More than 2,000 people braved the wind and rain to form an image of King Canute designed by Thom Yorke
Yorke explained, “The plan is to make images visible from the skies to remind those in Cancun that we can’t keep putting this off.”
The public art display was designed to send a climate warning to political leaders in the run-up to the UN Climate Talks in Cancun. According to legend, King Canute set his throne by the sea shore and commanded the tide to halt, only to be soaked by the ocean’s waves. Just as Canute realized his own hubris, world leaders today must realize the dangers of ignoring climate change and rise to solving the challenge.
“We need politicians today to have a ‘Canute’ moment,” said 350.org founder, American author and environmentalist Bill McKibben. “Scientists are clearly warning there is too much carbon in the atmosphere. World leaders can’t avoid that reality any longer.”
350.org is named after 350 parts per million, what scientists say is the safe upper limit of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. NASA calculates the current level of CO2 at more than 390 ppm.
The image formed on the beaches of Brighton-Hove was designed by Yorke and his long-time collaborator Stanley Donwood. The picture also appeared on the cover of Yorke’s album Eraser. Yorke helped promote the event on Radiohead’s website and four million person strong Facebook page.
The event was one of over a dozen similar displays taking place as part of 350 EARTH, the first planetary art show for the climate. The image of King Canute was joined by a giant sun in South Africa; a polar bear on an Icelandic glacier; a scarab in the Egyptian desert; an eagle in Los Angeles; and many more. Hi-res photos and videos of the events are available on the earth.350.org website.
The Brighton-Hove event had the backing of Brighton & Hove Council, who spearhead a city-wide coalition of organisations and businesses that form 10:10 Brighton & Hove. All have pledged to reduce CO2 emissions by 10% in a year by simple, achievable measures, in a bid to minimise the effects of climate change.
Tom Chute, coordinator of 10:10 Brighton & Hove, said: “The people of Brighton & Hove have shown real enthusiasm for environmental issues over the last year, lending a hand to 350’s Earth Art project will really put Brighton & Hove’s climate change action on the map.”
Councillor Mary Mears, of Brighton & Hove Council, said: “It’s great that Brighton & Hove has been chosen as the UK venue for this international event to tackle climate change. It links city strengths in art, environment and voluntary action together; and the strong involvement of the city 10:10 campaign, which we backed from the outset. We’re very happy that once again people will be looking towards Brighton & Hove for inspiration on tackling climate change.”
Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org said: “The first pictures of Earth from space helped launch the modern environmental movement. We hope these art pieces can help spark a new movement to solve the climate crisis. Art is not a substitute for political action, but it can help build a public movement that can begin to apply real pressure on our politicians.”
UPDATE: Here are some photos of the event.