Over the past week, thousands of people in thirteen countries staged the world’s first art show visible from space. Coordinated by 350.org, the project included aerial installations from Los Angeles to Egypt to Icleland. Like October’s Global Work Party, this event highlighted our species’ vulnerability to climate change–and our ability to find solutions. DigitalGlobe, a Colorado-based aerial imaging company, photographed the formations with satellites 400 miles above the equator.
Red Polar Bear by Bjargey Ólafsdóttir, Langjökull Glacier, Iceland
The project ended November 27, just in time for the UN climate conference in Cancun.
Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, who organized an art piece in Brighton, England, explained on his site,
The plan is to make images visible from the skies to remind those in Cancun that we’re running out of time. We can’t keep putting this off.
Thom Yorke's image of King Canute in Brighton, UK
While it’s exciting to see a climate-activism event on this scale, it is clear that no amount of artistry can take the place of a comprehensive international effort to reduce carbon emissions. However, widespread change does not often begin at the political apex, and it does not often survive without popular support.
From a HuffPost oped signed by Bill McKibben; hip-hop innovator DJ Spooky; urban artist Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada; and Santa Fe Art Institute director Diane Karp:
You might ask: so what? 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 really woken up to the danger at hand.
Waking people up is one of the tasks at which artists excel. And in this case, the medium really is the message. By using, for the first time, the whole earth as a canvas, they’ll be reminding all of us the one root truth of the global warming era: we really do live on aplanet. A planet, just like Mars or Saturn, where the gaseous composition of the atmosphere determines whether life is possible. And just one planet—not the separate nations and classes we think we inhabit, but a round piece of rock with one atmosphere where the carbon we pour skyward mixes invisibly to set the temperature….
We won’t solve this crisis with images. But maybe we can help build the pressure for politicians and businesspeople to act. There’s a movement building the world around, and it can’t appeal to the head alone.
Climate Elephant by Daniel Dancer, New Delhi, India
You can view more photos from the planetary art show on the 350.org Facebook and Flickr pages.