Art is increasingly being used as a medium to catalyze change at local and national scales. Artists’ portrayals of climate change can bridge a more intimate connection between the viewers and the climate crisis in a way that data rarely can.

We have seen art heavily used throughout history as an instrument of social change and expression, and now, at a most crucial moment in time, art is essential to the movement to address climate change.

At climate meetings, graphic facilitators are being used to further the ideas participants share not only in note-taking, but simultaneously through illustration. Senators are using photographs of climate impacts and climate injustices during congressional debates in an attempt to sway their colleagues towards action.

Artist Olafur Eliasson and geologist Minik Rosing gave the citizens of Copenhagen deeper insights and tangible connection to climate change by placing arctic ice blocks in a city square. The glacier ice chunks melted while society proceeded around them, illustrating the stark contrast between nature and civilization.

We installed a painting in front of Climate Smart Missoula, which depicted climate change on a planetary scale. In our painting, the rest of the planets look to Earth with great disappointment, deplored at our melting glaciers and sinking cities. We gave the planet features akin to that of humans, in an attempt to evoke a more profound understanding through feelings of compassion.

Our hope is that this artwork will spur others to climate action.

Art can also help us conceptualize the deep injustices that are interwoven into the climate crisis. The term environmental racism refers to the unequal access to clean air and water, and basic environmental necessities based on race, and the ways that communities of color are disproportionately impacted by pollution.

Asthma, a condition that narrows airways and produces excess mucus while triggering difficulty breathing and excessive coughing, is most prevalent among ethnic minorities. Why is that? This ties back to poverty and pollution. Air pollution is worse in industrial areas, which also tend to be the cheapest places to live. Communities of color are much more likely to be located in heavily polluted areas. And air pollution makes asthma much more severe. This segregates and subjects people of color to unethical and unjust living conditions.

So, how does this relate to the climate emergency? It is impossible to work effectively on climate change without addressing race, racism, and justice. Climate change directly and disproportionately harms poor people and communities of color. Many homeless people were unable to evacuate during hurricane Ida. Farm workers have to breathe wildfire smoke while they work outside all day long.

As fifteen-year-olds, we often find ourselves discouraged by the presumption that our age will lessen the impact of our actions. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Instead, we find that our young voices only amplify our art, which we believe may be caused by the way our youth elicits a sense of guilt in the older generations. As we begin to realize the power our youth gives us, we encourage you as well, no matter your age, to use your own passion and influence as a medium for climate action.

Sydney Yung is a 15-year-old high school student in Missoula. Isabella Weston-Capulong is a 15-year-old high school student who now resides in New York state, after living many years in Missoula.

Visit these Local Climate-themed Art Installations:

This Sustainable Missoula column is brought to you – via the Missoula Current – every week by Climate Smart Missoula and Home ReSource.

Sustainability Happenings

Here we offer ideas about sustainable ways to stay involved in our community. If you like these offerings, consider signing up for Climate Smart’s eNewsletter here. And sign up for the Home ReSource eNews via their homepage here.

MUD’s 30th Annual Garden Party – Sept 10. 6-10 pm. Music, food and more. All welcome and everything you need to know is here.

Spontaneous Construction – Sept 18th. Missoula’s festival of creative reinvention! Reuse. Compete. Create. Come for the day or just an hour and watch cool things being made! More info here.

John Toole Park River Restoration – Sept. 18, 9am – noon. Help Climate Smart replant the native prairie along the new Milwaukee trail along the Clark Fork River and near our shade shelter. Email Amy to sign up or for more info.

Missoula’s third annual Climate and Clean Energy Expo – Sept 25, 10 am – 2 pm. Missoula, together with partners (Montana Renewable Energy Association, City of Missoula, Missoula County, and Clearwater Credit Union) are hosting this premier event. Featuring solar installers, climate & sustainability organizations and businesses, mini-presentations on climate and clean energy topics, and the launch of a new Electrify Missoula campaign, kid’s activities, and more! More information is HERE, and it’s not too late to sponsor or host a table.

The Rattlesnake Creek Watershed 5th annual Fall Festival at Ten Spoon Winery – Sept. 26, 12-4. Water Wildlife and Weeds. Music, Pizza, and fun. Bring your apples for a cider press. More info here.

Trees for Missoula has MANY fall volunteer Tree Planting opportunities this fall.

Missoula’s Farmers Markets. Eat local now through the early fall! The original Farmers Market at the north end of Higgins runs every Saturday 8am-12:30 – information here. The Clark Fork Market is now located at 101 Carousel Drive near Dragon Hollow, runs every Saturday 8am -1pm – information is here.

Bike to Barns tour – Aug. 14-Sept. 30. Explore local farms and flavors on a 15-mile bike tour through Missoula’s Orchard Homes and Target Range neighborhoods. Check back here for more info.

Materials donations to Home Resource keep the wheels of reuse spinning in our community; and remember that everything you need to know about what to do with your unwanted stuff is at

Find more local activities and events at and on Montana Environmental Information Center’s Conservation Calendar. And you too can help organize events – here’s the 2021 Calendar of Environmental Awareness Days – month by month break down of world day campaigns.