I N · T H I S · I S S U E
The challenge is a good one: How can we engage the Coachella Valley’s leaders in discussions about climate action, and then convince them to take action? Thanks to special funding from Southern California Edison, EcoMotion is preparing greenhouse gas inventories and climate action plans for six cities there, plus a tribe. How can we make this work relevant? Meetings weren’t working.
Like many other regions, the Coachella Valley has a range of officials, from progressive to conservative, most silent on climate change. Some make derogatory remarks; it’s certainly not a platform item. We’re under contract to raise awareness among these leaders, and to incorporate green initiatives in their governance. How can we bring climate action to life? We seek creative solutions.
We needed a new way to engage the public and Valley leaders. The “carbon issue” is so conveniently out of sight, it’s easy to ignore and given its atmospheric scale, it’s hard to comprehend. The time to take action to strategically cut emissions is now. California Assembly Bill 32 is taking effect, and by law, statewide emissions will be reduced to 1990 levels. Logically, every industry, every city, will have to “de-carbonize” by about 25% in eight years.
Back to our experiment, and raising awareness. It’s tough to think in terms of tons of CO2, the new vernacular for climate protection. The metric ton, or “tonne,” is the currency. Megatons and gigatons rule. In the Coachella Valley, the average citizen is responsible for eight tonnes each year, about 27 times normal respiration (oxygen in, carbon dioxide out: 250 – 500 kg/year/capita).
To bridge this gap, and to make real the climate issue at hand, EcoMotion elected to experiment with and invest in a pretty overt strategy. We’d seen a slide prepared by Carbon Visuals in the U.K. with a metric tonne of CO2 dwarfing a double-decker bus. We decided to simulate a ton of CO2, and to make it ugly, and to look like a time bomb. The extra-large inflatable was fabricated in April and is now making vivid the enormity of the climate challenge. The 32 foot inflatable, Emissions Time Bomb, is an awe-inspiring sight and visual representation for people unsure of how they impact their environment. Funny how many people want to touch it at events.
The name of the giant representation was the subject of considerable office discussion. Sensitive to its violent connotation, there is a consensus of the world’s leading climate specialists that increasing the concentration of CO2 in the earth’s atmosphere is much like a ticking time bomb with quite dire circumstances to come. We are well past the 350 parts per million CO2 that many consider the upper safe bound. Our goal is not to strike fear in the public; our intent is to spur action through the “Save a Ton” campaign. And it is a very serious issue.
The Emissions Time Bomb went from concept to reality quickly and now commands attention.
It hit the L.A. evening news when a helicopter flew over our test inflation in Glendale. It towered at our office complex in Irvine. It’s already been used for four special events in the Coachella Valley, one involving leading politicians and the other hundreds of students.
(We discovered another simulation in Copenhagen (Danes think alike), though it is orange.)
The Time Bomb has been the subject of blog posts; we’ve received emails from as far as Australia.
So far, the experiment is getting attention, putting an abstract concept into better focus. Even for those that think climate change is a scam, and/or oppose government regulation of greenhouse gases, get an unusual impression of scale.