Music and climate justice workshop at Oslo World 2023. All photos: Oslo World / Nabeeh Samaan
Music and climate justice workshop at Oslo World 2023. All photos: Oslo World / Nabeeh Samaan

Oslo World 2023: Learnings from a music and climate justice workshop

Skrevet 10. January 2024

What happens when 25 festival bookers, culture workers, musicians and music lovers gather to talk about music, climate justice, hope and activism?

Text by Erika Rojas

How can music and music festivals support and embrace global climate action?

Oslo World in collaboration with Riddu Riððu Festival and Klimakultur invited festival delegates and music lovers to a workshop on music and climate justice.

The workshop took place at Melahuset in Oslo and was facilitated by Julie Forchhammer from Klimakultur.

Sajje Solbakk, festival director for the Riddu Riđđu festival contributed with a reflection on how to include indigenous perspectives in the culture sector and invited the participants to reflect on this topic. 

Connecting social and environmental issues

During the workshop the participants reflected on a number of questions related to the climate crisis and how the music industry can react to that.

The discussions circled around what role this industry can play in the implementation of inclusive and intersectional approaches that connect social and environmental issues. 

Here are some learnings from the discussions which ends up with  five key takeaways from this workshop to share with the arts & music sector in Norway (see the end of this article).

Reflection 1: How is the climate crisis impacting where you live?

Most of the participants shared experiences with extreme weather events. Among them, they mention the changes in the rain season creating drought or floods in river areas in Portugal, or creating water scarcity in Rome. 

The participants also reflected on how drastic climate changes are impacting the execution of open-air festivals.

(Sajje Solbakk, festival director for the Riddu Riđđu festival)

Reflection 2: How can the culture and music sector include indigenous perspectives in their work, both artistically and organizationally?

Sajje Solbakk, festival director for the Riddu Riđđu festival, gave an introduction to this topic and presented the question to the participants.

The responses were mixed as people reflected on their diverse roles and increasing knowledge and awareness around the experiences, talent, and expertise of indigenous people in the cultural sector.

The fear of saying something wrong was expressed, and with it the importance of situating the voice of  indigenous topics at festivals and bringing indigenous people to present themselves. 

The discussion revolved around the importance of educating more people on indigenous culture by also sharing narratives and using storytelling to share more about local indigenous struggles, as communities and individuals.

However, emphasis was made on the importance of not tokenizing indigenous artists nor to merely invite them as inclusion quotas. So, the discussion shifted the focus into the question of how we can understand diversity in the festival sector and instead of discussing including one group of people or another, we should focus on making sure there is representation of diverse voices and experiences.

There was an emphasis, then, on the wording: representation.

On a practical level, representation means the consolidation of spaces that include and respect the indigenous voices and experiences as artists, experts, co-creators and partners.

Moreover, it was discussed how in many instances inclusion at institutional or organizational levels is person dependent, meaning that it needs to be integrated into the organizational culture in order to be sustainable.

Photo: Oslo World / Nabeeh Samaan

Reflection 3: How can the arts & culture sector stop legitimizing the fossil fuel industry?

The participants reflected on how common it is that the fossil fuel industry in Norway and elsewhere are sponsors of festivals, and agreed on the importance of resisting this type of sponsorship and boycotting green washing.  

Examples of financing options away from the oil sector included finding ambassadors to the festivals that can channel funding, and diversify the funding base.

Nevertheless, the questions remain a reminder of how easy it is for the fossil fuel sector or extractive industries to green wash themselves through the economic support to festivals, and how important it is for the cultural sector to look for alternative sources of financial support.

Reflection 4: How can a global climate perspective influence the Norwegian cultural sector and Norwegian society?

Discussion around this question underlined the need to create spaces where the experiences and voices from people from the global south are represented, without barriers for their stories to be heard.

It was also discussed how in Norway representation remains predominantly white despite being an increasingly diverse society. Consequently, representation in the cultural sector is still not inclusive.

Participants discussed how we could remove barriers, create spaces, by, for example, use privilege to give space to others who are not given space to talk directly about what they experience directly. Another example was the creation of multicultural spaces.

Representation was highlighted as vital to create spaces where diverse voices can talk about how they feel and experience climate justice. In this sense, hiring people from diverse minority positions and giving them the possibility to be in leadership positions was mentioned as an important step to inform and educate the Norwegian cultural sector about global climate justice perspectives.

Reflection 5: From climate anxiety to climate action - What is your role in the climate movement? 

Participants reflected on the different roles we can take in the climate movement, from speaking up to educate or stir people to action, to taking care of others and making tea or food to those dedicating themselves to activism. In the room some mentioned they would like to be speakers to share information with others in their native language. 

One participant shared the need for safe spaces to talk about climate justice and how activism can be done from countries in the global north. This participant mentioned feeling scared to participate actively in climate activism for fear of provoking and creating dissent, for taking up space. 

Another participant, who identified as a disrupter and strategist, mentioned that the Norwegian society is naïve and beautiful, but it needs to be shaken up. 

People with an international background living in Norway have an important disruptive role when they come with new ideas and question the Norwegian institutions, referring to the oil sector. 

One participant commented: “people are not bad, they are just confused in a system that is broken,” when referring to those who are paralyzed to do something or say anything about climate injustice. And added that we all get lost in trying to fix this or that, but we lose sight of the big picture, so we should all educate ourselves. It is in a way our responsibility.

 “Think about our privilege and act accordingly, to tackle climate action we have to think about            social and political issues” – Iruna, Key Change Program

The workshop ended with an ask for main perspectives to share with the arts and music sector in Norway:

Five takeaways from the workshop to share with the arts & music sector in Norway:

  1. Educate ourselves. This can be the first step we take. Instead of trying everything or reaching everyone at the same time and being overwhelmed, we can start by taking a first step. Educating ourselves so our decisions for our work and organisations reflect this awareness and knowledge.

  2. Community building is vital. Talking to each other and sharing is a way to create a sense of community, safe spaces, and realize the power that we have together and the importance of diversity.

  3. Representation. Set climate on the agenda, make diverse voices be heard. Amplify the voices of indigenous people and activists.

  4. Critical understanding of Norway’s climate impact and awareness of our role as a leading fossil fuels producing country. Understand the intersectional implications (social, economic and political, including gender, race, class, disability) of the environmental, climate and nature crisis and the role of the oil sector in it. Make sure that the cultural and music sector can be independent and make the right choices when looking for funding and partnerships.

  5. Understand our privilege, use it in support of climate justice. Do not stop fighting for your environment. Do something, everything counts!
“All of us have an urgent message to the world to unite us all by communicating and learning more about each other and our different cultures” – Aija Nabulsi, Jordan

Thank you to Oslo World for hosting and creating this space!

More information: Check out the guide on culture and climate justice which Rosendal Teater and Klimakultur published in 2023. English version / Norsk utgave

Would you like to book a workshop with Klimakultur? More info here

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