Thursday, February 08, 2018

Cored

Took my "Religion & Ecology" class to the first exhibition of the Climate Museum, a small but compelling show about the 2 miles of ice cores scientists have drawn from the Greenland ice sheet. These record 110,000 years of history, more than even the most ambitious human histories. It's somewhat cryptically called "In Human Time."

The centerpiece is an artist's 4.5 hour film of eighty-eight such cores slowly scrolling by, with a looping, ever-descending soundtrack. A curator had us watch it in silence for five short minutes, before the gallery was inundated with students from another class (whence my little video above), but it's hard to watch either way. What feelings or insights is this dive into deep time supposed to evoke? One of my students found it caused a sense of insignificance, powerlessness, despair (my feelings were similar), but one of the curators told me she thought people would be energized by it - how remarkable what science can show us, what art can do with these findings!

Part of the exhibition text: We have caused this new climate instability through technological progress. Now we must mobilize the same ingenuity and resolve to make as profound a transformation as moving from agrarian to industrial society: the clean energy transition.

It seems a sleight of hand to me somehow, but I suppose all of this involves in some way exaggerating the significance, and the purchase, of the scale of our living... It's the only one we can act in, even as it reverberates across bigger ones.

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