Cascading Memorials: Urbanization and Climate Change in San Diego and Beyond


Presentation Title:

  • Cascading Memorials: Urbanization and Climate Change in San Diego and Beyond




  • Cascading Memorials offers a public space to mourn the devastatingly rapid changes to terrestrial environments due to the combined effects of climate change and urbanization. Memorials to specific sites are designed to capture the viewer’s attention, ignite curiosity, and provide questions for reflection. The work provides a vitally important public space to grieve the immensity of our losses. Having opened our hearts, this grief can inform the values by which we design technologies and build socio-political institutions for sustainable futures where all species may flourish.

    “In indigenous Africa, one cannot conceive of a community that does not grieve. In my village, people cry every day. Villagers believe that Westerners are afraid of emotion because they are afraid of a loss of control. Until grief is restored in the West as the starting place where the modern man and woman might find peace, the culture will continue to abuse and ignore the power of water, and in turn will be fascinated with fire.” _Malidome Some, The Healing Wisdom of Africa

    Forests are dying throughout the western United States and Canada, and throughout much of the world. In the mountains north of the conference site and beyond, drought bark beetles are devastating Lodgepole, Pinon, and Ponderosa pines. Many forests are not only brown, but blackened in the wake of huge fires. Cascading Memorials offers a place to grieve the astoundingly rapid changes and losses of wild spaces brought about by climate change and urbanization. Memorials focus memory. The work calls viewers/participants to attentiveness, to appreciate the splendor of their surroundings, to listen to the wisdom of scientists and the memories of elders, and to contemplate the rapidity at which the environments in which we live are changing. The initial focus of Cascading Memorials, developed as an installation and web site, is San Diego County, my home for many years. Characterized by diverse habitats and extremely rapid population growth, from 60,000 to over three million inhabitants in the last one hundred years, San Diego is home to more threatened and endangered species than any other county in the continental United States.

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