Barry Lopez Foundation for Art & Environment

Janet Biggs, Warning Shot (video still), 2016, single-channel HD video with sound, 16×9 format, running time 2:08

Barry Lopez Foundation for Art & Environment

Creating an ethical relationship with the land in a time of environmental crisis

This is the last opportunity we have to get this right.

— Barry Lopez

Barry Lopez, Eugene, Oregon, August 5, 2020 © Ron Jude

For five decades, Barry Lopez championed a community of artists – friends and colleagues including fellow writers as well as photographers, painters, sculptors, and musicians – whose work shared a common goal: to help. Before his passing in December 2020, Lopez was active in establishing the foundation that bears his name. Believing that the arts could illuminate the challenges of the climate crisis in a thoughtful and accessible manner, he wanted to engage the most urgent dialogue of the twenty-first century through the work of insightful and compassionate artists whose concerns resonate with our shared past and our hopes for the future. At the inaugural meeting of the Foundation’s board in October 2020, Lopez expressed his conviction that it is time for writers and artists to no longer be the “warm-up band” for serious discussions about our future and the future of the planet.

Art’s underlying strength is that it does not intend to be literal. It presents a metaphor and leaves the viewer or listener to interpret. It is giving in to art, not trying to divine its meaning, that brings the viewer or listener the deepest measures of satisfaction. The authority of art, its special power to illuminate, was partially eclipsed in Western culture by the Scientific Revolution. After that, art’s place in everyday life became increasingly more decorative, its influence undermined by science’s certainty, its insistence on authority given little more than polite notice. The history of the separation of art from the natural world is older than the history of the separation of art from the world of reason, but this breach, too, has had a staggering effect on how humans grapple with their fate.

— Barry Lopez, Horizon, 2019


White River National Forest, Colorado, 7.29.2022, elevation 9,500 feet

Our friends at Dust Collective have made a special run of cyanometers for the Barry Lopez Foundation. Invented in the 18th century by the Swiss scientist Horace-Bénédict de Saussure to measure the color of the sky from the summit of Mont Blanc, now you can carry this pocket version to keep track of all of your blue skies.

Become a recurring donor at $25 a month or higher and we’ll send one along – sign up in December or January and also receive a paperback copy of Arctic Dreams as additional thanks for your support.


How Art Helps

John Luther Adams (American, born 1953): excerpt from Become Ocean, 2013, chamber symphony, 42 minutes. Image by Sebastian Meckelmann.

John Luther Adams, Composer

I wrote Become Ocean in 2013. It is a meditation on the deep and mysterious tides of existence. Life on Earth first emerged from the sea. And as the polar ice melts and sea levels rise, we humans find ourselves facing the prospect that once again we may literally become ocean. As an artist, my primary responsibility is to my art as art. And yet, it’s impossible for me to regard my life as a composer as separate from my life as a thinking human being and a citizen of the Earth. Although it begins in solitude, my work is completed in community. The music doesn’t come fully to life until other people—performing musicians, listeners, recording engineers, critics, and so many others—receive it and make it their own. . . . Neither divine intervention nor artificial intelligence will save us from the catastrophes that seem to lie ahead. To find that salvation, we must find our rightful place in the larger-than-human world—the world that encompasses great human cities and vast mountain ranges, the Mass in B minor and the song of the hermit thrush, the Sistine Chapel and the aurora borealis—this miraculously beautiful world that is our one true home. If my music can inspire people to listen more deeply to this miraculous world we inhabit, then I will have done what I can as a composer to help us navigate this perilous era of our own creation.

Originally published in The Guardian,“I want my art to matter. I want it to be of use”: