CCL Alumni in Focus: Donna Grantis

Donna Grantis

Julie’s Bicycle’s Creative Climate Leadership (CCL) programme aims to build an international network of diverse and influential cultural climate leaders who will work with their communities to make change happen.

Donna Grantis took part in the CCL Canada 2022 programme. She is an artist, guitarist, composer and producer. From 2012 to 2016 Grantis performed and recorded with Prince as a member of his funk-rock trio 3RDEYEGIRL.

How has your journey unfolded since CCL, and what creative climate projects are you currently working on?

I’ve been writing and recording an album of music that features the voices of climate leaders – activists, scientists, Indigenous leaders and more. Shortly after attending CCL, I was invited to perform a song at the inaugural Canadian Music Climate Summit, presented by Music Declares Emergency Canada.

I composed a song for the occasion – called A Drop In The Bucket. It features the words of Tzeporah Berman, chair of the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty – an initiative calling for a global mechanism to phase out fossil fuels fast and fairly.

A recording of the live performance from this concert was released on streaming platforms on Earth Day 2023. In partnership with EarthPercent, an environmental charity co-founded by music pioneer Brian Eno, the song is part of The Earth As Your Co-Writer Campaign – a groundbreaking initiative to adopt the construct of The Earth as a songwriter and beneficiary of music royalties.

A Drop In The Bucket-cover art

What is a key piece of learning or inspiration you took away from CCL that you’d like to share with others?

The experience of attending CCL was encouraging in that the community – both organizers and attendees – were very supportive and passionate about the importance of art as a catalyst for cultural change. A key learning that was highlighted throughout the week was the interconnection between environmental justice and social justice. As a group, we explored connections between the climate crisis and colonialism, capitalism, white supremacy, and inequality.

What does Creative Climate Leadership mean to you? What is most exciting about working in the arts/creative community on climate transformations?

One of the most exciting things about working in the arts on climate transformations is the feeling that this movement is growing and there is tremendous potential for impact. Scientists have been ringing the alarm bell for decades with compelling data about CO2 levels, deforestation, plastic pollution, ocean acidification, extreme heating and more. Unfortunately, facts alone have not moved society to action in a way that is commensurate with the crises we face. What would a cultural transformation towards a regenerative ideology look and sound like? How can the way people feel and relate – both to each other and to our environment – be shaped by art? Questions like these are exciting to me.

Donna Grantis-photo credit Karrah Kobus
Donna Grantis-photo credit Karrah Kobus

What is your project looking to achieve and your ambitions for it? What transformations or visions of a liveable future are you working towards in your community or organisation?

As creators, artists are uniquely positioned to radically imagine and share a vision for the future that can remind us all of what we are working towards. My aim is to create music that moves people emotionally. My hope is that the message of climate leaders expressed in the music will resonate with listeners to inspire feelings… of loss… of love for life and future generations… and of determination to affect change.

In the book Braiding Sweetgrass, author Robin Wall Kimmerer says:

“Imagination is one of our most powerful tools. What we imagine, we can become.” – Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass.

What is one piece of advice you would give to someone working on climate-related projects right now?

I’d like to quote Tzeporah Berman to answer this question. The lyrics below – sampled from an interview on a podcast called Care More Be Better: Fighting Against Fossil Fuels And Climate Change With Tzeporah Berman – inspired the song, A Drop In The Bucket.

It sometimes feels like you’re just a drop in the bucket
But those drops
They ripple out and they grow
And that is what makes change

With this is mind, my advice would be to keep going! I’ve found a meditation practice, such as one inspired by Plum Village’s Zen and the Art of Saving the Planet course, to be very helpful in building resilience and community.

Any upcoming programmes / webinars / events to mention?

New music coming soon!

What’s been the most unexpected connection you’ve made in your climate work? (asked by previous CCL Spotlight interviewee Feimatta Conteh)

I think activists and artists have a lot in common – we value purpose and meaning in the work we do that comes from a place of love. Collaborating with people outside of music has been an exciting, eye-opening and enlightening experience.

Check out Donna’s work


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