How can Erskine Solar Art influence Climate Change & Sustainability?
“A new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move to higher levels.”
– Albert Einstein.
To define environmental sustainability we must first define sustainability. Sustainability is the ability to continue a specific behavior indefinitely. To define what environmental sustainability is we turn to the experts.
Economist Herman Daly, one of the early pioneers of ecological sustainability, looked at the problem from a maintenance of natural capital viewpoint. In 1990 he proposed that:
“Environmental sustainability is the rates of renewable resource harvest, pollution creation, and non-renewable resource depletion that can be continued indefinitely. If they cannot be continued indefinitely then they are not sustainable.”
Why is Herman Daly’s definition important?
Unfortunately, often the world’s standard definition of “environmental sustainability” is “sustainable development”, which usually means sustainable economic growth, which is an oxymoron, unless growth is very narrowly defined.No form of economic growth – if it depletes non-renewable resources or pollutes the planet – can be continued indefinitely. Furthermore, almost all economic growth today is environmentally degrading.
Therefore, under the current planetary “development” model, it’s impossible to be sustainable and achieve economic growth at the same time. That’s why definitions like Daly’s must replace the world’s standard resource degrading definition of “sustainability.” In their 2013 book,“Enough is Enough.” Robert Dietz and Dan O’Neil elaborate on Daly’s model of the “Steady State Economy” as a viable alternative to today’s model of pollution and resource depleting growth.
Climate Change & Sustainability
According to Daly, Dietz and O’Neil, climate change fits into the sustainability category of “pollution creation” because it is caused by humans adding polluting greenhouse gases to the atmosphere faster than the system can absorb them to keep our global climate stable. The present rates of increase of carbon dioxide, methane, and other compounds are predicted to change the climate enough to kill off 25 -50% of all living species and make civilization as we know it, unrecognizable within the next 50 to 100 years – or sooner.
In his 2013 book, “Overheated: The Human Cost of Climate Change” Berkeley Professor Andrew Guzman, authority on international law and economics, predicts that even with only a 2 degree Celsius rise in global temperature, a hotter world will bring unprecedented migrations, famine, war, and disease. In a “modest” 2 degree scenario, Guzman predicts that tens of millions, and possibly hundreds of millions will die, creating a social and political disaster the likes of which the world has never seen.
Clearly, climate change is possibly the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced. But climate change is also a unique challenge, because we are all causing it, and the “solutions” will likely necessitate changes in our contemporary life style, which in turn, can challenge our fundamental sense of personal existential identity. Thus, the enormity of the problem (“the end of the world as we know it’) and our aversion to imagined solutions (“freezing in the dark”) often create an uncomfortable tangle of paralyzing psychological and behavioral conflicts about how we feel, think, and act around global warming. A recent Yale study put numbers on these beliefs. For example, whereas only 4% of Americans polled say humans can and will successfully reduce global warming, about one in four (26%) says we won’t because people are unwilling to change their behavior, and about one in five says humans can’t reduce global warming even if it is happening.
Clearly, a large percentage of Americans have “checked out” out on thinking or acting against global warming. And as the carbon in our oceans and air relentlessly increases, climate communicators and policy makers are stymied as to how to lessen the numbers of “checked out” citizens.
Is it time to start thinking outside the box?
Climate Change, Sustainability and Solar Spectrum Environmental Art
What if we could find a non-cognitive, non-language based approach to change feeling, thinking and behavior around global warming?
Secrets of the Sun (S.O.S.) – Solar Spectrum Environmental Art
• Peter Erskine’s Secrets of the Sun (S.O.S.) – Solar Spectrum Environmental Art installation leverages the emotional impact of art, age old rituals, our inherent genetic connection to the sun, giant rainbows, real-time healing ambient sound, participatory experience (all visitors actually wear a space age white jumpsuit) and shared conversations to shift hearts and minds about global warming.
• In Secrets of the Sun (S.O.S.), people actually walk inside the unfathomable beauty and life giving energy of our star. Participants have commented “Seeing S.O.S. changed forever the way I think about the sun.”
• Experiencing the non-verbal natural beauty of S.O.S. offers visitor/participants an entirely new way to deeply connect with Nature again, and acknowledge and “work through” the deep psychological and emotional barriers of fear, denial and helplessness so many people are quite naturally experiencing around global warming.
• S.O.S. offers unique opportunities for personal and group engagement with climate change problems and solutions – within the exhibition itself – to gain personal agency and direct social involvement in climate communication and to become a part of the climate solution.
• Previous installations in Rome, Berlin and Los Angeles have demonstrated the effectiveness ( link to Q&A book) (what people say about Secrets of the Sun) of S.O.S. to create personal change around global warming. Moved by the increasing urgency of the climate crisis and by the success(?) of the 2015 Paris Climate Summit, Peter Erskine is now creating a new version of S.O.S. – increasing the impact of the original solar light and sound installation and adding “the comfort and safety of healing conversations among visitors” and “social media outreach platforms” that engage visitors in the agency of climate change solutions and “spreading the word” while they are still inside the art exhibition.
• Take away “hardware” (rainbow prisms that exhibition visitors can put in their windows at home to remind them of the exhibition) provide a strong “behavioral anchor” to their transformative experience of the Secrets of the Sun (S.O.S.) installation and keep it alive in the their awareness and future behavior.
• And finally, S.O.S. makes our immanent solar powered future concrete for visitors. The 100% solar powered installation not only brings the scary dangers of global warming to life so that visitors can actually face and work through them, its “sexy” solar hardware concretizes the role solar energy can play in our future by bringing visitors in direct physical contact with the exhibition’s space age solar technology: The 8,000 watt Heliostat solar tracking mirror, solar reflecting mirrors, microprocessors, solar powered sound system, laser-cut solar prisms, PV solar electric panels, and the storage batteries that will form the basis of our dawning “Solar Age”.
Los Angeles, USA, 1995. Erskine selected Union Station as the site for “S.O.S. – LA” because of its Art Modern beauty, and for the symbolic power of sustainable mass transit in combating climate change.