Portraits of Hope
A New Leaf interactive art piece gives International Day of Climate Action some Monterey County character.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
There was only one man to call.
The mission was this: to give the worldwide environmental awareness exercise called International Day of Climate Action our own local flavor.
Thousands of events in close to 200 countries had crafted clever ways of representing the crucial number 350—from dangling rock climbers and scuba divers at depth arranging themselves in huge formations that spelled the number, to artists sculpting amazing installations from litter they collected—and bring attention to the fact that our world has far more carbon in our atmosphere (387 parts per million) than the amount teams of scientists have determined will keep our ecosystems and weather patterns in balance (350 ppm).
That man was Ed Leeper. The self-described "serial artist" has a strangely monk-like relationship with numbers—he's spent months counting nearly 100,000 pebbles of granite one by one in Big Sur and
several years scratching out tally marks on big sheets of heavy paper for each and every of the 6 million Jews murdered in the Holocaust—so 350 would be something we could pull off in the two days before a climate-day event at Monterey Institute of International Studies' community garden.
Leeper leapt into his old Toyota truck and trundled down to Palo Colorado Canyon and began collecting fallen maple leaves—big, broad, golden symbols of our local micro-environment—until he had 350. Something about the leaves made sense.
The seasons are changing, the climate is changing, old paradigms are dying, new ones must sprout in their place.
We decided we could invite locals at the event to pose with the leaves—and Weekly photographer-Leeper collaborator Nic Coury could take 350 portraits of them to splice into a time elapse video which we'd add to the mounting snapshots of the world's largest-ever climate change protest at 350.org.
Here's that work from yesterday's event. It reveals local faces of change, people who care deeply about stewarding a world that retains robust oceans, rivers and habitat for kids and grandkids.
As McKibben has pointed out, these people, or a nation of people, are not enough to foment the global change we need.
Policy leadership from the highest levels will be, and actions like this, however humble or eccentric, help broadcast to them our priorities.
The vital Kyoto-updating Climate Conference happens in Copenhagen this December.
—Mark C. Anderson