Location: Bowdoin / Sustainability / Activity / 2010 / CO2 Cube

Madelyn Sullivan '10 Presents a Physical Representation of One Ton of CO2 Emissions

Story posted February 23, 2010

CO2 CubeThe Morrell Lounge in Smith Union plays host to a ton of studying, a ton of pub-goers, and a ton of events, but this Monday it had a new resident: a ton of CO2 emissions. As part of the Mckeen Center’s "Innovations for Change" series, Madelyn Sullivan set a 27 foot cube of red tape in the Morrell Lounge as a representation of the size of one ton of CO2 gas emissions. The idea originally came from similar installations at the 2009 Copenhagen Conference on Climate Change. One ton of CO2 is equivalent to the average emissions of one US citizen every two weeks—and Bowdoin College emits 24,000 tons of CO2 each year.

"Our society tends to focus on numbers and facts, which become very abstract," Sullivan says of her inspiration for the CO2 cube. "By giving form to these numbers people can interact with these concepts in a more direct and sensory way." Though people were very receptive to the idea of the installation, it took a lot of planning and discussion with college administrators involved with Morrell Lounge to make it happen. Initially, Sullivan wanted to fill the cube with library books, because books are Bowdoin’s valuable and finite resource, much like carbon is for the global community. A cube full of books would further represent all the complied knowledge necessary to solve the daunting problem of rising CO2 emissions. However, due to safety concerns of stacking that many books, as well as concerns over books being lost or stolen, Sullivan was unable to fill her cube with books. Sullivan calls these concerns "totally valid" and says they "show that we care about each other. But what about a CO2 emissions regulation? When are we going to say, 'I'm sorry Bowdoin College, but 24,000 tons of CO2 is just too dangerous, you will have to postpone the start of classes until you can provide the world with a safer learning environment'?"

"Our society tends to focus on numbers and facts, which become very abstract,"
— Madelyn Sullivan '10