Cairo’s Climate Art of Epic Proportions

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Egyptians joined the 350 campaign to create art and demand bold climate action

In the Egyptian desert landscape of Wadi Natrun, 200 students and activists worked in the blistering heat to send a message to world leaders heading to Cancan for the latest climate conference. Placing large black strips on the ground and using florescent jackets, the image of a scarab holding a sun with ‘350’ inside slowly emerged and could even be seen from space. The enormous scarab was a call for leaders to agree to a fair and effective climate deal and also symbolized the potential of solar power as a renewable resource to power Egypt’s future.

The Cairo event was designed and organised by the local artist Sarah Rifaat and was one of 12 events around the world by the 350 campaign. Rifaat told the BBC that it was “important that Egypt joined this global call” to tackle climate change.

Devastating Impacts of Climate Change On Egypt

Egypt has a lot to lose from the effects of climate change due low sea levels and scientists have warned that the Nile Delta, which provides a lifeline to the country through agricultural activities could be at stake. In fact, a study commissioned by the Arab Forum for Environment and Development warned that Egypt would be one of the worst affected amongst the Arab countries with 12 million Egyptians at risk due to rising sea levels. Much like the entire MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region, Egypt is also at risk of increasing water scarcity.

Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali explained at a recent conference that water scarcity “constitutes a source of deep concern for most Muslim countries given their water poverty, imbalanced demographic growth, arbitrary exploitation of water resources, aggravated pollution, and severe and frequent climate changes, together with associated problems of drought.” He added that resolving this issues was one of the ‘most important duties’ of our time. According to reports, around 1,000 Egyptian youths took part in the climate art event backed by the 350 campaign, which included photo exhibitions to highlight the issue of climate change.

Using Art To Inspire Change & Awareness

The 350 campaign is run by Bill McKibben who spoke to Green Prophet last month and hopes the events will demonstrate the massive public support for bold climate action and the role that art can play in inspiring humanity to protect the planet. “Art can convey in a different way than science the threat that climate change poses to our planet,” he explained. “The world’s best scientists have tried to wake-up politicians to the climate crisis, now we’re counting on artists to help.”

The 350 campaign is named after the upper limit of carbon that is safe in the atmosphere and works to reduce the current level which stands at an estimated 380-390 parts per million to 350 ppm. Other pieces of climate art installed for the event- which organisers say is the first international climate art project- included an elephant in New Delhi, a flash flood in Sante Fe and a human hurricane in Mexico City.

:: Image via Ahmed Hayman.

For more on 350 and the impacts of climate change on Egypt see:

How Books Capture Egyptian Children’s Green Imagination

350.org’s Phil Aroneanu On How To Build An Environmental Movement In The Middle East

Interview: Bracing For A Warmer Future With Bill McKibben

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