Global Warming (Ursus automobilis)

Global Warming (Ursus automobilis)

Artist’s concept image.

This is a project proposal I put together for The University of West Florida, Pensacola.

Global Warming (Ursus automobilis) is a monumental polar bear sculpture created from scrapped automobiles. The sculpture is a touchstone for climate science and global warming awareness. He stands forty-five feet tall and seventy-five feet long, towering over awe-struck visitors and passing students. This great bear will garner attention for its unique construction, ambitious scale and unforgettable visual impact, made even more remarkable by the incongruity of a polar bear in Florida.

Global Warming will be built from the ground up using partially crushed automobiles and car parts carefully stacked and secured to a steel armature that safely and securely supports the whole structure. The armature will be bolted onto four poured concrete foundations. The individual cars will be hoisted into position then welded and tied with cables to the armature, assuring the completed sculpture is one contiguous and integral unit. The completed sculpture will appear as though some cosmic magnet has miraculously pulled these vehicles together to form a perfect image of the polar bear.

An earlier version of the piece as it appeared in the book, Ice Bear, by Michael Engelhard.

The sculpture also brings attention to the proliferation and life-cycle of the gasoline powered automobile. It is thought-provoking to look at the profusion of cars that make up the bear and imagine the “lives” they led, the places they drove to, and how they ended up here to be re-invented as symbols of ecological consciousness.

Philosophically, the huge bear confronts the science of global warming and how greenhouse gases affect the planet. The use of the ubiquitous automobile is a cautionary reference to the pollution cars generate. It illustrates that eventually our reliance on fossil fuels and the resultant rise in CO2 levels will have a profound change on the Earth’s ecosystems. Climate change will not only affect the polar bear’s habitat in the arctic, it will also have a major impact in Florida due to rising sea levels.

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