Art project aims to help people connect with nature and respond to climate crisis

The University of Derby is helping to promote art and creativity as a way of encouraging members of the public to take action which helps tackle climate change and protect nature.

The Oak Project, which brings together the University, the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and arts organisation the Bronze Oak Project, aims to help people create a relationship with nature through arts-participation.

The project is based on the findings of research conducted at the University of Derby, which shows that art plays an important role in motivating people to act to preserve the environment by building a sense of ‘nature connectedness’.

Miles Richardson, Professor of Nature Connectedness at the University of Derby, said: “Wildlife loss and the climate crisis show our relationship with nature is failing. Our research shows the power of arts-based, sensory and meaningful emotion-based activities in building a closer connection to nature.

“When people are connected to nature, they are much more likely to do more to help the environment. These pro-environmental behaviours could be anything from buying a reusable coffee cup, recycling waste, feeding the birds and planting wildflowers, through to signing petitions or joining a ‘clean-up’ activity. Nature connection is key to a more sustainable lifestyle and a new relationship with nature. 

Charlie Burrell, co-founder of The Oak Project, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has shown how rapidly change can happen in response to a crisis, and how quickly nature can recover when given space to do so. We need to build upon these glimmers of hope and work to rebalance our relationship with the natural world for the long term, and we’re excited about the role the arts can play within this. 

Clare Lilley, Director of Programme at Yorkshire Sculpture Projectadded: “The Oak Project follows a significantly increased awareness of the climate emergency. It is therefore extremely well placed and timed to create positive action in response to climate-anxiety and compromised mental health highlighted by Covid-19.  

The aftershock of the pandemic will be with us for many months, if not years, and The Oak Project will sit precisely in this period – giving people access to art and nature in a way that will support mental, physical and spiritual health, as well as catalysing terrific new projects by practicing artists.” 

The Oak Project will launch its first artist commission, to be hosted at Yorkshire Sculpture Project, in late Spring 2021, and will be announced early 2021.  

Find out more about the Oak Project and the Nature Connectedness Research Group.