Writing the wrongs of the climate crisis
Meirion Bowen applauds Ben Okri’s stand, while Trevor Jones supports the wake-up call that less is more
Ben Okri (Artists must confront the climate crisis – we must write as if these are the last days, 12 November) is quite right. Artists have often worked during wars and other crises, asserting the importance of positive expression in the face of many events and activities that are depressing and likely to cause disillusionment. This was the case in the 1930s in Nazi Germany, when Kurt Weill, Lotte Lenya, Bertolt Brecht and others created memorable music/theatre pieces that were memorable then, and remain so.
The same was true of Michael Tippett’s oratorio A Child of Our Time, which started as a protest against the persecution of Jews, but was soon adopted around the world as a general statement of support for any people who were oppressed. Lately, it made a big impact in Russia. I myself, as a musician, continue my work as an arranger of existing music.
“Less is more” is, I believe, one of the keynotes of Ben Okri’s article. We are familiar with less is more as an aesthetic quality, but it also has a moral quality that goes to the essence of what really matters.
The phrase – that originated in Robert Browning‘s poetry and is a tenet of Japanese Zen Buddhism – is more often than not associated with the architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, one of the pioneers of modernist architecture and a proponent of simplicity in design. Less is more can now serve as the wake-up call we all need – shining a light on how we can bring our habitat, economy and society back into equilibrium with nature.