An Artistic Spin on Climate Science

By Sophia Kelley

Whether you are passionate about science or about art, New York Academy of Sciences was the place to be last night. As part of the first day of Climate Week NYC, Science & the City hosted a unique hybrid event about communicating the science of climate change through various artistic media. Paul Miller (aka DJ Spooky) kicked off the evening by talking about his own experiences in the Arctic regions of our planet and how he has translated them through recordings and visual images into art.

Photo Credit: Nadja Popovich/New York Academy of Sciences

Miller explained his belief that art and science are inseparable and demonstrated the power of their relationship by explaining the natural inspiration for his musical compositions, then performing the pieces live with a trio of string musicians. The music was written to explore ways of communicating the complexity of our planet such as investigating mathematical relationships that reflect the geometrical phenomena that can be found in nature when ice forms.

Exploring new ways to tell scientific stories was the theme of the evening even after the musicians took their bows and the panelists replaced them to answer questions from the crowd. Andrew Revkin from the New York Times blog, Dot Earth, moderated and panelists included EPA’s own climate expert, Irene Nielson and Gavin Schmidt, a climate modeler at NASA’s Goddard Institute.

The panel discussed new ideas for ways to translate scientific data into understandable and evocative imagery that could inspire action or policy. The idea to connect to the public’s emotional center seems powerful through all the artistic modes, but also, as Nielson mentioned, talking to your children and peers in your community is another fundamental starting point for encouraging solutions to our most daunting challenges.

Usually after heavy discussions regarding the fate of our planet and the dramatic changes that humans have caused, I leave feeling discouraged. But after last night and the hopeful dialogue coupled with the evocative and ethereal impact of DJ Spooky’s compositions, I felt lighter and somehow, almost optimistic. Maybe human creativity does hold a key to the solution. Feel free to share your thoughts, and definitely attend some of the Climate Week NYC events to find your own inspiration.