PROJECT: Imagine that the human race has one hundred years to prepare for “the second post-apocalyptic greenhouse.”
Life on Earth came close to complete annihilation about 250 million years ago. For millions of years, virtually the only tetra-pod on land was the plant-eating Lythtrosurus that relied on the few surviving herbaceous plants for its sustenance. It took 100 million years for global diversity to return to pre-extinction levels. This period is referred to as “post-apocalyptic greenhouse”. According to a report in the Guardian Unlimited, we may be approaching a second post-apocalyptic greenhouse: “Rising global temperatures over the next century could trigger a catastrophe to rival the worst mass extinction in the history of the planet….Researchers at Bristol University say their studies show that six degrees of global warming was enough to wipe out up to 95 per cent of the species which were alive on earth at the end of the Permian period, 250 million years ago. Up to six degrees of warming is now predicted for the next hundred years by United Nations scientists from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), if nothing is done about emissions of greenhouse gases, principally carbon dioxide, the chief cause of global warming….”5
Zoologists, hydrologists, botanists, engineers, and pathologists are among the professionals who foresee a time when the Earth’s waters will rise and inundate the cities that once controlled the harbors. Bridges, streets, stadiums, power plants, banks, and other buildings will be submerged under water. Sunken dikes and sea walls will testify to humanity’s futile efforts to stem the raging tides. Beached oil tankers and stealth bombers will lie useless in the muck, while outsized SARS, West Nile, mad cow disease, and AIDS viruses flourish amid the wreckage. Such disruptions and despoilments, inherent to current urban lifestyles, signal the end of human life on Earth. They provide an ideal theme for creating an eco artwork designed to perturb!
Aspects of this dismal scenario appear in the works by Kaprow (disappearance of rivers), Krajcberg (decimation of forests), Lin (extinctions) , Steiner & Lenzlinger (drought), and Zurkow (rising waters). In contrast, these apocalyptic conditions are the consequence of the actions that are depicted by Ant Farm (consumerism), Beehive (energy gluttony), Chin (toxic deposits), Yun (e-waste), CAE (genetically modified crops), Eke (petroleum dependence), Haacke (industrial waste), HeHe (emissions), Ji (energy production), Mandiberg (consumption).
READ – TO LIFE! Any three chapters listed above.
PROJECT: Imagine that the human race has one hundred years to prepare for “the second post-apocalyptic greenhouse.”6 Only two alternatives are available to all living species – even those as different as microorganisms and humans. They either adapt or they become extinct. Create a work of art that evokes this crisis by proposing drastic adaptation strategies through advanced genetic engineering, or reverting to primitive practices, or desperate attempts to escape to another galaxy, or inventing a life-extending technology. Your artwork should provoke anxiety. You may use any medium to create a performance, a narrative, an illustration, or a prototype.
DISCUSSION: Is dread an effective motivator of environmental reform?
5 Global Warming Could Trigger Mass Extinction, Press Association, June 19, 2003. http://www.guardian.co.uk/climatechange/story/0,12374,980561,00.html
6 Global Warming Could Trigger Mass Extinction, Press Association, June 19, 2003. http://www.guardian.co.uk/climatechange/story/0,12374,980561,00.html