Why creativity and community involvement are vital to tackle climate change

Chloe Uden, founder of the Art and Energy Collective, shares the inspiring story of the Moths to a Flame project as it comes to a close. The project, installed at COP26 in Glasgow, won the People’s Vote for the Sustainability First Art Prize 2021. 

Over the past two years we have been dedicated to building a mass participation artwork called Moths to a Flame, in response to the climate emergency. More than 20,000 people from across the UK and overseas made the award-winning artwork, an installation of 20,000 fabricated moths, in Glasgow’s Botanic Gardens for COP26, the UN Climate Change conference in November 2021.

The artwork invited people to explore our relationship with energy and asked us to heal rather than harm our earth. 

Accompanying the moth installation were recorded messages and poems which together rang out as a chorus for change; the installation was a refuge for reflection during the tumultuous conference. 

None of us can escape the need to act in relation to the climate emergency.

 “When we act on our own, our actions can feel too small. When we work together, we can make a difference.”

Art production and Climate Change are not separate things

The UK government says we must reduce our carbon emissions by 68% by 2030 (from 1990 levels) to stay on track to limit global heating to 1.5 degrees. So now, at the end of 2021, we have 8 years to make the difference and change for good. 

According to the Climate Change Committee, over 50% of changes needed are behaviour changes - changes in our culture.

How we use our energy - the choices we make - the art we produce - will either contribute to the problem, or it will respond to the problem. We need art that opens doors in the imagination to navigate this massive cultural transition. 

Why Energy? The climate emergency is caused by carbon emissions from fossil fuels, deforestation and the way we manage land. So climate change is all about energy, our relationship with the natural world and each other. We are looking through an energy lens, and our projects aim to help others understand energy more clearly. Although many people might think about energy as something dull, we find it rich with poetry. Energy systems weave the fabric of life. 

We invite you to consider your own life and work through an energy lens. 

  • What energy systems are you part of?
  • Where do you get your energy from?
  • How do you use your power?
  • What energy story does your work tell?
  • What does it cost you? 
  • What does it cost the planet and others?
  • What or how do you want to change? 
  • Could you change?

Anyone who makes work that deals with the climate emergency will encounter eco-anxiety, disengagement, burn-out and inaction. These are important to consider when producing work. We see it as our job to give people creative cultural experiences that give them the resources to deal with these challenges. In fact we may go so far as to say that if an artwork increases someone’s eco-anxiety, it may well make matters worse.

We think creative processes can help us make sense of the world, connect with each other, find meaning, give us skills and become more resilient.”

Our projects help participants and audiences to feel excited and connected with energy, support them to learn new skills, encourage restorative and regenerative behaviour change, and celebrate progress within communities and the environment. Since forming in 2018 we have developed and delivered a wide range of projects.

Our first project, ‘Dawn Breaks’, was developed with partners to reimagine solar panels as artworks; objects of beauty that can generate electricity as well as lift people’s sights and see that the world could be more beautiful than we may have imagined.

We are currently developing an evidence-based compass with principles to guide us in making the sort of work we do. We will be publishing this in 2022 and invite you to follow our work and perhaps even connect with us.


The ART and ENERGY Collective is a group of artists, thinkers, makers and tinkerers based in Devon. We use our skills to respond to the climate emergency and design creative experiences to help people connect with energy systems and harness hope for a better world.

Watch the video by Foto CIC about the history of the Moths to a Flame project and find out more about the Art and Energy collective and the Sustainability First Art and Writing Prizes 2021