Giant Earth Art Displays Dramatize Climate Urgency
CANCUN, Mexico - Events this weekend
will cap 350 EARTH, a week-long series of giant public art displays
around the planet to help raise awareness of the climate crisis before
the United Nations annual climate summit begins in Cancun Monday.
Each art installation is visible from space and most of the projects are
being photographed by satellites 400 miles above the Earth operated by a
Colorado-based company, Digital Globe.
350 EARTH is organized by international climate campaign 350.org, whose
name points to goal of reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the
atmosphere from its current level of 390 parts per million to below 350
The majority of scientists say this atmospheric concentration is the
maximum that can accumulate if the planetary temperature increase is to
be kept to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
"Art can convey in a different way than science the threat that climate
change poses to our planet," said 350.org founder and environmental
author Bill McKibben, who organized 350 EARTH art project.
While the Cancun talks are not expected to result in a legally-binding
agreement limiting greenhouse gas emissions to carry on when the Kyoto
Protocol's first commitment period expires at the end of 2012, they are
expected to result in a shared vision for long-term cooperative action.
This vision addresses mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology
development and transfer, and capacity-building for developing
"The world's best scientists have tried to wake up politicians to the
climate crisis, now we're counting on artists to help," said McKibben,
who is in Cancun with several of the 350 EARTH artists.
Today, in Cairo, Egypt, hundreds of students formed the image of a
traditional scarab beetle, a traditional symbol of rebirth and
regeneration often depicted on temple walls pushing the ball of the Sun
across the sky. The creation of artist Sarah Rifaat, the image
represents a call to re-examine humans' relationship to this perpetual
source of clean energy, the Sun.
In the Australian Outback, hundreds of people with torches worked with
photographer Peter Solness and fire artist Keith Chidzey to create an
image of a burning number 350 symbolizing the inevitable increase in
wildfires if the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is not
Also today, more than 1,000 Brazilian children from public schools in
Tupa, western Sao Paulo state, formed a Sun in the middle of Brazil's
flag. Tica Minami said the point was "to remind our leaders the huge
potential our country has to generate energy from clean and renewable
sources." Solar panels from Brazilian company Blue Sol Solar Energy were
also used to form the design.
The 350 EARTH project began on November 20 with what McKibben calls a "human flash flood" in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Diane Karp, director of the Santa Fe Art Institute, said the event
showcased the potential bridge between communities of art and politics.
"The purpose of our action is not to fix the river because art will not
do that," Karp said, "but art does have the power to reach the hearts
and minds of the people who come into contact with it and inspire them
into political action."
Citizens from the Delta del Ebro area in Catalunya, Spain joined artist
Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada to form a giant representation of the face of a
young girl who wants to see the Delta survive the threat of climate
In Mexico City, people created a human hurricane surrounding a 350 in
the safe "eye of the storm" to represent the increase in extreme weather
that Mexico has been experiencing, as well as the hurricane of citizen
action necessary to solve the climate crisis.
In Los Angeles, international aerial art innovator John Quigley created a
mixed media installation at The Cornfields in Los Angeles Historic
State Park. People with solar photovoltaic film sheets formed the image
of a solar eagle taking flight to represent clean, renewable, energy
independence and global climate solutions from Earth to sky.
In New York City, artist Molly Dilworth created a "Cool Roof" for a
school by painting a lightly colored representation of the New York and
New Jersey coastline after a seven meter (23 foot) rise in sea levels.
The painting was produced with NYC CoolRoofs, a program launched in
September 2009 to mitigate the heat island effect and reduce energy
needs as part of New York City's sustainable energy plan. Dilworth is
famous for painting the temporary environmental mural, "Cool Water, Hot
Island," in the plazas on Broadway from 42nd to 47th Streets in Times
350 EARTH's May Boeve says, "I was particularly impressed to see a new
set of pictures from Manhattan, which round out the set of EARTH images
from the U.S. We intentionally worked with more artists in the U.S. than
in any other country, because the most work is needed here to motivate
the public to build a movement strong enough to confront the opponents
of climate action."
"We saw a winter garden 350 in Texas, home to oil companies and massive
wind power potential alike; a re-created river bed where drought
currently plagues the Santa Fe River in New Mexico; a solar eagle taking
flight in Los Angeles, air pollution and solar power potential unite;
and the rooftop mural in Manhattan depicting sea level rise," said
On November 21, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, young people
joined with other community members to form the image of a house being
submerged by the rising seas that threaten all island nations.
In Vancouver, Canada, people gathered to make two giant footprints large
enough to be seen from space to represent humanity's ecological
footprint on the planet.
On November 23 in New Delhi, India, 3,000 students from the Ryan
International School joined aerial artist Daniel Dancer to form the
image of an elephant to remind their leaders that they cannot afford to
ignore the elephant in the living room - climate change.
The 350 EARTH events continue this weekend. In Cancun, artist Jason
deCaires Taylor will unveil a coral reef sculpture made of 400 concrete
In Iceland, artists will form a giant polar bear on a glacier, while in
Cape Town, South Africa residents will assemble solar cookers into an
Thousands of people will gather on the coast in Brighton-Hove, UK on
Saturday to form an image of the legendary Norse ruler King Canute, who
unsuccessfully tried to control the ocean waves.
Designed by Radiohead's Thom Yorke, the image is a giant version of the image from the cover of his album "The Eraser."
"The plan is to make images visible from the skies to remind those in
Cancun that we are running out of time," said Yorke. "We can't keep
putting this off."