Eerie posters of national parks in 2050 reveal a dark future
Tuesday, April 25, 2017, 4:58 PM - A California-based artist is adding a relevant twist to decades-old posters of U.S. national parks. Hannah Rothstein's latest collection, National Parks 2050, juxtaposes the old with the new to present the eerie reality of natural landscapes across the country and around the globe.
The original posters came into creation between 1938 and 1941, when a team of artists from the U.S. Works Progress Administration created the serigraphs for the country's national parks. Today, myriad copies lie in gift shops at national parks across the U.S., printed as posters or post card replicas of the original works.
Rothstein's collection, however, is an altogether different version of the posters.
Based on contemporary renderings of the original black-and-white posters (created by Ranger Doug), Rothstein's National Parks 2050 highlights a futuristic image of the parks, one that takes into account the state of the climate in 2017.
"I was rather worried about a number of issues after the election in November. One closest to my heart and one I was most concerned about was the climate, and climate change," Rothstein tells The Weather Network. "[W]e're on a fast track as a planet to a very different place, and one that would not be the same as what we're in right now as I understand it, and as science, if you read the studies, shows."
The concept of national parks came up in a conversation, Rothstein tells The Weather Network.
"It brought to mind those posters that I'd seen a thousand places maybe two years before they went around on the internet, and immediately it felt like maybe the right thing to sort of put a new spin on and the right way to present a message about climate change."
Rothstein says she took time to consider how to bring these issues to the public in a way that would forge a personal connection. The traditional delivery is data, she adds, but statistics don't always resonate with people.
"Words are powerful and numbers are meaningful and we certainly love data as a culture, but I think there's something different in seeing the potential changes -- or likely changes, depending on how you look at it — portrayed in a visual manner that feels a lot more emotional and a lot more close to home."
Scientifically speaking, The Weather Network meteorologist and science reporter Scott Sutherland says that Rothstein's collection presents a plausible reality.
"Looking through her collection, I have to say that she hit all the major risks factors that are impacting America’s national parks, as the world warms due to anthropogenic climate change," Sutherland says.
"These 2050 'updates' to the National Parks Service tourism signs do present worst-case scenarios, but not unrealistic ones. We’re already seeing some of what they represent – worsening droughts, worsening forest fire seasons, species loss, pest invasions, and coastal flooding, just to name a few. These issues are only going to get worse with time if we continue to burn fossil fuels for energy."
Rothstein hopes her work sparks acknowledgement of the issue and meaningful discussion — specifically, among those who find it easy to overlook the science of human impact on climate change.
"There are a lot of people, particularly people who are in positions of power, who are making decisions for a generation that's going to be affected by this. They often don't acknowledge that this is an issue," Rothstein says. "I'm really hoping that these works will make climate change and, the path we're on, hard — impossible — to ignore, so that people feel compelled to say, 'okay this is an issue, let's start talking about it, and let's see what we can do.'"
Three pieces from the National Parks 2050 collection will appear in a climate-change oriented gallery show in New Haven, Connecticut, in May.
Rothstein says it's her goal to someday see the collection in museums and galleries, both within the U.S. and abroad. For now, the pieces are displayed on her site as paintings and digital prints.
To view Rothstein's full collection or purchase a piece from National Parks 2050, visit hrothstein.com