How Art and Design makes us more disaster resilient

I made bushfire maps from satellite data, and found a glaring gap in Australia’s preparedness

bushfire map
Landsat-8 false colour image of southwest Kangaroo Island, showing active bushfires on January 9, 2020. Landsat-8, Author provided

On the night of January 9 2020, my wife and I secured our Kangaroo Island home and anxiously monitored the South Australian Country Fire Service (CFS) website for bushfire advice.

After many horrific weeks of bushfires, the winds had again shifted, and the fire front began a slow, nightmarish march eastward into the island’s central farmlands. Official warnings advised that the entire island was potentially under threat….


How Art and Design makes us more disaster resilient

Most people will interact with art and design in some shape or form every day. Knowingly or not, art and design shape our lives much more than we might think. John Berger, in his influential book, Ways of Seeing, confirms our visual navigation of the world as a central component of today’s contemporary landscape, underlining the central role of art and design in our lives. What inspires creative practitioners is what inspires us all to do things to make our lives better. Artists and designers are great at doing something most of us can’t; creating an art or design practice that captures our emotional and intellectual lives and taps deep into our value and belief systems. We can appreciate works of art partly because they resonate with our inner beings; they allow us to make meaning of things, that we often lack the words, or any other means for that matter, to express.

Interestingly, natural disasters, acts of terror and/or other major disruptions in our lives are often areas that artists look to as both a source and a focus of their creative efforts. It is through this link between art /design and major disruptions, as well as a broader spectrum of creative output, that we can examine some of the many artistic sensibilities common to creators of things we all gravitate towards at some time or another. Metzl (2008) writes that there are several characteristics associated with creativity that seem likely contributors to processes of resilience, including but not limited to personal flexibility (Meneely & Portillo, 2005), divergent / elastic thinking (Torrance, 1995), high conscientiousness and social expressiveness…



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