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Global action for climate justice

Middlesex academic works with community groups and schools to counter the effects of climate change

On the first day of a week of global action when millions of school children, adults, workers and trades unionists will be striking for climate justice, Dr Loraine Leeson, artist and Senior Lecturer in Fine Art at Middlesex, is highlighting the work of Active Energy at the Olympic Park in East London.

Active Energy is an award winning arts and environment project in East London led by Dr Leeson with seniors’ group The Geezers. Their collaboration commenced in response to a question about why the life experience of older people was failing to inform new developments in technology and twelve years later they are still countering this assumption.

The group’s latest venture is a floating water wheel that has been installed close to the London Aquatics Centre in the Waterworks River to drive an aerator that will help counteract the effects of pollution on the river’s fish and wildlife.

"Climate change is the most urgent issue of our time, for the young because it is there future, while older people's life experience can inform what needs to be done. We are all able to contribute something.  As an artist I use creative facilitation and production to draw out the knowledge and ideas of those in the front line and bring this into the public domain to support new action." Dr Leesson, Middlesex University

Their first exhibition and conference looked at how tidal turbines could utilise the Thames Barrier as a barrage, then after teaming up with engineer Toby Borland, they created a small-scale wind turbine with local school children for the roof of an AgeUK centre, which spelled out ‘Geezer Power’ in lights as it spun. This was followed by a low-cost turbine for testing in the Thames, an innovative design suitable for slow-moving tidal rivers.

Through its work the group has made input to three university research projects, conducted many talks and presentations, and held a further exhibition in the US in collaboration with a seniors’ group in Pittsburgh. To accompany the new water wheel, workshops have been held in nearby Bow School, where pupils have constructed their own working models while learning about environmental issues affecting the planet.

Dr Leeson and The Geezers will be talking about their project and about how communities can counter climate change at the Olympic Park today. Their key message is for all of us to think about what we can do to counter the effects of climate change.

Find out more about studying Fine Art at Middlesex.

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