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Earth, Fire, Water, Air

by Lauren Lustgarten

With its “unusual juxtaposition and intermingling of art and science,” the Central Connecticut State University art exhibition, “Earth, Fire, Water, Air: Elements of Climate Change,” is aiming to give visitors a new sense of urgency towards climate change.

The most recent addition to the exhibition, which has been seen flying around campus, is the Fossil Fuel Dragon.

Concerned students stepped up to the challenge of assembling the 60-foot papier-mâché dragon that battled the Earth — equipped with a wind turbine sword and solar panel shield — throughout the campus as fliers promoting the art exhibition and more were distributed.

Professor Longhorne borrowed the dragon from New Haven school students.

The driving force behind the Fossil Fuel Dragon March was to not only bring attention to the art exhibition, but to also bring attention to the Global Environmental Sustainability Symposium, a conference regarding climate change, which will take place at the Student Center on April 13.

Curator of the “Earth, Fire, Water, Air” exhibition and emeritus professor of art history, Elizabeth Langhorne, hopes that this representation of the battle between the fossil fuel dragon and earth will open people’s eyes to the severity of climate change.

“Emission of CO2 into the earth’s atmosphere, largely caused by the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas [Earth, and hence the fossil fuel dragon] drives global warming [Fire], causing the melting of glaciers and destructive sea rise [Water],” said Langhorne. “But, through the embrace of renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar [Air, and hence the earth puppeteer using solar panel shield and wind turbine sword], we can mitigate the disruptive forces, global and local, of climate change.”

The papier-mâché dragon was originally made by school children in New Haven who they borrowed it from, explained Langhorne. Along with theater professor, Thom Delventhal, Langhorne called through Facebook and other social media sites, asking for participants to hold the dragon, signs and hand out fliers. Delventhal organized the participants and all together, they assembled the dragon.

“As an activist, I wanted to chant, ‘Hey, hey! Ho, ho! Fossil fuel has got to go,’” said Delventhal. “As an actor, my life has been about imagination and play. But President Trump’s recent statement about ‘really clean coal’ is extremely upsetting. That is an oxymoron.”

Dr. Charles Button, geography professor and founder and chair of the Global Environmental Sustainability Action Coalition, helped with the assembling and marching of the dragon as well. GESAC and the art exhibit worked together to have the exhibit function as a lead into the symposium in which Button organized. Button has hosted the Sustainability Symposium every year since his arrival on campus 10 years ago.

The tenth Annual Global Environmental Sustainability Symposium will have the theme of ‘Climate Change: 10 Years of Progression, Aggression, and Suppression.’ The Symposium is free and open to the public.

“There will be numerous educational programs and activities that engage audience members in discussions about the status of social, economic, and environmental dimensions of climate change. The day highlights the academic work of CCSU students and numerous prominent scientific, political, and community leaders, including: CT Senator Ted Kennedy Jr., Earthwatch’s Dr. Stan Rullman, Yale University Hillhouse Professor of Environmental Law and Policy (and former CT DEEP Commissioner) Dr. Daniel Esty, and CCSU Professor of Geography and Sustainability Dr. Charles Button,” said Dr. Button in the press release.

Just some of the topics that will be examined during the symposium will include the impacts climate change has on bees, water sources and ecosystems; electrical vehicles; the impacts corporations have on climate change; discussion of current political attacks on climate science and sustainability and more.

“The CCSU and New Britain community is alive with climate change activity. For example, CCSU Education Club members brought fourth graders from New Britain’s Jefferson Elementary School into the exhibition,” said Langhorne.

There will be a closing reception for “Earth, Fire, Water, Air: Elements of Climate Change” on April 12 from 4-7 p.m. where student art, made by New Britain fifth graders from Holmes and Smith Elementary Schools and CCSU art students, created in interaction with the exhibition will be displayed.

“I am so grateful to Professors Langhorne and Button for their commitment to bringing these issues to the forefront of their work,” said Delventhal. “It was my honor to use my acting skills and to enlist the help of my students in bringing this puppet to life.”

Students can attend the art exhibit until April 13 in the CCSU Art Gallery located on the second floor of Maloney Hall.