Installation at Duke University's Wenger Gallery in Environment Hall

My Daily Contribution to Global Warming (2014)

This project and Air Current(s) 2.0 were part of the inaugural exhibit in the Wegner Gallery in Duke University’s Environment Hall. “Re-Imagining the Environment” explored how environmental imagery and messaging could be used to help bring about significant social change.

The exhibit was part of a neuroscience experiment in which visitors’ exploration of the gallery space was recorded and quantified to learn how exhibit ‘framing’ influences movement, exploration, and memory. The curators wanted to know if artworks presenting positive outlooks on the environment were more effective in inspiring advocacy than works presenting negative ones.

Nine years had passed since the last installation of My Daily Contribution to Global Warming. No longer a graduate student, my lifestyle had significantly changed. I had started a full-time job, married my wife and together, we had two children, bought a house and owned two cars.

According to an online carbon footprint calculator, out family was responsible for the following carbon dioxide emissions in 2013:

  • 6,923 pounds for consumption of 5,580 kwh of electricity
  • 1,720 pounds for 2,600 miles driven in a 1997 Honda Civic
  • 7,540 pounds for 7,500 miles driven in a 2007 Honda CR-V
  • 750 pounds for two round-trip flights between Charlotte, NC and New York,
  • and 12,655 pounds due to our lifestyle (what we buy and where we buy it from)

Our emissions total was 29,588 pounds of CO2 for a year, or 80.94 pounds per day. Splitting the responsibility for our family’s emissions with my wife (leaving the kids out of it), my personal contribution to global warming came to 40.47 pounds of CO2 a day.

At one atmosphere of pressure at 70°F, a cubic foot of air weighs about 0.075 pounds. Using balloons with a approximate capacity of 1.241 cubic feet of air, I needed 435 balloons to hold enough air to be equivalent in mass to my daily CO2 emissions.