Creative practice as a tool to build resilience to natural hazards in the Global South

Anne F. Van Loon*, Imogen Lester-Moseley, Melanie Rohse, Phil Jones, Rosie Day

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Global South communities are increasingly exposed and vulnerable to natural hazards such as floods and droughts. Preparing for future hazards requires developing an idea of an uncertain future, thinking out of the box for possible solutions, enhancing communication between diverse groups, and instigating organisational and behavioural change. In this study, we explore whether art and creativity could support this process by presenting the results of a literature-mapping exercise and a case study. Our search for journal articles, focusing on Global South communities and topics like environmental issues, hazards, and health, yielded 267 papers published between 2000 and 2018. These used a diversity of art forms, including photography and other forms of visual art, music and song, and drama and storytelling. We found that papers on the topic of climate change generally had lower co-creation (62ĝ€¯% medium to high) than those on health (90ĝ€¯% medium to high). A subset of seven papers focusing on drought and flooding fell into the following two categories: those aiming to raise the general public's awareness of these hazards and those aiming to instigate adaptation action by the participants. In our case study, we explored the middle ground between these categories. In a pilot project in South Africa, we designed storytelling workshops in which community members explored scientific data on future droughts, exchanged ideas between groups, and developed narratives about the impacts of and preparedness for future drought. These narratives were filmed and edited and shared both with the community and with governance actors. We found that this approach allowed participants to imagine future droughts, opened up conversations about potential adaptation measures, encouraged intergenerational exchange, and increased awareness of local issues for policy makers. Both in the wider literature and in our case study, the long-term effects of creative interventions are rarely evaluated. Feedback from participants, however, indicates a number of short-term benefits, which shows the potential of combining creative practice approaches and more conventional approaches into a more holistic preparation for future natural hazards.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)453-474
Number of pages22
JournalGeoscience Communication
Issue number2
Early online date23 Dec 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Financial support. This research has been supported by the Institute for Global Innovation of the University of Birmingham and by the NERC-ESRC-AHRC under the GCRF Building Resilience call (grant no. NE/P016049/1).

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements. We thank the Institute for Global Innovation of the University of Birmingham for funding the literature-mapping exercise and GCRF Building Resilience for funding the CreativeDrought project. We also want to thank our local partners and co-facilitators in South Africa for helping with the pilot study (Edward Nesamvuni, Livhuwani Ludick Khobo, Tshi-mangadzo Mandoma, Ndivhuwo Makhalimela, and Khutadzo Nd-wambi), and we are indebted to the chief and the community for welcoming us into the community. Our CreativeDrought research partners Sally Rangecroft, Stephen Birkinshaw, Eugine Makaya, Lindsey McEwen, Lyla Mehta, and Coleen Vogel have made important contributions to the development of the case study and the modelling. We thank the conveners of the European Geoscience Union (EGU) “Scientists, artists and the Earth: co-operating for a better planet” for inviting us to present this work at the EGU conference and in this Special Issue. Our thanks to the reviewers Louise Arnal, Susanne Maciel, Zareen Bharucha, Mathew Stiller-Reeve, and colleagues for detailed feedback on the draft version of this paper. This research contributes to the IAHS Panta Rhei initiative and specifically the working group on Drought in the Anthropocene. Finally, we want to thank the research group at IVM-VU Amsterdam for their helpful suggestions for the figures.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Anne F. Van Loon et al.


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