Our Climate Projected: an artistic conversation on climate change

Milton Glaser, creator of the “I ♥ NY” logo, uses this new design to communicate the reality of global warming.

Cre­ative respons­es pri­or to the Sep­tem­ber march include a new cam­paign by Mil­ton Glaser (cre­ator of the “I ♥ NY” logo) and also Jessie Reilly’s “Our Cli­mate Pro­ject­ed” ini­tia­tive, described below.

As major orga­ni­za­tions pre­pare to stage a his­toric cli­mate ral­ly on Sep­tem­ber 21, peo­ple with a cre­ative back­ground may be seek­ing ways to help get the word out. Jessie Reilly’s par­tic­i­pa­to­ry project Our Cli­mate Pro­ject­ed is one way you can join in. Chelsea Wat­son recent­ly spoke to Jessie Reil­ly about the poten­tial of new forms of com­mu­ni­ca­tion and par­tic­i­pa­tion on the issue of cli­mate change:

Nor­mal­ly not a fan of fly­ing, Jessie Reil­ly ignores in-flight safe­ty videos. She finds it dif­fi­cult to lis­ten to flight atten­dants dry­ly tell you what will hap­pen if your plane hap­pens to fall from the sky and crash. It’s not pleas­ant to think about, and not very enter­tain­ing. How­ev­er, on a recent flight Reil­ly was sur­prised to see a safe­ty video pre­sent­ed in the style of a Broad­way musi­cal. She found that, despite the cheesy ridicu­lous­ness, she was not only engaged, but also more calm and at ease.

Reil­ly sim­i­lar­ly uses the­ater and art as a plat­form for edu­ca­tion. After par­tic­i­pat­ing in protests and oth­er tra­di­tion­al forms of activism in col­lege, she want­ed to find anoth­er way to get a mes­sage across. “I rec­og­nized shout­ing at peo­ple on the street rarely works,” and want­ed to find a way that actu­al­ly engages peo­ple.”

That’s when Reil­ly joined the Bread and Pup­pet The­ater com­pa­ny, where she trav­eled the world learn­ing to use art and visu­als to artic­u­late com­pli­cat­ed ideas. The pup­pet shows were a way to engage peo­ple on poten­tial­ly tough issues, such as the Iraq War. Today, she’s apply­ing her inno­v­a­tive approach to the dif­fi­cult sub­ject of cli­mate change.

On Sep­tem­ber 21st, thou­sands of peo­ple will take to the streets of New York City for the People’s Cli­mate March, cen­tered around this fall’s Unit­ed Nations Cli­mate Sum­mit. Local and nation­al orga­ni­za­tions are call­ing for a day of mass mobi­liza­tion to show sup­port for seri­ous action on cli­mate change.

The march is expect­ed to be the biggest envi­ron­men­tal protest in his­to­ry, involv­ing many envi­ron­men­tal, social, and racial jus­tice groups. In addi­tion to the march, some indi­vid­u­als have cre­at­ed oth­er inno­v­a­tive ways to get involved and speak up about cli­mate change. New York­ers Jessie Reil­ly and Nathan Storey have cre­at­ed “Our Cli­mate Pro­ject­ed,” a project in which peo­ple from all over the world are invit­ed to sub­mit a short artis­tic respon­se or reflec­tion on cli­mate change. The sub­mis­sions will be com­piled into what they describe as a “col­lab­o­ra­tive tapes­try of medi­ums and voic­es” to be pro­ject­ed in pub­lic spaces of NYC lead­ing up to the day of action on Sep­tem­ber 21st. I had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to speak with Jessie and hear why she thinks her project will be a pow­er­ful, engag­ing com­ple­ment to the march.

Our Cli­mate Pro­ject­ed” is a com­pi­la­tion of artis­tic reflec­tions on cli­mate change and will serve as an act of pub­lic edu­ca­tion. It is designed to allow peo­ple on both sides of the dia­logue – the talk­ers and the lis­ten­ers – to engage in the cli­mate change con­ver­sa­tion in a new, inno­v­a­tive way. Jessie believes express­ing cli­mate change real­i­ty through art and audio­vi­su­als will allow peo­ple to absorb infor­ma­tion in a way they oth­er­wise could not:

Cli­mate change is dif­fi­cult for peo­ple to talk about because it’s ter­ri­fy­ing. I think art cre­ates a cer­tain amount of dis­tance that allows peo­ple to engage with some­thing artis­ti­cal­ly and reflect in a man­ner that allows you to appre­ci­ate it. If it’s some­thing artis­tic, it may hit you on an emo­tion­al lev­el that is hard­er to ignore.

She may be on to some­thing. Despite the fact that 97% of cli­mate sci­en­tists agree that cli­mate change is occur­ring and is human caused, only one in ten (12%) of Amer­i­cans are aware of the exact extent of the sci­en­tific con­sen­sus. This tremen­dous gap between cli­mate sci­ence and Amer­i­cans’ beliefs reveals a flaw in com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Even those who are aware of the sci­ence of cli­mate change often neglect to do any­thing about it. This inac­tion was referred to as “stealth denial” in a report by the RSA, and is often explained by an individual’s emo­tion­al reac­tion to cli­mate change, such as feel­ings of guilt, worth­less­ness, or resent­ment. In many ways, cli­mate change is an emo­tion­al issue. Ro Ran­dall, British psy­chother­a­pist and co-founder of Car­bon Con­ver­sa­tion goes on to sug­gest that peo­ple must then be reached on this deep­er lev­el in order for real change to occur.

Ran­dall says, “Behav­iour is a sur­face phe­nom­e­non. Beneath it lie more com­plex moti­va­tions and mean­ings and the tur­moil of emotion…more imag­i­na­tive and per­son­al respons­es are required in work­ing with peo­ple to achieve change in their indi­vid­u­al and fam­i­ly lives .”

Art is one way to encour­age the imag­i­na­tive and per­son­al respons­es Ran­dall says are nec­es­sary. Per­haps in find­ing new forms of com­mu­ni­ca­tion through projects like “Our Cli­mate Pro­ject­ed,” Jessie and oth­ers will be able bet­ter express the sev­ere real­i­ty of cli­mate change today .

Jessie hopes that a project where one can sim­ply email, share on drop­box, or mail her a DVD/CD of their sub­mis­sion will allow engage­ment on an inter­na­tion­al lev­el. While it is not eco­nom­i­cal­ly or envi­ron­men­tal­ly sound for many peo­ple around the globe to trav­el to NYC for the People’s Cli­mate March, she hopes “Our Cli­mate Pro­ject­ed” will serve as an oppor­tu­ni­ty for many more to have a voice, even if they won’t be march­ing. Jessie has reached out to com­mu­ni­ties where she has worked pre­vi­ous­ly as a pup­peteer, includ­ing schools in India and Guatemala, and looks for­ward to see­ing what they cre­ate.

Jessie says, “My hope is to get as many voic­es as pos­si­ble in order to encour­age par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Sep­tem­ber 21st march, or even just to get peo­ple to think more about cli­mate change.”

If you would like to send a sub­mis­sion to Jessie and Nathan they request it arrive by August 25th in order to ensure inclu­sion. Sub­mis­sions can be any medi­um: the­ater, music, dance, visu­al art, spo­ken word, etc. Ulti­mate­ly, all sub­mis­sions will be pre­sent­ed in a pro­ject­ed video for­mat, so short videos, audio record­ings, pdfs, jpgs, slides, or oth­er eas­i­ly con­vert­ible for­mats work best.

Sub­mis­sions of 10 sec­ond-10 min­utes can be emailed to
ourclimateprojected@​gmail.​com

Or mailed to:
Our Cli­mate Pro­ject­ed
70 Lef­ferts Place­Brook­lyn, NY 11238.