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On Climate Change, COP21 and Public Art

by Patricia E. Harris, Chief Executive Officer of Bloomberg Philanthropies

World leaders, environment experts and delegates from around the globe are convening in Paris for COP21, the U.N.’s climate summit. Meanwhile, in the center of the city at Place du Panthéon, the public has the chance to encounter Ice Watch, a work by acclaimed artist Olafur Eliasson and scientist Minik Rosing, supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Ice Watch consists of 80 tons of free-floating blocks of ice from Greenland, arranged in a clock formation. Remaining in the public square the ice melts, visually representing the climate change taking place on our planet. In a release about the art work, Eliasson said, “Art has the ability to change our perceptions and perspectives on the world, and Ice Watch makes the climate challenges we are facing tangible.”

This is one of many works in which Eliasson explores form and materials while also addressing some of the world’s most pressing problems. In 2012, together with solar engineer Frederik Ottesen, Eliasson designed and launched Little Sun, a social enterprise that produces and distributes solar-powered LED lights for the nearly one quarter of the world’s population that do not have access to electricity. During COP21, he will be using the outdoor installation as a means to spur climate action.

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