‘Creativity is a vital link in tackling climate change. We therefore should consider the introduction of a Ministry of Creation & Climate Affairs in our government,’ WDCD’s co-founder and creative director Richard van der Laken writes in an appeal (published three days ago in NRC Handelsblad) to the politicians currently forming a government in the Netherlands.
By Richard van der Laken
Activist Shell shareholders, including the Church of England, and European pension funds, will this week ask the board of the oil multinational to set new climate change goals. Meanwhile, NGO leaders, business CEOs and politicians have been loudly sounding the alarm to underline the gravity of the climate problem.
But until now the creative industry has remained conspicuously silent. Creation is not mentioned on the government’s climate agenda, or on that of social organizations, the business community, the thought leaders. Nor will you find it in their manifestos, open letters or recommendations.
This is, to put it mildly, striking. After all, creativity, a mainstay of the Dutch economy, has for years been one of the government’s nine priority economic sectors. The European Union too has been investing in the Lisbon Agenda to make the EU the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world.
That’s why I would like to seize the opportunity of the current negotiations over a new government in the Netherlands to make the following appeal to the government-to-be while hoping that I speak on behalf of the whole creative community in the Netherlands.
Dear political negotiators,
May I respectfully suggest that you include in the new government a new Ministry of Creation & Climate Affairs. After all, creativity is a vital link in tackling climate change. The Netherlands is a creative country, and we should deploy our creativity in translating vital technological innovations into products and services that citizens, consumers and businesses understand.
We in the Netherlands are vulnerable to rising sea levels and, very Dutch, if we do nothing, we won’t earn a single cent from climate change. I’m not using the word ‘earn’ cynically in this respect, because it helps to broaden support for climate solutions. And that matters, because it’s worrying to learn that half the people in the Netherlands breezily think that the water problem can simply be solved by raising the dikes.
Designers not only find solutions but also reformulate the very question
You need designers to find feasible and understandable solutions. Designers translate abstractions into stories, images, products and services. Designers see not problems but – cliché – challenges. They not only find solutions but also reformulate the very question. A body such as the government, which mostly thinks in terms of recommendations, legislative measures and policy papers, could make good use of a practically oriented minister.
Designers want to make things, to turn ideas into reality. That should become the domain of the Ministry of Creation & Climate Affairs, a reflection of the adage ‘making is thinking’, which the celebrated sociologist Richard Sennett coined to point out the power of makers.
Creation flows through the very vains of our society
In the meantime, plenty is happening. No doubt you are already familiar with the Smog Tower by Daan Roosegaarde, which punches ‘holes’ in the smog over Beijing, and to which he just added the idea of smog free bicycles.
You will also have heard of Ocean Cleanup, the venture launched by Boyan Slat to clean up the plastic soup floating around our oceans. He’s just raised thirty million euros for that plan.
But creation goes much further. It flows through the very veins of our society, extending from product design to food design, covering everything from vital changes needed to cope with global warming, to new approaches to really counter its effects.
A significant amount of that heat can be put down to the production of meat. But can you turn whole societies into vegetarians? Certainly not with a publicity campaign that tells us to eat less meat. Farmer Jaap Korteweg created the Vegetarian Butcher brand to make imitation meat both appealing and tasty. In the process, he linked a social issue to a good idea, and knows how to implement it down to the minutest detail, from production to marketing.
Similarly, the Fairphone by Bas van Abel in not only a fine smartphone that uses valuable raw materials in a responsible manner, but also a successfully functioning and well-marketed product.
Designers in the Netherlands are pioneers, driving forces, flag bearers for change
Dutch creativity often means creative entrepreneurship too. Designers in the Netherlands are pioneers, driving forces, flag bearers for change, active at micro and macro levels. Last year, Christine Meindertsma won the Dutch Design Award with her fully circular Flax chair.
Tiny TIM is an amazing project by Jurgen van der Ploeg that reimagines the way we live. The architects at ZUS are working on Rebuild by Design, which will make the New York coastline resistant to hurricanes and rising sea levels brought about by climate change.
In brief, it won’t be the fault of all these parties active in society and business. Now it’s the turn of the government. After two years of stop-start policies by a fickle cabinet that invests just as easily as it curtails expenditure, the time is ripe for effective and generous policies based on incentives.
The creative industry deserves a seat at the table among the parties that are negotiating to form a new government. A Ministry of Creation & Climate Affairs would really be good news for our delta, and for the whole planet.