Mr Barker highlighted the “nine-fold return on the $2.5 million funding provided jointly by the state and local governments”.

Dr Sue Henderson is a local visual artist, and lecturer in drawing at the University of Tasmania, School of Visual and Performing Arts. 

Events such as Ten Days on the Island give people a chance to see, hear, and do things outside their usual world. It gets people thinking and talking.

Ms Henderson had two installations in the last festival and believes such opportunities are vital for artists, as well as being important for the wider community.

Many people mistakenly believe that people do not go to see art. But statistics show that more people visit than attend football.

Click here to get a statistical overview from the Australian Bureau of Statistics on Arts and Culture in Australia.

Installation at Georgetown Municipal building by artist Sue Henderson as part of the Ten Days festival. Artists created pieces for specific places speaking about the interaction with land and water resources.

Elizabeth Bennett, prominent  in the Northern Tasmanian arts community, with experience as teacher, director, producer and board member, considers there is an important role for state and local government funding. Yet she also argues that funding should not be seen as automatic.

As much as we can say it would be great for events like that to fund themselves, the reality is that they can’t.

I guess it is up to each event to prove that they are worthwhile. It is an ok debate to have, so that people don’t get complacent, but if we slash funding to culture, we slash funding to creativity.

Ms Bennett sees the arts as significant for communities.

 If we think of the theory that strong communities are creative communities, we can really see that the arts are not a luxury but are a way of making our communities more creative and there are a number of economic benefits that come from that.

Listen to an interview with Elizabeth Bennett as she considers whether the arts are a luxury.

‘Umbrella Momentum’. Taking to the streets of Launceston as part of local youth arts festival ‘Streets Alive’. Festivals such as this rely on grants and sponsorship to take place.