The Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University and Climate Creatives founder Susan Israel ’81, M.Arch. ’86, are working together on an art and design collaboration, with an event planned for Saturday, that will help people see the urgent need to act on climate change.
And the inspiration for it all? Frederick Law Olmsted, the visionary landscape architect who sought to help individuals develop a personal connection to nature.
“Olmsted designed 100 years into the future and what we see at the Arboretum is what he imagined, a beautiful library of trees,” Israel said. “But I would like people to think of it not just as a library, but as a living lab. The Arboretum is deeply involved and doing extremely important work with climate change, how our landscape will be altered, and how to manage it.”
It was the beauty of Olmsted’s park, designed in the late 1870s, that inspired Israel to help individuals, communities, schools, and organizations consider climate change solutions tangibly and concretely. She originally named her organization “The Energy Necklace Project” as an homage to Olmsted’s Emerald Necklace, a 1,100-acre chain of parks through Brookline and Boston, of which the Arboretum is a part.
Through workshops and scalable public art, including installations and sculpture made from reclaimed materials — office supplies, fabric, and even chopsticks — Israel teaches about climate issues in an innovative and fun way, inviting participants to make personal commitments to manageable, sustainability solutions.
“When I first realized there wasn’t a feeling of climate urgency, no feeling of it being personal, people weren’t connecting with the data, it occurred to me that this is a cultural and emotional problem,” Israel said. “So I thought, ‘What if we have public art to help people get more interested in the conversation about climate and help make a metaphoric connection by putting the art across the landscape?’”