Carbon Sink, University of Wyoming, Laramie
The students are now back on Campus and people continue to visit the work which is bedding in well. There are still comments in the press, which means it is generating its own conversation as Tom Lubnau points out in his comment in the Gillette News Record. Here is a copy:
Trying to make silk purses from sows
A few weeks ago, the University of Wyoming unveiled a new on-campus sculpture entitled “Carbon Sink.”
The artist,Chris Drury, is a worldfamous sculptor, the university paid $40,000 to install the sculpture on campus. The artist designed the sculpture as a series of dead logs arranged in a spiral pattern, which he hoped would symbolize the death of forests from pine beetles due to global warming.
Much has been written by journalists, bloggers and in some tersely worded emails about the comments Reps. Gregg Blikre, Norine Kasperik and I made about the hypocrisy of accepting dollars derived from carbon fuels to put up an anti-carbon sculpture. People, mostly from California and New York told we told us we should be “ashamed of ourselves” and that we are “ignorant bumpkins because we hate anything that resembles culture” and referred to us as “cow flops and road apples.”
It is important to understand what we didn’t do. We didn’t ask the sculpture be taken down. We didn’t take any steps to remove funding from the university. And we didn’t engage in any form of censorship.
What did we do? We defended our friends and neighbors. Prompted by the existence of the piece of art, we started a discussion. My old art teachers, from back in the day, told me that art was supposed to provoke discussion, to inspire and to affect the viewer.
And that is what we did. We used the existence of the art as an inspiration piece to let folks know that between 60 and 80 percent of the state’s budget is dependent on extractive industries.
We asked for some appreciation and kudos for the hard-working folks in the energy industry, who go to work day after day, meeting America’s energy needs and funding in large measure the University of Wyoming budget.
We told the university that we thought it was out of touch with the rest of the state, and that we wished they would spend as much time working with us to meet our educational needs as they did being critical of the industries that pay the bills in Wyoming.
And to their credit, the administration of the University of Wyoming listened. We engaged in a dialogue about the misunderstandings, misperceptions and missed opportunities that exist between the University of Wyoming and Campbell County.
University President Dr. Tom Buchanan, Trustees Warren Lauer and Jim Neiman, and senior UW staffers Don Richards and Mike Massie took time out of their busy schedules to travel to Gillette, to tour a power plant, the college and other community facilities, and to meet with community leaders and energy company officials to discuss opportunities for UW to offer educational services in the Campbell County area.
The discussions were positive. Dr. Buchanan left the citizens of Campbell County with a clear challenge. If we can define a specific set of needs that can be met by the university rather than a vague list of complaints, the university will work to meet those needs.
The monkey is now on the backs of the citizens of Campbell County. We have a great opportunity to advance the education opportunities and the quality of life in northeastern Wyoming if we are wise, and if we can specifically define our needs and put a plan in place to accomplish those needs.
Thanks to Chris Drury for your sculpture. While I don’t agree with your science, or what you believe your sculpture symbolizes, the burnt logs laying in a circular pattern on the grounds of the University of Wyoming were a catalyst to open discussions on a greater UW presence in Campbell County. Art prompted discussion. If we accept the challenge, discussion will lead to better education and an enhanced quality of life.
Rep. Tom Lubnau represents Campbell County. Rep. Gregg Blikre and Rep. Norine Kasperik of Campbell County also joined with him in signing this opinion piece.
I have to say that I am very pleased that the dialogue around this work has got the university and the people of Campbell County in a dialogue about what they all want from an education. For my part I am a little concerned that there is a pinch of climate change denial going on here.
The science is not mine, global warming is a phenomenon, agreed internationally by all leading scientists who are not in the pay of energy companies and they are based on incontrovertible facts. You can dispute what these facts might mean in terms of degree and speed of warming and you can dispute what you are going to do about them, particularly if it effects your industry, but it would be dangerous to continue to deny the facts. If Universities are to teach science then that teaching has to be empirical and not based on convenient belief systems. Belief has nothing to do with it.
For myself the work never symbolized anything. When you put two materials together in a particular form, then you make a connection. The form is a vortex, whirlpool or whirlwind. I guess you could say that with Catrina and Irene that is an apt metaphor. I used beetle killed pine and coal. Both originate from living trees, which were killed by climate change; the coal from natural warming and the more recent trees from human induced warming.
Anyone who switches on a light, uses a steel tool, drives a car, wears clothes etc, will have benefited from the burning of coal. That must be most people on the planet and we have all been pretty grateful for that. We can find technologies to burn coal in a cleaner way and this is a job for scientists and engineers, but burning all fossil fuels produces CO2 which is the direct cause of a warming planet. Trees breath in CO2 and give us back oxygen. If the trees are dying we are in trouble, not just for the oxygen, but for biodiversity too. Our children and grandchildren we never know of, or experience wild mountain forests.
We burn too much, our carbon footprint is way too big. The question is how can we lead sustainable lives with enough for all without, destroying this beautiful land on which all life depends? That is a good question to ask of future university students the world over.
This is a blog of ongoing projects starting with: 1) Antarctica -Dec. 2006 - February 2007 2) Work made from the experience 2008 3) Nevada Feb. - Oct. 2008
- ▼ 2011 (33)