Why carbon reduction through creative intent could be a solution to the climate crisis? President and project manager of YOURBAN2030, Veronica De Angelis answers.
Yourban2030 is a non-profit organization utilising the language of art to highlight key environmental issues and reaffirm a co-dependent relationship between man and nature. In recent years, many companies have hopped on board with environmental schemes, in a bid to tap into a conscious market. While most are scrambling to get a green tick, projects such as YOURBAN2030 have spearheaded initiatives that place ecological responsibility at the heart of their practice. Inspired by the Global 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the non-profit organization aims to raise awareness surrounding the United Nations goals and instigate progressive conversation on climate action through artistic expression and outreach. Founded in Rome, Italy by president and project manager Veronica De Angelis, the non-profit is now expanding with sister organization, Yourban2030 USA, in New York City, USA.
«Needs of the planet and the people are changing. Discussions surrounding climate change just aren’t engaging», De Angelis explains. She speaks on the separation of awareness and feeling when it comes to conscious engagement. In an oversaturated world of information, the narrative of climate change is not shocking enough to warrant immediate seismic action for many people. «Art will make people reflect and act». Growing up, De Angelis’ father was a collector, and as an adult she would often visit her friend’s gallery in Roma, London. She is admittedly not an artist herself, working within real estate when not focussing on YOURBAN2030. It this early introduction to art that encouraged her passion for the organisation early on.
Veronica De Angelis understands the importance of collaboration. «The mural Hunting Pollution was painted by Lena Cruz, an advocate for climate change. There is passion in what they discuss through their work». Hunting Pollution is a painting located at one of Rome’s most traffic-heavy intersections. It depicts an endangered species of heron among a contaminated sea, symbolising the man-made pollution that impacts the Earth on a daily basis. «The environment should be viewed as something just as worthy and cool as a billboard depicting a Chanel purse», she remarks, suggesting the work of YOURBAN2030 to propose a counter engagement to a consumerist society. «Why do we admire images of product, but we don’t necessarily share that adoration for a tree? The environment should be viewed as something just as worthy».
Angelis remarks «We are so distracted today, but through the COVID-19 induced pause, we are realising the importance and beauty of nature». We’ve all joked that ‘nature is healing’ as the world came to a halt. Laughable as it may seem, the pandemic meme holds a serious undercurrent of truth. With dependency on pollutant heavy business slowing in a world of flux, carbon emissions have had the greatest annual reduction on record. This is considerable, despite the 5% decline falling short of the projected 7.6% annual decline that is necessary to stop global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (the amount scientist’s state will lead to irreversible damage). While the long term impact on emissions is likely to rebound as normal life resumes, emissions need to be lowered.
Focusing on the YOURBAN2030 mural Hunting Pollution, its significance is heightened by the science behind it. By using Airlite paint, the work has become the largest green mural in Europe. Airlite is a 100% natural technology, which can be applied on internal and external walls just like a normal paint. Similar to the process of photosynthesis in plants, using light energy, the paint purifies the air through technology based on the photocatalytic oxidation effect of titanium dioxide. With a 10 year guaranteed lifespan, it is antibacterial, antipollution, and energy saving. It almost sounds too good to be true, and yet it’s not. Through this cross fusion of art and technology, its adds a profoundly tangible depth to the environmental activism of YOURBAN2030.
Some might argue that it would be more practical and efficient to invest in schemes that regulate and decrease human impact, as opposed to methods that facilitate business as usual. It is considerable that it is cheaper to simply not emit carbon, than to neutralise or capture it. Critics worry that carbon reduction technology might disengage ecological responsibility. «It would be awful if people remained complacent». Talking specifically on the potential impact of similar doppelgänger murals in comparison to other ways of dealing with issues of carbon emissions, De Angelis states that «Most current schemes are un-scalable and degrade the aesthetic of the surrounding environment. Although there is a 30% higher cost price than other paints available, the profitability Airlite would only increase in conjunction with the rise in conscious consumerism». There’s something ironic in a complex crisis being counterbalanced through something as simple as watching paint dry. 1000 square metres of the medium would equal the planting of 30 trees, compensating carbon emissions of 30 cars a day. Investment in biodiversity is incomparable, however the climate crisis is the direct result the irresponsible actions of generations prior. When CO2 accounts for 82% of greenhouse gasses emitted by human activity, man-made solutions would seem the necessary addition to reduce the impending consequences.
According to the Global Footprint Network, the earth has been living in ecological debt since 1980, increasing our emissions of greenhouse gasses year on year as a result of living beyond reasonable means. Concern about the environment is at a record high, with millennials being more committed to implementing the Sustainable Development Goals than any other generation previous. In Briton, YouGov data lists sustainability as the third biggest concern facing the nation in 2019. «Should Governments incentivise greener practice, the profitability of projects such as those spearheaded by YOURBAN2030 would outweigh the initial investment», she says, suggesting how government backed green schemes could advance responsible living.
Having previously spoken of America as a place where ‘anything is possible’, she insists that it remains as such, despite the presidents withdrawal from the 2015 Paris Agreement. «Like any historical movement, it starts with the people, and hopefully if enough people are sustainably motivated, the government will act accordingly». Her time in the States has been heavily informative, with the street art of New York having a significant influence on YOURBAN2030. «It changes neighbourhoods and can have a positive social impact» she says, explaining how social rejuvenation can spread through the medium of art. «Art can act as a catalyst for engagement. By placing it at the heart of the neighbourhood, it democratises the conversation for all to engage with. Your environment makes you act a certain way, and you are led by example. We cannot think of forming new neighbourhoods that are not sustainable. This initiative should improve the air quality period. Building new neighbourhoods, as well as developing existing neighbourhoods, is imperative to making the initiative truly accessible».
Even in an age of refuelled right wing prominence and climate deniers, De Angelis believes change is still possible, and that collective moral responsibility means we cannot simply resign to what is given. «YOURBAN2030 sends a message to the companies and politicians – it’s okay for those at the top to say that we need to have a greener planet, but words need to become actions: politicians need to aid communities investing in schemes like YOURBAN2030 to enable true sustainable development».