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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Fire & Ice

Fire & Ice

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Thursday, May 16, 2019/Categories: natural history, wildlife conservation, photography, video, sustainability, art and design, environment, climate change

                                      Camp Fire, Northern California 2018 (credit: NASA Landsat-8)

In the 1920 poem Fire & Ice, the famous writer Robert Frost pondered how the world would meet its end:

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great and would suffice.

The myriad impacts due to climate change were unknown in Frost's day. However, he did pose a very existential question.

The consequences of climate change were first widely predicted in the mid-1980's but they were estimated not to begin unfolding until the middle of the 21st Century. What was predicted for the 2050's is already happening now. Amplified severe weather events including super-storms; rising sea levels; marine coral bleaching; melting polar ice; and mega-fires are now hard to ignore. These climate signals are global as new data is added every year. The Scripps Institution of Oceanography has just measured the highest concentration of CO2 ever recorded, 415ppm, at the summit of their monitoring station on Mount Mauna Loa in Hawai'i. This level of atmospheric carbon dioxide is higher than it has been since before humans even existed.

Scientific data, published reports, and economic costs associated with such extreme events are critical but they can also seem obscure and hard to interpret by many people. Artists can play a major role in communicating scientific findings considering their ability to see the environment in highly visual, profound, and impactful ways. Several have taken climate change as their mission and now focus on extreme fires and melting glaciers to illustrate climate change happening in California and Greenland.

Jeff Frost, a video artist, and Zaria Forman, an illustrator, use their subjects to produce important statements with their visual creations. They are hauntingly beautiful as well. Frost has produced an installation, Fire in California, to showcase the power of fire, the people impacted, and the first responders who must battle the blazes. Forman was asked by NASA to join their aerial survey program Operation Ice Bridge to observe the Greenland icecap so she could gain further perspective for her realistic, but also abstract-appearing, ethereal ic landscapes. These efforts are ongoing 'works in progress' for both artists.

These artists are creating powerful statements at the intersection of visual art, environmental science, and social action. Their efforts should be widely seen to prevent the outcomes Frost pondered.

WHB

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