UCL Grand Challenges


Hope and inspiration for futures in petroleum-based Arctic communities

This initiative supports art-science collaborations for engaging young people in different locations around the world to discuss their hopes and fears for the future.

Two girls on a hammock

1 September 2022


Grant: Grand Challenges Special Initiatives— Climate Crisis
Year awarded: 2022-23
Amount awarded: £ 4,000 


  • Professor Ilan Kelman, UCL Institute for Global Health and UCL Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction
  • Ms Heloise Tunstall-Behrens, Composer and sound artist

Hope and inspiration for futures in petroleum-based Arctic communities endeavour workshops with teenagers in Norway above the Arctic Circle, an area experiencing severe climate change impacts yet with an economy based on extracting and, through tourism using, petroleum. The workshop will draw on the collective imagining of a hopeful future and will culminate in the creation of a collaborative song, to be sung by the youth for inspiring themselves and others: 

  • Online workshops will be held to discuss youth’s hopes and inspirations for the Arctic under climate change given their petroleum-based economy.  The youth will be tasked with imagining futures – the lives they want to be living and the world they wish to see around them.
  • Words from the discussions will be gathered and collated by a poet, who will create a poem of hope.
  • Music will be created to accompany the poem, which will then be sung by the youth.
  • A video will be made of the youth singing the song, accompanied by the epic Arctic landscapes.
  • The video will be circulated online and among global climate change organisations such as UNFCCC and IPCC as well as action groups such as Extinction Rebellion, Doctors for Extinction Rebellion, and WWF.
  • Publications will disseminate the proof-of-concept and suggestions for improving.

Documenting and communicating such eco-inspiration and eco-hope connects science, art, and action. Here, the focus is on using the medium of music to inspire an emotive connection with future visions of society and the environment among the youth of Arctic Norway to connect with and lead the wider global community. Impacts would emerge from disseminating and discussing a key message that disasters are not caused by environmental phenomena such as hurricanes, blizzards, tornadoes, landslides, and floods. Instead, they are caused by people lacking power, choices, and resources to live in safe places, to pursue livelihoods providing needed resources, and to access health, education, and other basic services. Youth can and should create and direct their own futures to build the world they seek, without succumbing to grief, anxiety, and despair.

This initiative would be the second cross-disciplinary, cross-border, cross-boundary collaboration between Kelman and composer and sound artist Tunstall-Behrens. The first is a UCL Culture funded forthcoming performance at the Grant Museum in February 2023 under the Performing Planet Activism series with writer Robert Macfarlane and UCL scientist Pete Irvine. 

The project also aims to underpin further work by the collaborators, such as in Suffolk (the eroding city of Dunwich), Orkney (the legacy of Skara Brae), Bangladesh (notably the Sundarbans), and small island developing states (especially Tuvalu and Kiribati, building on Kelman’s work in Maldives) many of which have petroleum-based economies. The work will be linked to Kelman’s Many Strong Voices initiative that links Arctic and tropical island communities for addressing climate change impacts. 

Impacts and Outputs

  • In consultation with UCL Grand Challenges, work is underway for a UCL event on 30th January 2023 to link the messages of hope developed through music to those with petroleum-based interests. Any results and outcomes emerging from 30th January will be reported accordingly.

Photo by Katie Franklin on Unsplash