The Art of Impact

Caroline Mckeon

Getting creative to communicate the message on climate change

So here are The Scientists.

"THE MUPPETS"..Ph: John E. Barrett..© 2011 Disney
“THE MUPPETS” John E. Barrett..© 2011 Disney


They’re working away, finding out about some Serious Things going down with regards climate change (aka, THE PLANET, the planet is going down…..)


down the drain
…the drain. Some seriously clever graffiti proving a picture is worth a thousand words  Image source


They have all this knowledge, (visa vi graphs and figure and such) which they keep “droppin’ like bombs”, but it doesn’t seem to be having the desired effect.


peltro habitat
Plot of deforestation data points ingeniously used to visually present ongoing habitat loss, and as well as decimated tiger populations. Clever, beautiful and instantly powerful.     Image source


Reason onepeople hate bombs.

Reason two – with regards IMPENDING DOOM; no news is good news.



fun times


Since our species were hunter gathers – running around terrorizing the mega fauna[1],[2]  we’ve relied heavily on visual memory.[3]


savethearctic melting     savethearctic melting penguins

Image source

It has played a vital role in our survival and success, so images and their impact are inherently strong and weighted in human psyche.


fossils eric hagen
Haunting image of the mark the Anthropocene could leave behind on the earth. Once a treasure trove of biodiversity data, will ours be a fossil record of extinction and artificial waste? Image source


Now that not only the megafauna, but some of the medium, and even minifauna (made up those last two terms), have disappeared, there are those among us trying to tap into the Primal Power of the visual.


bearing my soul
An ice sculpture of a polar bear outside Copenhagen’s 2009 climate conference
Polar bear 2
The same sculpture later that day…… A powerful metaphor for the immanent fate of polar animals as the ice continues to melt. Image source


They are taking advantage of how images get through to us, and stick in our minds, in an effort to communicate information of vast importance, that has not been going through.


stick men burn.
Burning through our planet’s resources, and ultimately harming ourselves. Though it isn’t always those who benefit from carbon emissions that are most effected. Image source


In bold attempts to impress upon the public the relevance and URGENCY that so many people somehow have not yet associated with Climate Change, there are people saying listen; I don’t want to scare you, but this is real, and it’s coming for the place you live, the planet you live on, and the things you love.


World science fair (underwater)
The year three thousand? Chilling nod to rising sea levels. Image source


And they’re doing a fantastic job.


oiling ourselves to death
Striking visual suggesting we are killing ourselves with our oil consumption and resulting emissions. Image source


For those of us in the cushy, technology dependent first world, it can be undeniably difficult to apply our gnat-like attention spans to grasping the delicate, almost imperceptible balance in which even healthy ecosystems hang.


peltro ocean acidification
More brilliantly deployed graphs showing the trends in ocean acidification, a subtle process who’s effects are massive and long reaching. Image source


When you don’t notice a decrease in bird song because you haven’t been outside in THREE YEARS (just kidding, that’s massively exaggerated), peoples’ preaching on the importance of earth worms can seem abstract, unintelligible and frankly boring. (Like earth worms themselves).


The slow decline of seemingly abundant natural resources, to make way for fast food.    Image source


Luckily for the Environment, there are impressive numbers of artists attempting to bridge the gap between the KNOWLEDGE of the scientific community and the interest of the general public. Not only can their mode of communication be used to inform public opinion, it can also be employed to express that opinion to the World’s Leaders, directing them towards actuating change.


follow the leaders isaac cordal
A brutal piece called “Follow the leaders”, pointing out the inadequate urgency with which those in power are responding to what needs to be done. Image source


Artists, by definition, are the world’s most IMPASSIONED sub class.

(Not a fact),

((still true)).


I mean it might be, if we don’t listen to the message it’s trying to get across


So they tend to LOVE things. If you’re into aesthetic beauty for example, (*cough, artists*) then the Natural World is the place for you.


zaria forman pastel
Stunning pastel icescapes from an artist who deals with melting glaciers and the decline of the sea ice, capturing the beauty of these sights affected by climate change. Image source


Add the relatively Rapid And Aggressive DESTRUCTION of said world, and you get passionate, outspoken people who are prepared to stand up and say something about it (hey, they chose career paths as artists, clearly self-belief and path forging aren’t issues here).


don't believe
Weighty and ironic statement, aimed at those still among the climate change deniers, highlighting how ludicrous their position is. Pure sass. Image source


Plus, they’ve got a hella effective medium though which to do it.


June 17, 2010. Louisiana (USA)Boats burning oil on the surface near BP's Deepwater Horizon spill source. ©Daniel Beltra/Greenpeace
Epic aerial photography depicting blazing oil slick at sea, belching a pillar of black smoke into the air.  ©Daniel Beltra/Greenpeace
Aerials North of Palangkaraya. Coal mining operation S 00' 14" E 114' 44"
Aerial of massive land scars ravaging a forest due to a coal mining operation
Louisiana (USA). May 6th, 2010. Aerial view of the oil leaked from the Deepwater Horizon wellhead,  the BP leased oil platform exploded April 20 and sank after burning. Leaking an estimate of more than 200,000 gallons of crude oil per day from the broken
More ocean oil spill, this time miles long. Image source


From drought in California to Melting Sea Ice, from increasing global temperatures [4] to unprecedented floods in Athlone, people everywhere are feeling the effects of having taken the planet for granted.


Copenhagen mini ice people
An “anti-sculpture” in protest of ineffective climate talks: the ephemeral common man, outside the steps of a climate conference, melting while the committees talk. Image source


The Scientists, researchers, modellers and analysts have the DATA.


Jill Peltro mixed graph
Compilation of  climate change graphs showing vanishing sea ice, rising forest fires and CO2 emissions. Image source


The Public have the power to demand the Change that’s needed.

From Making Statements to addressing cultural issues and voicing the opinions of themselves and of others, artists are playing their part in awakening the masses.


i remeber
Devastating, as the message typically delivered by grandparents comes from a child, showing the speed at which the world is being paved over. Image source


I’d like to dedicate the final SHOUT OUT to those of you who’ve made it all the way to the end of the article, despite your skepticism, cus hey;


bansky rat
And that’s a rat people.




  1. Nentwig, W. (2007). 19 Human Environmental Impact in the Paleolithic and Neolithic. Springer Berlin Heidelberg, [online] pp.1881-1900. Available at: [Accessed 3 Mar. 2016].
  2. New, J., Cosmides, L. and Tooby, J. (2007). Category-specific attention for animals reflects ancestral priorities, not expertise. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 104(42), pp.16598-16603.
  3. Oreskes, N. (2004). BEYOND THE IVORY TOWER: The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change. Science, 306(5702), pp.1686-1686.
  4. Reed, C. (1970). Extinction of Mammalian Megafauna in the Old World Late Quaternary. BioScience, 20(5), pp.284-288.

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