I have read dozens of reports and articles about climate change, and heard at least as many scientists talk. I can confidently say that I understand the basic science and that I am aware of the potential consequences of our actions. Yet that understanding hits me most profoundly when I am confronted with a piece of art that helps me not just understand but feel the impact of climate change.
I have been watching The Future melt for over two hours now, and every time a piece breaks off, a little piece of my heart breaks off with it. I have grown attached to this melting block of ice and feel, on a very small scale, the sense of loss that perhaps we are not allowing ourselves to feel on a much bigger scale. I am reminded that the future is both beautiful and fragile and that at a moment’s notice, it may fall apart. And I can’t help but think about the Buddhist teaching that says that we only ever have the present moment. The future never arrives. It is always out there, slightly out of reach. But its quality is forever determined by what we make of each moment.
By the end of the day, The Future will be reduced to a puddle of melt water. But hundreds of people will have engaged with it: touched it, photographed it, talked about it, posted or tweeted about it. They may not remember or even know that we recently passed the 400 ppm threshold, or that the Arctic is warming faster than the rest of the world. But they’ll remember the poetry of a melting block of ice. Perhaps they’ll even be touched by it and shape their next present moment in a way that protects that ever elusive future.