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We’ve all seen it, every American set disaster movie focusing on the Statue of Liberty buried deep in snow (2012: Ice Age), drowning water (The Day after Tomorrow) or destroyed by an alien invasion (Cloverfield). But on International Sculpture Day, I wanted to talk about how climate change (a frighteningly real potential disaster) is becoming not just a threat to our natural world, but our cultural world of sculptures and statues too, and how it is also inspiring modern artists to embrace it.

Climate change overview

As we know, a planet without an atmosphere is a planet with no life, and what creates our atmosphere is medley of gases that together create our climatic conditions. To quote Tony Juniper from his book What’s Really Happening to our Planet? the main cause for the current climate change is the build-up of heat-trapping greenhouse gases produced by human activities which in turn traps more of the sun’s energy, causing average temperatures to rise. Essentially, all this scary science stuff means unpredictable seasons, higher sea levels, polar ice melting, flooding, droughts and storms.


The effects of climate change on sculptures and statues

It’s clear to see how these climate changes will affect the natural world and the natural habitats of animals – including the human race. Coral reefs, rainforests and deserts are all at risk of destruction in some form or another.

But what isn’t obvious is that our cultural world is at risk too.

Polar Bear

Climate Change

The natural habitat of many animals is at risk

As pointed out by this article in the Independent - The Statue of Liberty was badly hit by Hurricane Sandy and the stunning architecture of Venice is at immediate threat from rising sea levels. 

In fact, when you look at the list of World Heritage sites, it can almost be a quiz of what climate change effect will most likely lead to its destruction (UPDATE: have done just that!). For example, if we look at Australia the cultural Sydney Opera house is close to the water (major risk: flooding) and recently there has even been off-season rain at the natural site of Uluru (Ayres Rock) in what locals describe as “freak storms” – and if you didn’t know, water is bad news for sandstone!

This unfortunately highlights that World Heritage sites across the world like Stonehenge, the Buddha’s of Bamiyan, the moai statues of Easter Island, Christ the Redeemer of Rio de Janeiro and the good old Statue of Liberty are all at serious risk too.

So, what climate change effect do you think will be likely to lead to their demise? – Unless the Aliens get to them first of course.

Christ the Redeemer Climate Change

Christ the Redeemer of Rio de Janeiro

Many famous landmarks including sculptures and statues are at risk

Climate change as an inspiration for artists

To put an arguably positive spin on things, there are many modern artists across the world that use their creativity to produce art and sculpture that captures the poignant effects of climate change. Personally my favourite representation of this is in the work of Issac Cordal a Spanish artist who demands attention through his though-provoking pieces.

Unfortunately I don’t have his permission to show you images of my favourite artworks so my description will have to do.

Cordals series of sculptures are called Waiting for Climate Change and often depict suited white collar men (Politician, businessmen, etc) clutching briefcases and hanging onto flotation rings while sinking into sand or water. I’d go as far to say that their calm and acceptance of their fate is almost beautiful and certainly very poignant but I really hope it succeeds in making us all aware of these impending consequences.

I’d love to hear what environmental issue / climate change sculptures and artwork you like, so please feel free to tweet me on @MEUK_LES.

Or for more information and discussion on these types of issues, please follow @Green_Gateway.

Here’s to a poignant International Sculpture Day!

Ellina Webb is a Marketing Specialist at Mitsubishi Electric

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