A kinetic installation of hanging sculptures by Werner Sun reflects climate adaptation of indigenous and rural communities. 

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Art and exhibits illustrate hope for climate resilience

Art, exhibits, and emerging knowledge come together at Cornell Botanic Gardens this fall to express the ways in which Indigenous and rural communities around the world are adapting to disruptions caused by the climate crisis.

The exhibition “Ecological Calendars: Finding Hope in the Face of Climate Change” illustrates the value and impact of the Ecological Calendars and Climate Adaptation Project (ECCAP). The collaborative research project investigates how climate-driven shifts in ecological patterns, such as first snowfall or the emergence of specific plants, adversely affect farmers, fishers, herders, hunters, and orchardists who rely on patterns for timing planting, harvesting, and similar subsistence tasks.

Led by Karim-Aly Kassam, the International Professor of Environmental and Indigenous Studies in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the ECCAP brings together Indigenous and rural communities and scholars from across the globe to develop ecological calendars that integrate local cultural systems with seasonal indicators.

Cornell Botanic Gardens installed the exhibit in conjunction with an international conference at which participants heard and discussed research findings and planned the next progression in the project. The three-day conference, “Rhythms of the Land: Indigenous Knowledge, Science and Thriving Together in a Changing Climate,” gathered more than 50 scholars and community members in the Nevin Welcome Center beginning on Indigenous Peoples Day, October 11, 2021.

Visitors to Cornell Botanic Gardens’ Nevin Welcome Center can learn how societies from the Pamir Mountains regions of Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Xinjiang; the Standing Rock Sioux Nation; and from the Oneida Lake region in New York state are creating their own resilience to climate change through the development and use of ecological calendars.

The exhibit includes:

In addition, two art installations, inspired by participating societies and their resilience, welcome visitors. Overhead, a three-piece mobile by Ithaca, New York-based artist Werner Sun gently undulates in the sunlight-filled atrium. “Keeping time with changing seasons,” features photographic images folded into geometric forms to create a mobile made of paper sculptures. It represents the multiple
elements of the natural world, held in a delicate gravitational balance by their mutual connections.

“Grounded,” a sculpture by Natani Notah ‘14, a member of the Navajo Nation, emphasizes connectivity in the pairing of unexpected elements, including Native beadwork, leather, and fiber.  The artist focused on beadwork and carving to spark conversations about the role of the human hand in causing and responding to the climate crisis.

“Ecological Calendars: Finding Hope in the Face of Climate Change” is on display through March 2021. The Nevin Welcome Center is open Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The Johnson Museum of Art installed an exhibition in collaboration with the “Rhythms of the land” conference, one that highlights the effect of climate change on some of the societies that contributed the least to it. “Art and Environmental Struggle” features 20 artists from regions experiencing some of the most acute consequences of resource extraction and climate variation. See the museum’s website for hours and visitor information.

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