By Eric Beauchesne
“Instead of looking for hope, look for action. Then and only then hope will come.” — Greta Thunberg, 16-year-old climate activist, TED Talk
Among the topics shaping our vision of the future, climate change is at the forefront. Scientists have flagged the impact of human activities on the climate for more than 30 years, but it is only recently that the combined effects of extreme weather events, activism and media coverage have put the climate crisis in everybody’s mind. In 2018, following the latest report from the IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change), the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres declared, “If we do not change course by 2020, we risk missing the point where we can avoid runaway climate change.” He called on the civil society of all countries to reduce their emissions by 50 percent before 2030.
If we accept the urgency of his statement, if we care about the future of all living beings on the planet, we must mobilize and be the catalysts of positive change.
Growing up fishing and hunting in Quebec, I sensed at an early age the natural world’s interconnections, and my impact and responsibility to protect it, yet as a dancer, I embarked on a career that involves travelling the world and contributing to the problem by taking many flights every year. I struggled with this reality my entire career as a performer and continue to grapple with it now as Kidd Pivot’s associate artistic director.
As dance artists, we are part of an industry that values the sharing of dance nationally and internationally. We are artists but also cultural ambassadors, tied in a logic of touring, and it seems impossible to avoid flying extensively. This includes performers, choreographers, stagers, teachers, students, designers, technicians, agents, presenters, art councils’ representatives and arts journalists. If many of us agree on the benefits of being exposed to different artistic voices and of making our art form accessible to broad audiences, we must also question the environmental impact of what we do.
As a member of Kidd Pivot for the past 15 years, I’ve witnessed the evolution of the narrative around the environmental impact of touring. Efficient tours have obvious financial benefits, but Kidd Pivot now also considers the company’s carbon footprint when planning tours and this can lead to refusing important gigs. Nevertheless, the impact of Kidd Pivot’s touring results in an average of 20 tonnes of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) per year per touring member, a footprint that comes mostly from flying the performers, crew and set. Even if this number is relatively small compared to other touring organizations, it is about 10 times more than what many agree to be the carbon budget per person per year in order to meet the Paris Agreement targets.
1Day for the Climate
Although the footprint of going to specific destinations is now considered, Kidd Pivot remains dependent on presenters’ availability, agents’ networks and touring grant application criteria, and the company’s footprint has not substantially decreased in the last years. Yet the discussions around our touring impact have increased noticeably and have encouraged the company to launch 1Day for the Climate.
Inaugurated in 2015, the initiative is a company–employee voluntary partnership dedicating one day of work per year to climate protection. In short, employees and collaborators joining 1Day for the Climate commit to donate one day of their salary per year. That amount is, in turn, matched by the company and the combined funds are directed to climate protection. The mission of 1Day for the Climate is to encourage organizations to acknowledge their carbon footprint, aim for net carbon neutrality and raise public awareness. Through this initiative the company has worked with Offsetters in order to measure its touring footprint and has offset more than 750 tonnes of CO2e (the equivalent of removing more than 150 cars from the road for a year), enabling Kidd Pivot to become one of the first dance companies to tour carbon neutral. Among other things, the initiative has also helped protect British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest and support leading environmental organizations.
The successful launch of 1Day for the Climate attests to our ability to get involved in our own capacity, whether that is as an individual or organization. At the same time, it is a humble response to the urgency of the climate crisis we face; the real challenge remains to swiftly reduce our emissions from the very beginning. I find hope when thinking of the intellectual and creative level of the dance community; there must be a way to reinvent ourselves so we can keep sharing our art form and be part of the solution.
DI WINTER 2019