I am nearing the end of my 2-hour residency at the melted_away ice sculpture at the Flatiron building but I wanted to talk a bit about risk because there’s a lot of fear around change. Culture provides the will to change, but it also inhibits change by giving us models we are familiar with, that make us comfortable. So there is risk in change. The question is do we want to control that change and control the risk? Or do we want to let the change take place and avoid responsibility? So often we act and make things worse, so there’s a lot of reason to let change take place rather than act to make things worse.
Since, however, we are always acting, let us act on our own behalf and make those changes with risk in mind. Here at the Flatiron, Nora and Marshall are letting the words THE FUTURE melt_away. THE FUTURE will be gone by 11pm tonight. Expand that time frame and our inaction on climate change, allowing only the destructive elements of corporate development to act, and our civilization will melt_away. Can we think of an alternative action? The Anthropocene ice sculpture stands for THE human FUTURE. The planet will be fine without us. It’s time to come together to act. The Climate March raises awareness for decision makers that we are not silent; we are prepared to act; we expect them to act in accord with our interests, our long term interests.
At the beginning of the Humanist era, Geoffrey Chaucer wrote about a society where everyone was defined by their jobs: the knight, the squire, the priest, the housewife, the nun, and each had a separate story. In the environmental age people will start to identify themselves with how they view nature and all the stories have a common thread. Nature can be a cornucopia driven by our skills. Or we can passively receive its bounty, living from the fruits of other’s labor. We may think we cannot effect the world and hide away improving ourselves. All these different social beings contribute to arresting climate change, each in their own way. And we are not one thing as in humanism. Our view of nature changes as we do different things, washing dishes, skiing, working in the office…
Our common thread: humanity and nature as a single complex entity. As long as we continue to think of humanity as separate from nature, our solutions will be partial and their effects minimal. Social change drives climate change. We are both separate individual organisms and united by society and ecosystem. Michael Thompson is the inspiration for this thought.
Ligorano and Reese’s art renders environmental risk as an immediate message that we all understand, THE FUTURE melting_away. But the practical solutions beyond art engage the primary cause of global warming, HUMAN DESIRE, that doesn’t melt. Desire continues.
We have the technology to arrest climate change. We have the political systems to transform society. But we lack the will to change. Art, poetry, music supply our will, the justification, if you will, to change. Environmental change engages human endeavor broadly: political change, social change, change in how we imagine ourselves in the world, economic change, new art, more realistic views of risk. The list is thorough. Our understanding is partial and filled with error. Error is why we cannot rely on a moral principle to arrest climate change. We must deal with each component and model it against a world art and poetry imagine. And at each step in imagining we compare what we have made to the model. Is it working, what are the consequences, whose interest is served, how can we distribute the risk?