Can art save us from catastrophe?
I was in Madrid for the first time in November 2019, just before COP25, and was blown away by the food and the art. Picasso’s Guernica, in the Museo Reina Sofia, was the main event, a stunning depiction of man’s stupidity stripped bare. When the COP25 UN Climate Change Conference was moved to Madrid, the art’s symbolism was even more pronounced. So we must ask, can art save us from catastrophe? Or is it too late?
Guernica by Picasso
If you’ve been disappointed by little Mona Lisa in the Louvre, fear not. Guernica really does live up to the hype. It’s enormous, in a room on its own in the fabulous Museo Reina Sofia, and without hordes of annoying tourists elbowing their way to the front. You can really take the time to enjoy the work, which was painted by Picasso in his Cubist style, with multiple meanings and impressions to be drawn from its monochrome fabulousness. Painted in 1937, Picasso created what is the greatest anti-war work of art and possibly the great work of art of the 20th century. Sadly, the Spanish Civil War ended in a fascist victory. Picasso stated that Guernica would not return to Spain until his homeland was once again a republic. Picasso died in 1973, and the Spanish dictator Franco died in 1975, when Spain became a constitutional monarchy. MOMA in New York was in possession of Guernica at that time and argued that a monarchy was not truly a republic, so the painting should not return to Spain. This was a very fair point. But MOMA relented, and Guernica returned to Spain in 1981.
What can Guernica tell us?
Guernica was a doomed attempt to draw the world’s attention to the horrors of the Spanish War. The painting depicts the 1937 bombing of the Basque town of Guernica by Nazi and Italian fascist bombers. The work has a huge, brooding presence and is full of horrors, both seen and unseen. This was Spain saying to the world: “Our democratically-elected Government is being overthrown by fascists and the Germans have no hesitation in wading in, visiting death from our skies. Think where this could end up!”
It ended up in World War Two, the greatest conflict in human history. Yet many could see it coming. We are now at our Guernica moment on the climate. COP25 aims to put a robust carbon-trading system in place so that we can pull back from the brink of a 2C degree temperature rise. We welcome this policy, as our goal is to make trading in hemp CO2 offsets as easy as ordering a pizza. We look forward to working with the UN, and partners all over the world, to make our vision a reality: We will end the climate crisis by using plants to absorb CO2.
And that’s a vision we believe is worth fighting for.
Update, 20 December 2019
Cancel the ‘burning twenties’
COP25, the Madrid climate conference was a failure. Because of a lot of misunderstandings, selfishness and confusion, we’re headed for a temperature increase of 3C by 2030. Our mission here is to prevent a 2 degrees C increase in global temperature by planting hemp on 5% of land. A 2C increase is considering the tipping point. So a projected 3C rise would be disastrous. We must redouble our efforts. Let’s make sure that the new decade isn’t referred to by future historians as the ‘burning twenties’.
If we don’t do something more, our world will literally and metaphorically go up in smoke.
COP25 website: https://unfccc.int/cop25
#COP25 on Twitter: https://twitter.com/hashtag/cop25?lang=en
Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Museo_Nacional_Centro_de_Arte_Reina_Sof%C3%ADa
Guernica by PICASSO, la exposición del Reina-Prado. Guernica is in the collection of Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid. Source page: http://www.picassotradicionyvanguardia.com/08R.php (archive.org), Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1683114