Severe climate occurrences and global warming are modern phenomena with which we are constantly bombarded, and as it becomes more evident that its impact is already threatening the environment and risking the survival of flora, fauna and even humans, the necessity to act is an unavoidable need.

Research carried out by the Met Office tells us a disarming truth. Climate change is affecting the United Kingdom exponentially, with records showing the last ten years as the warmest years ever documented. Scientists predict that by 2070, UK temperatures will change immensely, with warmer winters and summers. The current global pandemic only solidifies this data.

In light of the two-year pandemic lockdown, the climate legislation implemented beforehand to take a halt to climate change progressions came to an abrupt stop, allowing countries like Scotland to have a spike in greenhouse production.

Bridging Shine by Jo Hamilton. Image courtesy of Jo Hamilton

Zero Waste Scotland alerted the population to the elevation in household waste by 3.2% — only in the first years of the pandemic— asking the consumers to carefully consider their impact on the planet. As reports estimated a rise in 5.84 million tonnes of CO2 production, the Scottish government implemented an initiative to help tackle the throw-away culture and lessen the carbon impact that wasted items have, not only in resources and waste management but also in the emissions produced in manufacturing.

What changed in the Scottish lifestyle to allow this abrupt rise in greenhouse gasses? The long-standing pandemic and lockdown revealed more online shopping habits, particularly in the textile area, with textile production causing 4% of the waste weight and its adjacent materials like cardboard, plastic, metal, animal, and food waste being the top five carbon emitter materials.

However, the rise in emissions should not only be pinpointed on the materials wasted, but also on the carbon footprint left due to a rise in online shopping.

"Every person in Scotland is responsible for 18.4 tonnes of materials every year and it is these products and materials which make up around 80% of Scotland's carbon footprint,” Iain Gulland, chief executive of Zero Waste Scotland, said. "If we are serious about ending our contribution to the climate crisis, we must live within our means and reduce our consumption in the first place — there is no time to waste."

On the artistic front, Scottish artist Jo Hamilton addresses this issue from a different perspective by weaving paintings that repurpose wasted materials, creating an impactful visual effect that draws attention to the intense human pollution and destruction they are bringing to the planet.

Masked: Head & Neck Dietician by Jo Hamilton. Image courtesy of Jo Hamilton.

Hamilton's vigorous advocacy and unique artistic method tackle the waste revolution in a colourful and imaginative way, using traditional crochet techniques to develop portraits, cities, landscapes, and enormous human figures. At first glance, the paintings convey tremendous artistic sensitivity and colour expression, but when taking a closer look, the materials and techniques call on higher concepts — the artist's personal atmospheres and her fight for environmental protection.

"Human development should be inclined to beautify nature as an eternal idea, and we cannot be separated from real life," Hamilton states. “In the recent decades of capital development and global warming, we have suffered more or less counterattack from nature. If we do not immediately change our thinking, policies, and behaviors, it will be too late."

"We should integrate the concerns of overproduction, pollution and climate change into each of our lives and work."
Shining Mountain Eclipse by Jo Hamilton. Image courtesy of Jo Hamilton.

At Hamilton's recent exhibition Transitory Trespass, at Russo Lee Gallery in Portland, her knitted pieces push the boundaries of traditional art, using a mixture of wool fibers and yarn made from plastic waste, grocery bags and videotapes. The concrete unraveling pieces at its edges touch on the metaphoric notion of society’s underlying problems, such as social disparities, the urgent climate crisis and unmeasured capitalism.

“We tend to glorify nature as an eternal and everlasting idea, separate from ourselves and our real-life actions. We’ve held on tightly to these ideas during the last few decades in the throes of late capitalism and globalization, and if we don’t change our thinking, policies and behavior immediately it will be too late”, the artist highlights. “So I channeled my anxieties about overproduction, pollution, and climate change into my work, using plastic in some of the works in contrast with the yarn.”

Hamilton's representations of global struggles, personal atmosphere and delicate commitment to her practice become a searing reminder of what artists can do to prevent climate change and how dedication to a craft can be the simplest way forward. Her relentless devotion to climate action and art addresses the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal for Climate Action and Responsible Consumption and Production, a stepping stone for more sustainable art practices.

According to one of the latest reports from the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), the rise in greenhouse gasses will cause unprecedented and more frequent weather events. Even though climate change varies from country to country, consequences will be an unstoppable force, challenging our contemporary way of seeing the world.

See more of Jo Hamilton's practice here.

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