Using Natural History Collections and Art to Communicate About Climate Change

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A project by students in the class "CO-EVOLUTION: Art + Biology in the Museum." Spring 2012 University of New Mexico

Transcript of Using Natural History Collections and Art to Communicate About Climate Change

  • 1by Julia Anderson, Kayce Bell, Xiangyun Chen Spring 2012

    University of New MexicoClimate Change Dispersion ModuleUniversity of New MexicoClimate Change Dispersion ModuleUsing Natural History

    Collections and Art to Communicate About

    Climate Change

    By Julia Anderson, Kayce Bell, and Xiangyun ChenUniversity of New MexicoCo-Evolution: Art and BiologyClimate Change Module

  • 1by Julia Anderson, Kayce Bell, Xiangyun Chen Spring 2012

    University of New MexicoClimate Change Dispersion Module

    Using Natural History Collections and Art to Communicate About

    Climate Change

    Table of ContentsIntroductionCounter-Examples of Climate Change ArtPoster Assignment OverviewKey ConceptsClimate ScienceBiologySocial ScienceArtARCTOS Natural History Collection ActivityPoster Assignment DetailsPositive Example of Climate Change ArtConclusionWorks Cited

    University of New MexicoClimate Change Dispersion Module

  • University of New MexicoClimate Change Dispersion Module

    2by Julia Anderson, Kayce Bell, Xiangyun Chen Spring 2012

    This module incorporates biology, physical scienc-es, social sciences, and art to discuss and com-municate about climate change. Students will be re-quired to complete background readings on climate change, one from a biological and physical science perspective, one from a social and cultural perspec-tive, and one from an artistic perspective. The mod-ule begins by looking at some art and design pieces meant to communicate about climate change, but that are scientifically inaccurate. The class then has the opportunity to apply similar critique to other pieces. Students are challenged to create a more ef-fective poster, and given some background in climate science, biology, social science, and art to support them in thier goal of promoting accurate discus-sion of climate change or climate change research.

    Introduction

    University of New MexicoClimate Change Dispersion Module

  • University of New MexicoClimate Change Dispersion Module

    2 3by Julia Anderson, Kayce Bell, Xiangyun Chen Spring 2012

    University of New MexicoClimate Change Dispersion ModuleUniversity of New MexicoClimate Change Dispersion Module

    Raising awareness about climate change is a cause that has inspired many individuals and organizations, but not all of them have focused on the accuracy of the concepts they are utilizing. This module will critique a selection of posters on global warming that visually discuss many of the key con-cepts around climate change, but in a way that is scienfifi-cally nonsensical.

    All of the pieces selected display a high level of tech-nical skill, creativity, asthetic vision, and originate from a genuine desire to help. They are dynamic and attention getting, which is excellent for a publicity campaign.

    However, simply visually representing the concepts globe and warm together doesnt necessarily convey any useful knowledge about global warming. Although they may not be intended to be taken literally, it is also possible for awareness-raising material to create or perpetuate mis-information and confusion.

    Metaphor is an essential tool for any artist, but it is important to be careful of creating straw men for opponents to knock down. And using hyperbole to construct drama and mythologizing the evils that contribute to this threat may make anthropogenic climate change seem more like an apoca-lypse or paranoia than something that can be addressed by citizen action.

    Misinformation in Climate Change Awareness Art

  • University of New MexicoClimate Change Dispersion Module

    4by Julia Anderson, Kayce Bell, Xiangyun Chen Spring 2012

    The sum of climate change is that the planet is warming...

    Is the heating of the planet from the outside, the planets core, or is the earth generating heat by being burned? An image of a globe that is warm may raise awareness about global warming, but it does not necessarily give any useful information about the source of the heat.

  • University of New MexicoClimate Change Dispersion Module

    4 5by Julia Anderson, Kayce Bell, Xiangyun Chen Spring 2012

    University of New MexicoClimate Change Dispersion Module

    ...but where is the heat comming from, and what is it actually doing?

    There is a connec-tion between fos-sil fuels, combus-tion, greenhouse gas, and the warm-ing of the planet, but the warming is not comming from the heat of burn-ing gasses.

    The sun has something to do with it, but how might turning natural forces into storybook villains work to simplify or obscure real environmental and socio-political problems?

  • University of New MexicoClimate Change Dispersion Module

    6by Julia Anderson, Kayce Bell, Xiangyun Chen Spring 2012

    Living things are going to need to adapt, move, or face extinction...

    Some organisms are going to die, but what does that actually look like? Do they burn to death? Starve? De-hydrate? How can we predict which living things will join the mass extinction?

    Obviously a rhinocer-ous becoming a marine animal or a polar bear breathing fire are outrageous (but awe-some looking) adapta-tions. What adaptions should we expect, and can the process of evolution keep up with rapid climate change?

  • University of New MexicoClimate Change Dispersion Module

    6 7by Julia Anderson, Kayce Bell, Xiangyun Chen Spring 2012

    University of New MexicoClimate Change Dispersion Module

    ... what are the real biological responses to a warming climate?

    Animals that are adapted to cold climates may need to move as their environment warms, or adapt to warmer temperatures. But, with other kinds of habitat loss, where will they go? What if they are already living in the coldest place on the planet? What about isolated creatures like those on islands?

  • University of New MexicoClimate Change Dispersion Module

    8by Julia Anderson, Kayce Bell, Xiangyun Chen Spring 2012

    Sea levels are rising, weather patterns are weirding, and ecosystems are changing...

    How does pollution interact or compound with increased temperatures and higher sea levels?

    The effect of heat on cold parts of the planet gets a lot of attention but what about the hottest parts? Do higher temperatures make deserts warmer? Will more liquid water in the sea and changing weather patterns make them wetter or drier?

    Here are two examples to con-trast how simplifying climate change concepts like the po-lar ice caps are disappear-ing can lead to very differ-ent assumptions. The artist on the left might have used their knowledge of the effect of heat on water (evaporation) to try to make sense of such a statement. (The title of the piece on the left is Global Warming but we do not have the full translation of the text.)

  • University of New MexicoClimate Change Dispersion Module

    8 9by Julia Anderson, Kayce Bell, Xiangyun Chen Spring 2012

    University of New MexicoClimate Change Dispersion Module

    ...but what are the real characters and scales of this change and how can

    humans react?

    Flooding is expected in some areas, but how suddenly will it happen and where? How does inequality in wealth and access to resources ef-fect which areas get protected and which will be allowed to flood? If one city or other area protects it-self with dykes, does their flood-water get diverted somewhere else?

  • University of New MexicoClimate Change Dispersion Module

    10by Julia Anderson, Kayce Bell, Xiangyun Chen Spring 2012

    States and corporations are accused of blocking attempts to act on climate change...

    This 2007 ad campaign by fashion brand Diesel is in-credibly clever. Both people who accept climate change and those who deny it can see these ads as a parody making fun of the other side. In this case, the bad science is perfectly intentional.

  • University of New MexicoClimate Change Dispersion Module

    10 11by Julia Anderson, Kayce Bell, Xiangyun Chen Spring 2012

    University of New MexicoClimate Change Dispersion Module

    ...but who profits from, and who is exploited by, a warming climate and its

    causes?

    This stunningly well done piece is actually a statement about greed rather than climate change. However, it is an ex-cellent example of how an im-age can powerfully use concepts like globe, heat, corporation, consumption, mining, wealth, inequality, destruction, wa-setfullness, etc. that are all highly relevant to discussions of climate change without ac-curately utilizing any of the real science of global warming.

    There have been accusations that scientists inves-tigating climate change are look-ing for reseach funding and may have falsified data or presented it misleadingly. Where did these claims come from, and how have they been addressed?

  • University of New MexicoClimate Change Dispersion Module

    12by Julia Anderson, Kayce Bell, Xiangyun Chen Spring 2012

    The alternative to misleading but attractive graphic posters with little scientific accuracy is often the dense school project style display that is appealing only to audi-ences who want to dedicate that much time to educating them-selves on climate change. Those people, of course, are not typically the ones who awareness campaigns need to reach.

    The assignment for this module is to try to find a happy medium. Design a poster or other simple piece of art that is catchy and appealing but also uses some of the real sci-ence around climate change in a meaningful way. While read-ing through the background material, make a note of any information that is new or important to you, and any unan-swered questions you still have that you ma