The image below is of a sculpture by street artist Isaac Cordal, which has been dubbed "Politicians Debating Global Warming."
The first time I saw this image, my visceral reaction was immediate and profound, gazing upon politicians debating our planet's global crisis with the waters lapping at their lapels, filling their mouths and covering them completely.
And then I learned more about this image, and about Cordal's work. These are tiny, clay figures which he crafted and then placed in a puddle on a street in Berlin, Germany. When seen from afar, they are nothing but dots poking out of temporarily collected water. However, when one zooms in, this is the result: a majestic, striking picture of politicians refusing to act even as the waters overcome them, and us.
It's a perfect metaphor for climate change inaction: from afar, it's easy to ignore and dismiss, but zoom in and the crisis is clear.
What's amazing about this image is that Cordal's original intention was not for this image to be about climate change. Titled "electoral campaign" the image comes from his Follow the Leaders sculpture series, which contains incredible, miniature sculptures of urban decline and societal collapse.
However, the image has been reinterpreted and recast by Cordal's audience, partially because he himself, among the hundreds of tiny sculptures he's planted around Europe, has created sculptures explicitly about global warming. These images are from his 2012 installation entitled "Waiting for climate change":
This is just a small sampling of Cordal's incredible work, which I encourage you to explore fully. The impact it has had upon me, and others, speaks to the power artistic initiatives can have in not just touching our aesthetic sensibilities, but in moving us emotionally, in inspiring us to not just feel, but act.
Regarding his ongoing street art, Cordal says:
“[My work] refers to this collective inertia that leads us to think that our small actions cannot change anything. But I believe that every small act can contribute to a big change. Many small changes can bring back social attitudes that manipulate the global inertia and turn it into something more positive.”
Indeed, small changes can matter, and every tiny sculpture Cordal creates and photographs intends to do just that: manipulate global inertia
One striking image at a time.
David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, just out from Oneworld Publications.