Week 1: Intro to Anthropocene and Albedo Effect

After our first week’s class, I felt of course depressed, but fortunately extremely inspired. I have been interested in environmental projects in the past, and yet knew so little about it. So every line I read, every piece of new information sparked ideas in my mind.

The first idea I chose to execute was a futuristic archeology museum exhibition about Anthropocene. This project originated from the perception that human beings are only inhabiting the earth for an extremely short period of time, and will be soon replaced by other lives and civilizations given birth by the earth. What will they find out about the Anthropocene when they start looking? Not that much, according to Elizabeth Kolbert’s article Enter the Anthropocene – Age of Man.

According to the article, very few marks will be left on the surface of earth from Anthropocene. Among the things that will, some examples were given:

“The boundaries between epochs are defined by changes preserved in sedimentary rocks.”

“Future geologists are more likely to grasp the scale of 21st-century industrial agriculture from the pollen record—from the monochrome patches of corn, wheat, and soy pollen that will have replaced the varied record left behind by rainforests or prairies.”

“Some plants and animals are already shifting their ranges toward the poles, and those shifts will leave traces in the fossil record. ”

Sedimentary rocks, monochrome pollen, and animal fossils are the three subjects I decide to borrow as my metaphors.

(It’s not in perfect presentation mode yet.. To be continued.)

Sedimentary rock:

Animal fossil (part of high brown fritillary, a butterfly species originally in Britain, but moved toward Scotland where the fossil was found):

Pollen:

 

Apart from my awe towards Anthropocene, I was also asked to research into my topic for the first four weeks: Albedo Effect.

The Earth receives sunlight and the radiation that comes with it every day. Not only does it receive, it also needs to send energy back. This is the process of the Earth cooling down itself. Albedo is the amount of energy Earth needs to reflect. On average, Albedo on Earth should be about 31% (out of all the energy received). The word Albedo literally means “white” or “brightness”. In this case, it’s not hard to imagine that Earth’s Albedo depends on the brightness of the surface. Different surfaces can reflect different Albedo. For example, forests can normally reflect 8-15%. 30% for deserts. 6-9% for ice and snow.

Except for the surface, the clouds in the sky also play an important role of reflecting energy. The amount of energy reflected depends on various factors, its size, its height, and how much water it contains. For instance, cumulonimbus clouds cast dark shadow in the sky because light from the outside doesn’t go through. In this case it has high albedo. On the other hand, a cirrus cloud is transparent from earth and light can easily go through, so it has lower albedo.

After first week of research, this is what I made:

This sketch was made using p5.js, demonstrating the Earth’s relationship with the Sun’s radiation. It displays Earth in the universe. The light coming out of it symbolizes how much Albedo it needs to get out. The more light showing, the warmer the Earth is, hence the change of the color from blue to red.

More about the making of this sketch can be found here.

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