Will Covid Help or Hurt the Environmental Movement?

May 07, 2020

Will our experience in this pandemic help or hurt the environmental movement? This is a question I keep returning to in recent weeks. In light of that, I’ve reached out to Ellie Irons of the Environmental Performance Agency to join us on Thursday, May 7 at 12:00pm EST for an Art on Art lunchtime interview. The EPA recently released their Multispecies Care Survey —which is actually a kind of choreography and participatory archive—and it seems to be an excellent jumping-off point to delve into some of the profound long-term implications of covid. I hope you will join us.

In this blog post, I’ll share the questions I’d like to ask Ellie Irons during our interview. I will also be sharing a short compilation of recent news articles and op-eds that might inform our conversation. If you are puzzled by these questions as I am, I encourage you to read through them.

Please reach out to me—talbeery@hacny.org—if you have any questions you’d like me to ask Ellie Irons, or any articles you think we should be reading about the relationship between covid and the environment today. Also be in touch if you’d like to talk about these things further in a more organized way. I’m sure HPAC can host follow-up conversations around these issues if there’s enough momentum.

Some Questions for Ellie Irons:

  • The EPA Multispecies Care Survey is guided by this question: “In a time of pandemic crisis, how do we re-value what care means for all living beings?” Can you describe how this question came about?
  • The Survey starts by asking people to connect physically with their windows. Has this new reality under covid changed your relationship to your home? Has it changed your practice as an artist?
  • What has been your favorite EPA project? Has this one also been the most impactful? How do you measure the impact of an artistic project?
  • You live in Troy, but the rest of your collective at the EPA are based in New York City. How has your experience been similar or different from theirs? Although Troy is quite urban itself, I wonder: do you have any insight into whether the gulf between urban and non-urban life has grown or shrunk during this crisis?
  • As a follow up: Your PhD research at RPI focuses on socially engaged art and urban ecology. What distinguishes the ecologies of urban and non-urban spaces? From my experience, artistic projects in non-urban spaces tend to be less visible than those performed in urban centers. Do you think this is true? Are you researching any artists who work in non-urban spaces, and if so, who do you recommend we look into?
  • We hear of dolphins in Venice and blue skies over L.A. Birds are returning and ecosystems are revitalizing after only a short while. Nothing is better for the environment than a global recession, it seems, but the economy will eventually have to be restarted. What do you think are the long-term environmental implications of this crisis?
  • I believe people have only so much appetite for sacrifice. On the other hand, maybe we are developing systems now that we can rely on to tackle our next big collective challenges. Will the sacrifices people are making now encourage or discourage similar sacrifices to confront climate and extinction crises?
  • The EPA events I’ve been a part of have all about developing more intimate relationships with our non-human kin. How do you think such an approach is affected by our new viral adversary? Do you see us as being in an adversarial relationship with this virus?

Some Articles I’ve Been Reading

These are all about covid and climate change, but they give a strong sense of how environmentalists in general are responding.

Politico | What Covid Is Exposing About the Climate Movement

New York Times | Emissions Declines Will Set Records This Year. But It’s Not Good News.

Charles Kutscher | The Coronavirus and Climate Change: How We’re Making the Same Mistakes

Desmog | Meet the Climate Science Deniers Who Downplayed COVID-19 Risks

The Hill | COVID-19 and climate change: What can we learn about saving lives?

EcoWatch | German Business Leaders Call for Climate Action With COVID-19 Stimulus