The Artsy Side of Copenhagen

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As the 15th United Nation's Climate Change Conference (COP15) gets underway today in Copenhagen, the world will be expecting reports of heated negotiations, anticipated actions, and possibly some disappointing delays. But both delegates and followers from afar may be surprised to see and hear a lighter side of the meeting, one filled with sculpture, fashion and song.

Perhaps the most predictable artwork on hand at COP15 is the life-size ice carving of a polar bear—the poster pet for climate change. "Everyone can come and touch it. Everyone will become sculptors, and in doing so they will melt it," sculptor Mark Coreth told the Telegraph. "That act will be hugely symbolic of the way humanity has the power to affect the balance of nature."

Also greeting conference-goers today is a 27-foot "CO2 Cube", which will showcase streaming video from around the world, as well as visualizations of climate facts and statistics. But the installation—about the size of a three-story building—is more than just a functional appliance: Alfio Bonanno and Christophe Cornubert designed their fusion of art and technology to represent how much carbon dioxide the typical person in an industrialized country emits each month. (Or two weeks for the average American.) That's a ton of CO2—literally.

Even the clothing on our backs can carry a high carbon cost. Last week, in anticipation of the conference, a Copenhagen show entitled "Innovating Sustainable Fashion" highlighted trendy ways to lower that environmental price tag. Danish design students debuted everything from coats made of recycled plastic bottles to redesigned used clothes. “I wanted to make rainwear that is functional, yet cool, and of course sustainable,” Karin Eggert Hansen, a student at the Danish Design School, told the COP15 blog.

And no historical event is complete without a soundtrack. The unofficial theme for the climate conference is Bob Dylan's "A Hard Rain's A Gonna Fall." Dylan first performed the song in 1962 at the height of the Cold War, "channeling the fears of a generation living under the threat of nuclear war," reports BBC News. "Now [it's] being invoked to highlight this generation's fear of environmental calamity."

The song's lyrics, which include lines such as "I've stepped in the middle of seven sad forests," and "I've been out in front of a dozen dead oceans," could easily reflect the fear of both nuclear war and environmental catastrophe. "It really shows that if we don't address things, the hard rain is not only 'gonna' fall," David Fricke, a senior editor at Rolling Stone, told BBC News. "But it's been falling already, and we haven't been paying attention."

If warnings from scientists and politicians aren't enough to grab people's attention, maybe a big screen TV, a sweating polar bear, some catwalk models and a little rock n' roll will.

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