Deception Pass Collection

Megan Hall:  Welcome to Possibly, where we take on huge problems like the future of our planet and break them down into small questions with unexpected answers. I’m Megan Hall.

Today, we have a question from one of our reporters, Kolya Shields. What do you have for us, today, Kolya?  

Kolya Shields: Well, When I’m not writing for Possibly, I’m an artist! I was wondering if I could use my passion for good — can art help fight climate change? 

Megan Hall: We had Ashley Junger from our Possibly team help Kolya look into it. Welcome, Ashley  and Kolya!

Ashley Junger: Hi, Megan!

Kolya Shields: Hello!

Megan Hall: So, can art make an impact when it comes to climate change? 

Ashley Junger: To find out, we spoke to two of the founders of the Tempestry Project, Emily McNeil and Asy Connelly, who make textile art about rising temperatures. Emily says-

Emily McNeil: “Tempestry is a word we made up that comes from temperature tapestry,” 

Kolya Shields: Asy says they make textiles by

Asy Connelly: “taking daily high temperatures, applying a color scale to that, and knitting it. Every day is a row…”

Megan Hall: Sounds like a fun project, but what can these tell us about climate change?

Kolya Shields: Well, their art is inspired by something called climate stripes. They were invented in 2018 by a climatologist named Ed Hawkins. 

Ashley Junger:  Ed Hawkins’ climate stripes include no numbers or figures. They’re just lines of color- each line represents a year’s average temperature. The colors start at dark blue for years that were cooler than average, up to bright red for years that were hotter than average.

Kolya Shields: Emily and Asy do the same thing, but with yarn.

Emily McNeil: “I’m working on one… that goes back to the year one in the Common Era. And we’ll go up to 2022. And it doesn’t get red until the 1950s. So it’s 20 feet of blue and then red at the very end.”

Ashley Junger: By using this standardized scale, communities from across the world can compare their tapestries and actually see how warming temperatures are affecting places all over the world. 

Megan Hall: So what makes this different than any other temperature graph?

Kolya Shields: According to Asy,

Asy Connelly: “it’s really easy to read an article and scroll past a chart… when somebody slows down and takes the time to like knit every row and every day… people are more I think more willing to engage with it”

Megan Hall: But don’t most people already know about climate change? 

Kolya Shields: It’s true, almost everyone has heard of climate change. But only an estimated 65% of Americans are worried about it, and even fewer think the government should do something about it. 

Ashley Junger: The more people take climate change seriously, the more they will prioritize sustainability in their own lives. Plus, Emily says  art can help scientists communicate with different audiences.

Emily McNeil: “we had one scientist… come through with his 10 year old daughter… and said something to the effect that he’s been teaching this for decades. But we explained to his daughter in 15 minutes what he hasn’t really been able to explain without scaring her”

Kolya Shields: Emily says they’ve even used this project as a tool to get people talking about climate change in their own town- they’re working with a local yarn store to make tapestries and hang them down their main street.

Megan Hall: Wow, that’s amazing! 

Kolya Shields: Yeah! Asy says sometimes art can motivate people in ways that numbers and academic papers can’t. 

Asy Connelly: “I think art is how we connect people’s emotions, which is where we make decisions and where we create movements”

Kolya Shields: While it might not directly reduce emissions, art can help tap into the emotions and stories that inspire us to make change!

Megan Hall: Awesome! Thanks, Kolya.

That’s it for today. For more information, or to ask a question about the way your choices affect our planet, go to the public’s radio dot org slash possibly. Or subscribe to us wherever you get your podcasts. 

You can also follow us on facebook and twitter- at “ask possibly” 

Possibly is a co-production of The Public’s Radio,  Brown University’s Institute for Environment and Society, and Brown’s Climate Solutions Initiative.

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