The environmental crisis is a debt that passes down across generations. As we exploit the environment, the next generations will attain fewer and fewer means to dampen the damages from our actions. Accordingly, we would need a multigenerational discussion around the topic to come up with sustainable ways to consume natural resources. Regarding this issue, the Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson opened a space for younger generations to share their thoughts using the art project Earth Speakr.
In 2020, Olafur Eliasson initiated the project Earth Speakr in the format of augmented reality (AR) videos. Each clip combines the voices and facial expressions of children aged 7-17 years talking about how to mitigate the environmental crisis step by step. After capturing the video, it applies AR technology to make it look as if nature and objects speak directly to us about nature preservation.
“The people who are gonna stay the longest on the planet are the kids. Earth Speakr invites kids to speak up for the planet and adults to listen to what they have to say,” Olafur stated.
For instance, an 8-year-old in Melbourne, Australia, spoke as the Lorax (on behalf of the tree), “Mister! I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees. I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues. And I’m asking you, sir, at the top of my lungs. What’s that thing that you’ve made out of my Truffula tuft?” Listening to nature itself speak of its sufferings from our behaviours brings us a sense of shame and helps us be aware of our destructive influence on the environment.
The clips on the app and website also feature more than 70 languages, including 24 official languages of the European Union (EU). The voices of children worldwide help us realize that the environmental crisis is not only a matter of a few specific communities. We all have to work together to mitigate it.
By raising awareness about the environmental crisis, the project Earth Speakr relates to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals of Life Below Water and Life On Land. From 1961 to 2017, the average fish demand increased by 3.1% annually, “almost twice that of annual world population growth at 1.6%.” Following the growing demand, the fishing industry has also been taking an increasing number of marine species at a rate that the species cannot sustain themselves. The damage is not only the case for the marine ecosystem. According to the World Wildlife Fund, deforestation removed forests in size “over 160,000 square miles, an area roughly the size of California,” from 2004 to 2017.
Considering the intertwined nature of the ecosystem and how different species affect each other, we would need alternative means to utilize the environment in productive ways. Of course, it would be impossible to immediately stop using every resource around us to meet life necessities. However, the project Earth Speakr advises us to at least be aware of our negative influence on nature and use environmental resources in more sustainable ways. As we mindlessly exploit it, our planet will soon run out of resources, leaving our children with nothing to sustain their lives.