The green movement, hybrid cars and LEED certified buildings… there are many examples of current global and local initiatives that remind us of our interdependent relationship with the natural environment. What is your carbon footprint? As the effects of global warming become more evident, it is time for us to re-examine our connection to the soil on which we walk, the oceans in which we swim and the air that we breathe.

Industrialization and related activities in one nation can lead to drastic changes in weather patterns in another. As fossil fuels are continuously burned, it is a daunting reality that atmospheric carbon dioxide in 2009 had increased by more than 20% since 1960. The survival of the ecology of this planet is inextricably tied to our collective behavior. As news of the greenhouse effect and diminishing natural resources proliferate in our media, there is no question that every individual and his or her actions impact the landscape and the flora and the fauna of the earth. There is a need to continuously explore new ways through which we can participate in the conservation of our planet. How can we think more creatively and act more responsibly regarding this?

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Nature Discussion at Launch Dinner Event

Nature placemat

Notations on the Nature Table placemat

Following the public AIC launch event on the afternoon of Oct. 9, 2009, approximately 64 people reconvened for a dinner/discussion event at MIT’s Stata Center dining room, organized by the Platform 2 artists’ collective. Each table focused on one of the eight themes of the Artists’ Prospectus for the Nation, assisted by a commissioned placemat by a New England-based artist (see the “Nature” placemat below by New Haven artist Joseph Smolinski). An empty placemat at each table was used by diners to record notes from the discussion. Pictured directly above is the notated placemat from the Nature Table.

And here is a summary of the discussion by one of the Nature Table’s notetakers:

At the Nature Table, our first question was: when we address the topic “nature,” do we immediately and only think of climate change? Or conversely, can we think of nature without thinking of climate change? We struggled with the difference between nature and climate change as themes. Some thoughts were that nature is experienced, is immediate and local, is full of wonder. On the other hand, climate change is experienced through the news media, is an accumulation of data, is often understood as being “out there.” Our children understand this differently (do not see them as being so separate). There was some discussion about collaboration and the necessity of collaboration in dealing with climate change.  The question was asked — do scientists need artists? What can art bring to the table in this complex urgent topic? Some thoughts were about the ability of art to bring a sense of experience, of bringing together ideas from different disciplines, of translation, and of connection of the self to the science. Collaboration between different disciplines to tackle the complexities of the subject feels necessary though difficult. The notion of alliances versus collaboration was put forward.

Jane Marsching


Joseph Smolinski

Launch dinner placemat for the Nature Table by Joseph Smolinski