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The Sustainable Edit

Dispatch #16: The Conscious Citizen

What does it mean to be a conscious citizen? In her monthly column, senior strategic leader in sustainable and international development, Natasha Hafez explores and expounds on precisely that. Join in her journey towards humanity with purpose.

I’ve always been drawn to art.  

Bob Ross, a beloved painter, advocated wisdom and views on nature with the world through his canvas and The Joy of Painting 

Nearly forty years later, as international world leaders accelerate action around climate change, many creatives are joining in the movement toward a more sustainable future by promoting their passion and art as well. 

 The 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) took place in New York last month. This year’s theme, “A watershed moment: transformative solutions to interlocking challenges,” acknowledged shared roots of complex and interconnected global conflicts and crises that continue to threaten and weaken the pillars needed to support global sustainability and climate resiliency.    

Focusing on what needs to be done to achieve net-zero, education for all, sustainable cities, health in the wake of the ongoing pandemic, and the role the private sector plays in achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), world leaders have come and gone, but Eduardo Kobra’s unveiled artwork remains and impresses upon visitors who pass by the UN Headquarters through December 2022.  


Photo by Manuel Elías. A view of the new Eduardo Kobra mural in progress at UN Headquarters.

A view of the new Eduardo Kobra mural in progress at UN Headquarters.

Covering 350 square metres, rising above the 193 national member flags that stretch along New York’s iconic 42nd street, the renowned Brazilian’s artwork depicts the past, present, and future. 

Kobra’s artistic display is an example of how art can be influential towards bold action. With more than a million followers on social media and artwork that spans across 17 countries, on the streets of Sao Paulo to Abu Dhabi, Kobra inspires others as Salvador Dalí, David Bowie, Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, and Albert Einstein once inspired him. His remaining piece at the UN highlights climate change and reinforces the universal and urgent need for cooperation and stewardship of our planet, across all levels of society (not just governments and world leaders).  

“The message is about the planet we hand over to our next generations…featuring an ‘ordinary Brazilian’ who feels the same sense that we should all feel for taking care of the planet.” He said. 

The panel features a man and a child, with the planet Earth in the middle, and representation of a father giving his daughter a gift to reflect hope for a new legacy of care and environmental justice for future generations.  

Set as the backdrop for this year’s UNGA debates, sessions, and side meetings, Kobra’s public mural amplified an accelerated need for action towards the global challenges we face, including poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace, and justice. 

“In the epicentre, you can see Latin America,” Kobra told UN News. “I placed it there precisely because of the care that we have with our dear Amazon.”


Photo by Manuel Elías. Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed (left) meets with artist Eduardo Kobra (right) next to his mural in progress at UN Headquarters.

Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed (left) meets with artist Eduardo Kobra (right) next to his mural in progress at UN Headquarters.

As more traditional exhibitions and art museums influence culture and inform traditions, the art industry continues to explore bold ways to impact society and reduce its large carbon footprint.   

It is estimated that the Metropolitan Museum of Art—one of the world’s most visited museums, and the largest in the Americas—consumes the same amount of electricity for art transportation, conservation, and building maintenance that is needed to operate 10,000 homes. In fact, in 2019 ‘The Met’ became a partner of the United Nations’ SDGs Partnership Platform—a global registry of voluntary commitments made by multi-stakeholder partnerships in support of the implementation of the SDGs.  

Green architecture, another form of sustainable art and luxury design, optimises efficient sources of energy and the use of natural resources to reduce a building’s environmental footprint and impact on its surrounding ecosystem.  This is another rapidly growing art industry that embraces new technologies as they are becoming more and more accessible.  

Our mistakes—or “happy accidents”—equip us with knowledge and opportunities to learn, innovate, and grow.  

The world is rapidly changing as our human activity affects the greatest global challenges; as such, we also hold the power to act fast and create the solutions to combat them. 

What actions will you take to turn big accidents into “happy little trees?”  

The Conscious Citizen 

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