Earth on Display | Experiments in Pedagogy

To live in an epoch that is shaped by extensive environmental transformations is to be confronted with risks and uncertainties at a planetary scale. Paradoxically, while the threats are serious, we remain little mobilized in part maybe because of the poverty of the environmental imagination: on how to relate to and make sense of a story that is both difficult to tell and hear.

The workshop springs from the conviction that climate change is not only as a crisis of the physical environment but also as a crisis of the cultural environment and as such demands transformations in the ways we sense, imagine, care for, and design the Earth.

In this installation, students from Earth on Display narrate a series of anthropogenic environmental transformations in visual tableaux and material assemblies. Collectively, they ask how the Earth can be imagined, spatialized, experienced, and made public.

Earth on Display is one of 14 Experiments in Pedagogy organized on occasion of the 150th Anniversary of architecture education at MIT.


Climate Change Gallery, Harvard Museum of Natural History
Sunday, November 4, 2018, 9 AM - 12 PM | Free Admission
Professor: Rania Ghosn
Teaching Assistant: Jaehun Woo


Mosquito Co-evolution
Angeline Claire Jacques

Mosquitoes, the most lethal animal to the human race, epitomize the imagined “other” of nature - that which is useless and dangerous to humans. While this is true, it characterizes the mosquito as purely the “other”: the anti-progress or anti-civilization. This flattens the narrative of co-evolution and diminishes the relationship between human activity and the ecosystems we coexist in. This exhibit aims to tell a narrative of human and mosquito expansion-evolution to highlight the ways in which our actions propagate through other elements of our ecosystem in often unexpected ways. Through three different chapters and specimens, we can observe a close relationship between the political-economic forces of our society and the organisms that live in it.


Deforestation is violence against indigeneity
Meng Fu Kuo + Semine Long-Callesen + Joude El-Mabsout + Mengqi He 

Tropical forests are perceived as the lungs of our planet: they regulate the Earth’s climate by storing nearly three hundred billion tons of carbon – roughly forty times the annual greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels. However, incessant deforestation jeopardizes such regulatory systems. The island of Borneo in Southeast Asia’s Malay Archipelago retains only eight percent of its forests and is facing multiple extractive pressures: coal mining, logging, and palm oil plantation. Deforestation is also violence against indigenous people. The forest is home to tens of thousands of indigenous peoples, who yet have no legal rights to their homeland since very few can prove legal documentation of land ownership. The installation is a triptych of extractive industries. At the center stands a 3D printed model of a contemporary indigenous hat that is held by the Harvard Peabody Museum. The replica brings into attention museological behaviors and the collector impulse to render dead living heritage in museum storages. The hat speaks of an indigenous culture that continues its practices despite historic violation from British colonial officers, contemporary discrimination by nation states and exploitation by international corporations.

Fukushima 2100
Taeseop Shin + Jaya A. Eyzaguirre + Sebastian Kamau

At 14:46 JST on March 11, 2011, the combination of a 9.0 Mw earthquake and tsunami greatly disrupted life in Fukushima Prefecture, Japan. While the earthquake warning systems alerted managers to shut down the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, the speed of the resultant tsunami damaged the plant before the shutdown could complete. The damaged facility seeped radioactive fallout into the surrounding air, soil, and ocean -- corrupting water and food systems. The extent of the radioactive fallout following the Fukushima disaster occurs on scales that are difficult to grasp. Fukushima 2100 takes visitors on a tour of the damaged site and catalogues the flora and fauna impacted throughout the ecosystem. “The wild boars look at me like I am a visitor,” noted Koichi Nemoto, a Fukushima Resident. He adds, “It’s like they’re the owners and I’m the guest. Wild animals that normally live in nature have taken over our world. I wonder if we are the ones now living in the cage.” A Safecast geiger counter, caesium mineral deposits, rice, seaweed, anchovies, and emergency iodine pills, represent the scope of the disaster and the human engagement required to navigate life in the Anthropocene in Fukushima.

Plastic Entanglements
Anna Vasileiou 

The Plastiglomerate is a permanent member of the geological record and thus the potential marker of slow violence to our ecosystem. It stands as a construct of human species’ industrial culture. Found mainly near sources of fire and water, the plastiglomerate is as a stone that contains mixtures of sedimentary grain and other natural debris held together by hardened molten plastic. This is the time to revolt. On the basis of response-abilty and collaborative survival, we need to transform our life patterns from parasitic to symbiotic schemata. Against all disposable plastic–bags, straws, Styrofoam cups!  


Sand Island Extinction
Darle Shinsato

Sand is the second most consumed resource on the planet, as aggregate in the concrete mixture that makes the built environment. The amount we use every year is enough to construct a wall 27 meters high by 27 meters wide around the equator, notes a UN representative. Such annual demand is projected to steadily rise as it has already grown over 360% in the past 30 years. The geographic repercussions of sand extraction are not immediately rendered visible, due in part to the distance between mining sites and cities, as well as the perception of material abundance. The most egregious example of the resultant geographic disruption is the disappearance of over two dozen small islands in Indonesia due to black market sand mining. The project depicts the materialization of sand into infrastructural structures and environments. This installation renders displacement visible by deploying the analogy of the hourglass – an instrument used to measure the remainder of time through the movement of matter. Because a significant amount of the raw material comes from black market mining, researchers estimate the volume of sand extracted from the amount of concrete used annually.


Carbon Work
Kira Clingen + Ben Hackenberger  

Carbon dioxide emissions are the largest cause of irreversible global climate change. As bulk emissions, these molecules are displaced thousands of miles across the globe by atmospheric currents, altering the ozone layer on continents far away from the geographic point where they are emitted. Some is absorbed into forests and oceans, which act as carbon sinks, but some remains in the atmosphere, raising CO2 concentrations unevenly across the atmosphere. This planetary section, cut from the North Pole to the South, reveals some of the industrial and urban machinery that emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The drawing is mostly an invitation, that while industrial civilization has already dramatically disrupted the carbon cycle to the point where we can no longer hope to return to a pre-industrialized climate, that some of our best future sustainable practice is to keep some remaining fossil fuels, such as shale oil, in the ground. 


Disappearing Seas
Emily Whitbeck + Kevin Marblestone

Many of Earth’s bodies of water are disappearing. The Aral Sea in Central Asia, a sea twice the size of Massachusetts, has all but disappeared in only 50 years. Decades of shortsighted resource extraction have initiated a degradation of the region’s ecosystem with disastrous consequences, from species extinction to contamination of local crops. The impacts of this disappearing body can be felt for hundreds of miles and are dramatically altering the ecology of an entire continent. The whistle buoy installation brings to life the body of water through a series of instruments, within which specimens. The highlighted specimens–salt, cotton, sand, fish, fishing boats, dust–tell the story of loss and transformation. The design of an acoustic and visual atmosphere invites us to make sense of a body infinitely larger and more complex than own own.


Ihpeya, Piyepićaśni
Erin Genia (Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate)

Ihpeya, to discard/ throw away, describes the increasing number of places on earth that are spent, trashed, contaminated, detonated, destroyed. Piyepićaśni means broken beyond repair/ unfixable, and is used here to implicate Western philosophies of separation from nature and the hierarchy of man, which, compounded over hundreds of years of dominance, have caused widespread ecological collapse and climate change. On the contrary, Dakota philosophy holds that humans are not separate from or greater than the earth and its processes but rather that interrelationships between all forms of existence are intertwined in a delicate balance. The tableware installation invites you to consider: Once the sought-after parts of the earth’s body are extracted and processed into the essential elements that make modern living possible, what happens to the landscapes left behind? Topographical maps and specimens from the collection highlight the impacts of the extraction of uranium, gold, copper, and coal. Using earth itself, the vessel-like clay representations give form to such contours.