On September 19, 2019, 60,000 people attended the People’s Climate March in New York City. Many schools had given students the day off to march, while others decided to take the day off in order to participate. Pratt students were no exception. A year and a day later, on September 20, 2020, The New York Times published an article about the Union Square clock, a staple of the area, which has stopped telling time in the traditional way. An installation created by artists Gan Golan and Andrew Boyd, the clock now begins at 3:20 p.m. with seven years, one hundred and three days, fifteen hours, forty minutes and seven seconds; the alleged time until climate change becomes irreversible. According to Boyd and Golan, this number comes from calculations done by the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change.
The clock went viral a day after the article was posted. At first, its social media presence did exactly what the project itself was intended to do: remind us to reduce our carbon footprint, be conscious of the environment and elevate the doomsday deadline we are unsettlingly approaching. However, it didn’t take long for the tone of the public to quickly shift into one of disdain. Aren’t we trying?
This question of trying especially resonates for students at Pratt, widely considered to be the up-and-coming generation. Who could come into contact with this ridiculous installation? What can we do during our time at school to make a difference, despite knowing where these damages are coming from?
Pratt offers sustainability programs, but they aren’t known unless you seek them out. The institute’s sustainability minor, for example, requires fifteen credits. This means one could take electives such as “Politics of Climate Change” or “Power, Pollution and Profit” to educate themselves further about the situation, as well as interact with other invested students about the topic. Yet, what if Pratt made taking a class on the environment and sustainability a requirement? Wouldn’t the student body learn more about how to give back to the city we’re living in, while also finding community and working together to make Pratt a more sustainable campus?
Pratt also has a Sustainability Coalition, which you can find meetings for on their website. According to their mission statement, the coalition focuses on how a fashion major can make sustainable clothes, how an architecture student can design a building to best include solar panels or a green roof and is meant to open discussions about how artists can be environmentally conscious in their work, both on and off campus. Though all students are welcome, the coalition seems heavily geared towards fashion, architecture and design majors, and once again, isn’t particularly known amongst the student body.
Though Pratt is trying, there should be a recurring conversation about the environment for every student in every major. There are ways we can do our part outside of school: We can wash our clothes in cold water, unplug our electronics, bring tote bags when we go grocery shopping and so on. If anything, the massive clock’s message should be geared towards institutions like Pratt which could be doing more, as well as the corporations who continue to damage the environment. A good place for Pratt to start would be advertising the coalition, as well as their sustainability clubs, much more, advocating for students to engage and expand the conversation. Despite the ridiculousness of the clock, we do have a deadline, and it is up to us as members of an institution to discuss how to put in as much effort as possible both on campus and in our future careers.
Art by Vivian Vazquez