Can Art Inspire Us to Effect Climate Change?

This post originally appeared on the Wheelock College Blog.

cool globes

Cool Globes along Boston Common / via

If you’ve been to Boston Common or Copley Square in the last few weeks, you’ve no doubt noticed the giant decorated globes adorning Boylston and Tremont Street Boston is the latest stop on the tour for Cool Globes: Hot Ideas for a Cooler Planet. These life-sized works of art were designed by a variety of artists using different mediums, each with a specific point to make, indicated by plaques paired with each globe.

Founder Wendy Abrams created the Cool Globes public art project to raise awareness around climate change problems and solutions. Her concern and motivation came from the realization that this would directly impact her children. The lack of action struck her:

“The more I learned, the more I was bewildered by the discrepancy between the scientific community’s alarm and general public’s silence. The public seemed relatively unconcerned by the scientists’ daunting predictions, if they were even aware of the predictions at all.”

Abrams’ exhibition arrives not a moment too soon. On September 27, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released it’s latest findings.The IPCC is an international group created by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in 1988 to evaluate climate change and its impact. The news is disheartening to say the least:

Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950’s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia . The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, the sea level has risen, and the concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased.

Each of the last three decades has been successively warmer at the Earth’s surface than any preceding decade since 1850.

Over the last two decades, the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have been losing mass, glaciers have continued to shrink almost worldwide, and Arctic sea ice and Northern Hemisphere spring snow cover have continued to decrease in extent.

The rate of sea level rise since the mid-19th century has been larger than the mean rate during the previous two millennia.

In layman’s terms: the waters are rising, the Earth is heating up, and the planet is losing landmass.

I’m excited about the Cool Globes project because of the opportunity to educate. Fundamentally, I see a lack of education around sustainability and environmental protection. It’s hard to get upset, angry, or scared by what you’re not aware of. Most of my environmental education happened during adulthood. I remember learning about recycling in elementary school, but I can’t recall anything past that. The environment never came up in middle school civics and there was no mention of climate change in any high school science class. At a basic level, no one ever suggested that I bike to school. Instead, I drove the 1.8 miles to my high school every day that I owned a car. And never once did we question the need for one car for every person in our household.

The good news is that there are resources to battle our continued ignorance: The Cool Globes website has activities and lesson plans suitable for sixth graders. PBS Kids has an entire program for teaching environmental stewardship to children between ages eight and nine. For the adult students among us (chances are that’s you), Boston’s Greenovate program has resources ranging from managing your household electronics to encouraging your place of employment to think more sustainably. At the government level, the Sierra Club has a letter you can send right now to President Obama and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to support “protections against carbon pollution from new power plants.”

If Al Gore can be optimistic, then I think the rest of us can be. We’re aware of the problem and there are ways to effect change at every level. How will you educate your family, your communities, your employers, and your government representatives? The IPCC report has delivered us the urgency we will need to act and, if you live near Boston, you’ve got a beautiful conversation piece waiting for you on the Common.

Further  Reading:      

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