Ecojustice Blog – Climate change, Healthy communities Posted on January 2, 2013 (updated: January 2, 2013)

How Franke James Blends Art, Activism & Environmentalism

Franke James sold her SUV and replaced her driveway with plants, but it was her blend of art, activism and environmentalism that led to our video interview, which you can see below.

Watch it and you’ll see how Franke is using art to educate and motivate Canadians to better protect their environment. Plus, you’ll hear why she believes that defending the environment matters. Here’s a hint: Her reasoning lines up well with our campaign for the right to a healthy environment, which is about protecting the air, water and land that sustains Canadian communities.

I first discovered Franke’s environmental art/activism this past August. ForestEthics had posted an image from her visual essay, Who cares about the forest?, on their Facebook page. I shared the “Forest are the lungs of the planet” image, pictured, on Ecojustice’s Facebook page. Our fans loved it so much I figured they’d like to hear from Franke, who lives in Toronto.

Franke: Hi, I’m Franke James. I’m an artist and an author of Bothered by My Green Conscience and we’re standing in my home studio in Toronto

Pierre: Why are visuals so important to you?

Franke: I’ve been an artist all of my life and a writer as well. However, in 2006, the light bulb came on. We started to do a home renovation and I was looking into energy efficiency. And in doing my research I came across all sort of articles on climate change and the impact that it was going to have on the 21st century. And I thought, ‘Oh my god, this is so important and my friends and family and neighbours are not aware of this and I have to start writing about this and telling people so that we’ll take action.’ So I started to write long blog posts, I interviewed all sorts of people and yet [the posts] just weren’t clicking. And I think it’s because people absorb info more quickly from pictures than they do the written word.

Franke: I decided to go back to the drawing board [and try a different approach]. My first visual essay was Green Winter: Will Global Warming be good for Canada? It talks about the complacency of Canadians towards the issue of climate change and a certain smugness that we have [that] global warming may harm other parts of the world, but Canada — because we’re a cold country — is going to be OK. Which is a total fallacy and is not correct, but I think that a lot of Canadians believe that Canada will do OK.

Franke: People can go and read these stories. [My SUV and Me Say Goodbye] is the story of us selling our only car. Green Eccentric Glamour [is] about getting the most out of the clothes that you already have in the closet. The Real Poop on Social Change, which very much has to do with the importance of peer pressure and laws. [That’s] a really fun story. Paradise Unpaved [is about] fighting [Toronto’s] City Hall [for] the right to build a green driveway.

Franke and I move outdoors to check out her green driveway.

Pierre: Why don’t you tell me about where we’re at and the garden that we’re looking at?

Franke: Well, what’s neat is that in 2007 this was interlocking brick from side to side, edge to edge, 34 feet wide of interlocking brick driveway. And as you can see now it’s just green, beautifully green.

See more about Franke’s fight to get a green driveway.

Pierre: Why does the environment matter?

Franke: I think that it comes from a basic social justice issue. So if you ask most people if they feel that they’re environmentalists they would say no and shrug their shoulders about the environment. But when the connection is made between the environment and human health then all of a sudden people understand or they can begin to understand how important it is to have clean air and clean water so that the people who live in the environment are healthy.

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