Volunteers make a graph of atmospheric CO2 in ppm from 1953 to 2022 in Platt Fields Park, Rusholme, prior to planting trees last November

The Second Elizabethan Age has just drawn to a close in the UK.  Elizabeth ll’s 70 year reign coincided with unprecedented growth in prosperity (even if increasingly unequal), but this has come at a cost – a sustained rise in carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere from 310ppm in 1953 to 419ppm in August 2022. This work makes this cost visible as a starting point for wider discussion and action.

This work raises questions about whose golden age the last 70 years have been? And what has the cost been, both in terms of climate change and in widening inequalities between the western democracies and everyone else and within those democracies where income gaps have widened enormously. Creative solutions, creative inspiration, creative engagement with communities of place & interest are central to achieving climate justice.

Exhibition view at The Greenhouse, Letherby Gallery in April 2023 curated by Climate Emergency Network at UAL

What the work is about:

Queen Elizabeth ll came to the throne in 1953, the year before the artist was born. Her reign and the artist’s lifetime have coincided with unprecedented growth in prosperity – from seasonally adjusted Gross Domestic Product of £122,480m in Quarter 1 of 1955 to £569,719 in Quarter 2 of 2002, with significant temporary falls arising from the banking crisis of 2008 and the Covid pandemic in 2020 bucking an upward trend.  GDP rose 465%. (Source: ONS)

But this has come at a cost.  In 1952 annual global carbon emissions were 7bn metric tonnes. By 2021 they had reached an estimated 36.4bn metric tonnes – a 520% increase. (Source:  Our World in Data and CO2-Earth). There are few signs of them slowing down.

Mirroring these emissions over the same period, annual global temperatures have risen by 0.8° C (and to 1.04°C  over pre-industrial levels). (Source: Climate.gov)

Intimately related to these changes is the rise in carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere – from c310ppm in 1950 to 419ppm in August last year. (Source: NASA).  350ppm was, at the time of the Millennium, considered to be the ‘safe’ maximum level of CO2 in the atmosphere, and gave its name to campaigning organisation 350.org.  We have already overshot by almost 70ppm. (Source: NOAA)  This sculpture makes this consequence visible by presenting a human-scale, three-dimensional graph.

With the artist in The Letherby Gallery

The post representing 1998, the year we passed 350ppm, is the first orange one, that for 2015, when we passed 400ppm, the first in red – a level not seen for millions of years.

The Greenhouse exhibition was curated by the UAL Climate Emergency Network (Instagram @climate_emergency_network

I hope to include this work in the Lindow Moss Bog Fest in 2024.

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