Pushing (planetary) boundaries through art for Earth Day

April 20, 2015

As Earth Day approaches, members of the New Haven-Leon Sister City Project are pushing boundaries – planetary boundaries, that is.

Through a set of decorated banners depicting real-life stories of individuals facing the effects of climate change in cities and towns around the world, the Earth Day art project aims to represent the nine planetary boundaries defined by the Stockholm Center for Resilience.

Biodiversity loss, freshwater scarcity, and ozone depletion are among the planetary boundaries the large canvases address in vivid colors and poetic language.

“Art is a powerful mode of expression,” said Ceyda Durmaz, the New Haven-Leon Sister City Project employee who organized the banner project. “And it’s an indispensable advocacy tool that is often underutilized by environmentalists.”

One banner portrays an individual cupping her hands to drink water cascading from a metal spigot, calling attention to the fact that over 750 million people around the world lack access to safe drinking water.[1] Another illustrates smoke billowing high into the atmosphere as three women cook over a wood or dung-fueled fire, an allusion to the half of our world’s population still using solid fuels such as coal, dung, and wood for cooking and heating.[2]

Yale’s own Office of International Students and Scholars, Fossil Free Yale, Traditional Chinese Painting Group, and several physics students were among the groups that made Earth Day banners, which will be on display first at a public event on April 21st from 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM at the corner of Elm and College Streets. The banner exhibition will then move around the city to public spaces, including the Rock to Rock Earth Day Ride on April 25th, public parks, and local farmers markets.

Durmaz hopes the banners and the international stories they capture will compel New Haven residents to consider the potential collective impact they can have on reducing environmental damage locally and globally, citing the Great Pacific Garbage Patch as a telling example of how individuals’ negligence – in this case widespread littering – can have global environmental consequences when added up.

“Our daily activities affect our global environment as well as our local environment,” said Durmaz. “Although some residents may not want to feel responsible for global pollution, they cannot deny that in the long term global pollution will affect their lives.”

April 22, 2015 will mark the 45th anniversary of Earth Day. With the U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP 21) scheduled late-November and early-December, 2015 could be the year the world reaches a legally-binding and universal agreement on climate change. Play your part on Earth Day – and throughout Earth Month – by attending one of the many events on our calendar.

For more information about the Earth Day banners, contact Ceyda Durmaz at durmazceyda@gmail.com.


[2] Goklany, I. (2006). The improving state of the world: Why we’re living longer, healthier, more comfortable lives on a cleaner planet (p. 151). Washington, D.C.: Cato Institute.