In New Orleans, we know that times of transition are best met with community and celebration. Our society’s impending transition from the fossil fuel era is no different. Timed to precede the Jazz & Heritage Festival Presented by Shell, Fossil Free Festival (FFF) will unite community for three days with art, food, music, film screenings, and workshops, carving out a dedicated and open space for us to dig deep into the ethics of funding art and education with fossil fuel money and to imagine a Fossil Free Culture.
In an era of massive defunding of the public sector, non-profit arts and educational institutions are struggling. Oftentimes, our search for support for our work leads us to accept funding from sources we may consider contentious, such as oil and gas or petrochemical corporations. We accept this money with some discomfort but without hesitation; after all, we tell ourselves, all money is questionable, the world needs our work, and we need to pay our rent.
According to BP Executive Vice President Dev Sanyal, companies cannot operate “sustainably” without the support of society. This support is termed by the industry as a “social license to operate,” a metaphorical concept that indicates that society has sanctioned the actions of the company, trusting that the benefits of its operations outweigh the costs to society. By accepting the financial support and, as an imperative, the branding of fossil fuel corporations, are we granting these companies a social license to operate?
Rarely do we create the time and space to deeply examine as individuals and institutions the connection between our work and the operations of our funders. Does oil and gas funding affect the tone, quality, or content of public dialogue about climate change or even overt censorship? What is our role and responsibility and where is our agency when it comes to climate change? As society moves away from reliance on fossil fuels, how can we build sustainable lives and practices, economically, ecologically, and socially? How can we and solidarity across occupational divides and unite as workers of arts, education, and industry and, most importantly, as members of a shared Louisiana community?
Fossil Free Fest invites everyone—arts workers, industry workers, educators, funders, and the general public—to imagine and plan our Fossil Free Future. Registration opens February 2018.