Air Date: Week of June 27, 1997
Ice sculptures were mounted in the summer heat to make a point about global climate change by an activist group, and children came to cool themselves, becoming part of the action.
CURWOOD: Just across First Avenue from the UN General Assembly Building is a small park. At noon one day during the summit, it was filled with an exhibit of perhaps a dozen tall and gracefully ornate ice sculptures. These had been placed on oil barrels by the group Friends of the Earth. Painted on one, the words: "Melt: A Temporary Monument to Climate Change and Human Folly." It was 93 degrees, the hottest day of the New York City summer so far, and as the sculptures melted and fell to the pavement, a group of preschool children cheerily played with the chunks, rubbing and patting and smashing the coolness.
(Addressing child) What's this here on the ground?
CHILDREN: Ice. Ice.
CURWOOD: What's happening to it?
CHILDREN: It's melting!
ANOTHER CHILD: It's breaking.
CURWOOD: How come?
CHILDREN: Because it's hot!
CHILD: It's soon gonna be no more.
CHILD: Feel this one! Ooh!
CURWOOD: Oh, this one's very cold!
CHILD (Singing) It's United Nations Day!
WOMAN: You want to sing United Nation there today? You sing it. The two of you know it very sell. Sing it, Ben, come on.
BEN, WITH OTHER CHILDREN (singing): It's United Nations Day, today. We're celebrating all the way. Peace is made. Let's sing and dance, hooray!
WOMAN: Very good! (Applause) That's too big, Andy, please. Take a small one, yeah, honey. Take this.
ANDY: Thank you.
WOMAN: You're welcome.
JUNIPER: Would you like some commentary from Friends of the Earth?
CURWOOD: What would you say?
JUNIPER: The ice sculptures we put up here today are trying to make the connection between global climate change and the negotiations going on in the United Nations there to get a treaty to cut the pollution which is causing the problem.
CURWOOD: And your name, sir?
JUNIPER: Is Tony Juniper, from Friends of the Earth.
CURWOOD: The children came by here from a preschool. How do you feel about seeing them here at your demonstration?
JUNIPER: Well, I think it reminds us all of why we're all here, and what these negotiations are for. I think the politicians inside, they get very deep into the political problems they face in agreeing how to deal with these issues. But at the end of the day it's the kids walking around here that remind us exactly what this is all about. This is about the future, it's about the future of life on Earth.
CURWOOD: So these sculptures, what do you have inside these pieces of ice?
JUNIPER: We've got items of the living world embedded in ice.
CURWOOD: So you have in here a huge bouquet of roses, frozen.
JUNIPER: We have a bouquet of roses, one of the most beautiful items we have in our house often is flowers. We take them very much for granted. But I think it's worth remembering at times that these things didn't just appear. They've evolved over millions of years, within a very predictable climate. And by interfering with the global climate, we're putting all these great wonders and these great treasures at risk.
CURWOOD: How long has it taken for these to melt out here?
JUNIPER: Well, we brought them in all wrapped up this morning, with insulation blankets on them to stop the melting. And we took them off at about 10 o'clock, and it's now getting on for 12. And they're starting to fall to pieces. But this is exactly, of course, the point, that you can see inside the wonders of nature being exposed, and falling to pieces. Quite literally. As we speak the sculptures are cracking apart and collapsing onto the floor and melting.
MAN: And then just let them go over to the side. Let 'em go boom.
(Splashing water, oohs from the crowd)
WOMAN: Oh, no!
CURWOOD: So you knocked it over.
MAN: Everything over here.
WOMAN: Why you knock it over because?
MAN: Well, it's time for us to leave. And we were told that when we left that they should be dismantled.
WOMAN: So you're going to knock every one over? Everybody won't get to see it.
CURWOOD: What do you think of the display?
WOMAN: That it's beautiful. It is beautiful. But I don't know why they're breaking it up.
CURWOOD: Do you know why they put it here?
WOMAN: No. Why?
CURWOOD: This is a commentary about the threat of global warming.
WOMAN: Oh. Okay. I came from Barbados, and we don't have this kind of heat, here, it is too hot. If we have global warming the rest of the Caribbean will sink. It be too hot for the rest of the Caribbean places.
WOMAN 2: The tropical and sub-tropical areas, you know.
WOMAN 1: It will be too much. You understand?
WOMAN 2: America's contributing more to the global warming than any other nation on the civilized Earth. And you have people in South America destroying rainforests and stuff like that, you know. You have to call these things, you know?
WOMAN 1: You have to stop it now, right?
CURWOOD: What did you think of this?
WOMAN 3: I thought it was great. People need to know and they need to be able to touch things and see things, and read things. And this is a good way to do it. Because people don't pick up brochures and read them. What do you think?
CURWOOD: Think it made its point?
WOMAN 3: I think so. I think so. I hope so. Hope those people across the street realize.
CURWOOD: It's air-conditioned inside over there.
WOMAN 3: (Laughs) I know, they could care. I know, it must say something about air conditioning on one of these barrels. I don't know if it does. It should.
Living on Earth wants to hear from you!
P.O. Box 990007
Boston, MA, USA 02199
Donate to Living on Earth!
Living on Earth is an independent media program and relies entirely on contributions from listeners and institutions supporting public service. Please donate now to preserve an independent environmental voice.
Sailors For The Sea: Be the change you want to sea.
Innovating to make the world a better, more sustainable place to live. Listen to the race to 9 billion
The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment: Committed to protecting and improving the health of the global environment.
Energy Foundation: Serving the public interest by helping to build a strong, clean energy economy.
Contribute to Living on Earth and receive, as our gift to you, an archival print of one of Mark Seth Lender's extraordinary wildlife photographs. Follow the link to see Mark's current collection of photographs.
Buy a signed copy of Mark Seth Lender's book Smeagull the Seagull & support Living on Earth