"I understand the loss that leads to despair ... It has happened to us and is happening to the land, the breaking of the heart of creation." - Linda Hogan

Is the end of life as we know it inevitable or is there still time to mend our broken relationship with our Earth? As we face the slow destruction of the natural systems we rely on, how will we live? Will we revert to animalistic behaviors where only the strong or rich survive, battling over access to food and fresh water? Or will we learn to share what we know and have, taking the first steps of this next journey together in peace?

These are questions no one wants to acknowledge - much less discuss - but artists and writers have already begun to examine them, leading to compelling investigations into an unknown future. Books like Emily St. John Mandel's "Station Eleven" pose post-apocalyptic scenarios imagining the human response to scarcity and suffering. The vision is sometimes grim, yet the inextinguishable seed of hope is always present.

Imagining the unimaginable and encouraging an open-hearted embrace of the unknown is the crucial work of many artists, writers and spiritual leaders during this time of global climate change. Those who create with an open heart, mind and spirit are uniquely positioned to lead us gently towards a new and unknown path. Women are central to this journey, and many are finding their way towards a primal understanding of a new way forward.

As an artist, mother and grandmother, I'm drawn to discover ways to reweave our broken relationship with the natural world that supports and sustains us. To this end I created "I Am Water," an ongoing, collaborative, interdisciplinary public art project. Thanks to learnings gleaned from Native and First Nation leaders and friends, I became a water walker participating in indigenous-led Nibi (Water) Walks, praying for the water while walking the length of a river or circumference of a lake.

Most recently I've begun a project called "Fierce Lament," which aims to aggregate and promote the work of artists, environmentalists, writers, indigenous leaders, and others in recognition of Earth Day 2016. Inspired by the recent, worldwide climate conference in Paris, and Earth Day happenings of the past 46 years, "Fierce Lament" is a community-wide investigation into the sorrow of our ailing planet and what we might do to heal her wounds and forge a new and more sustainable path. Eighteen artists and poets share their new and existing work that addresses the human relationship with nature.

I believe in the power of art to activate, educate, inspire and challenge. In this time of uncertainty such work has grown more imperative. It's not too late to lay the groundwork for a more just and cooperative future, to leave as our legacy the seed of hope planted wild and deep.

Camille J. Gage is a Minneapolis-based musician, artist and activist. www.gageart.net

The series of Fierce Lament events and exhibitions runs throughout the Twin Cities, through May 22, 2016. Full calendar at www.fiercelament.org
What: Fierce Lament art exhibit
Where: Form + Content Gallery, 210 N. 2nd St., Mpls.
When: through May 14, 2016, Thursdays-Saturdays, Noon-6 p.m. Poetry reading Thursday, May 12, 2016, 7-8:30 p.m., co-presented with Joyface Poets.
Cost: Free
FFI: 612-436-1151 or www.formandcontent.org

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