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Saving the Earth with Art
Every once in a while, it's time to try something a little different.
After two years of global grassroots organizing, we're pulling out a big gun in the fight against global warming: art.
Next month's UN Climate talks in Cancun promise more disappointment--politicians around the world are already lowering expectations and backing away from commitments. In the days leading up to that conference, though, the world will see a new kind of spectacle: the first planet-scale group art show. We're calling it 350 EARTH, and it will feature art so big you'll need to back all the way up to outer space for a proper view.
In over a dozen places around the globe, well-known artists have sketched simple designs communicating climate solutions and climate impacts. We'll be gathering huge numbers of people--thousands at a time--to execute these designs in deserts, on snowfields, any place with a good background. All those bodies will be photographed by satellites generously donated by DigitalGlobe, orbiting the EARTH from 76,000 feet above the equator.
These satellites will photograph some remarkable scenes: a "flash flood" in a Santa Fe canyon, a house threatened by rising water in the hurricane-haunted Dominican Republic; the Chinese character for water in a Beijing park. In South Africa and Egypt they'll incorporate solar panels into the designs; in Iceland and India images of polar bears and elephants, both threatened as the temperature rises.
We don't think 350 EARTH will solve the problem by itself; it's not our main strategy; but right now we need a way to remind the world of what's at stake, so it doesn't forget about climate change entirely. Usually we aim at people's rational brains--this time we're going for the heart.
If you're nearby, we'll need your bodies, and if you're far away, we'll need you to tell this story far and wide and engage your friends, colleagues, and neighbors in a different way on climate change. Thousands more individuals and communities will get together at the end of November to create their own climate art: murals, recycled art, stencils and more to inspire their community to action. Get some ideas here, and be sure to send us photos.
You might ask: why art? Don't we really need new engines and turbines? And the answer is: of course. But we won't get them, not in numbers sufficient to make a difference, until we've all really woken up to the danger at hand. And art--sometimes more than science--is very good at waking people up.
But we can't leave science out. Many of these designs will have the number 350 in one corner--a reminder of the collaboration needed between the arts and sciences. That's the number a NASA-led team three years ago identified as the most important on earth. Beyond it, they said, we couldn't count on a planet "similar to the one on which civilization developed and to which life on earth is adapted." We're already past 350--the atmosphere is approching 390 ppm which is why Russia catches on fire and Pakistan drowns. Which is why, for the next couple of weeks, we'll be busy making art.
We won't solve this crisis with art and images alone, but maybe we can help build the pressure for politicians and business people to act, and inspire more hearts to join us in the process.
There's a movement building the world around, and it can't appeal to the head alone.
Bill McKibben for the 350.org Team
P.S. We're focusing on 350 EARTH and the Cancun climate talks for the next few weeks--but we're gearing up for a much larger campaign for the months and years ahead. As usual, we'll need help and input from people all around the world to make it work, and we'll let you know how you can plug in. Stay tuned.