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Climate Change Denial

Project type

Mixed Media Installation


December 2022


Barney Davis Hall, Denison University

This art project was conducted for my senior research in collaboration with the Environmental Studies Department at Denison University. I chose to research climate change denial in Denison students. In particular, I was interested in “Ideological denialism” denial where people refuse to acknowledge the true root of climate change and instead choose to believe in solutions that fail to challenge the status quo and/or require the realignment of cultural values (Peterson et al 2019). Ideological denialism allows individuals to absolve themselves of climate change responsibility, feel good about their own actions and satisfactorily compartmentalize the idea of climate change as something that is far away and bad but something they are helpless to solve (Farley 2015, Norgaard 2012). In short, it’s simply psychologically easier to live in denial (Rothenburg 2018, Murphy 2014). In order to dive deeper into this tendency, I interviewed several students to learn about how they feel about climate change, how they came to feel that way, and what they can do to help solve it. Instead of putting blame on my participants, these questions opened them up to creative solutions-based thinking and gave them the space to envision a positive future

Each of these pieces were created in direct response to my interviews. The first section of this installation is a collection of pieces is made of a combination of found organic objects and textiles. These pieces encapsulate my participants’ fears about their negative experiences with climate change information. The second section of the exhibit takes the form of a quilt. It connects all the solutions my participants came up with that they felt they could become a part of. These are woven together in such a way that none of the pieces are touching each other but are still inexorably bonded together through the quilt. The last section of my piece allows participants to imagine their role in climate change solutions, and how their contributions collaborate with the community.

I take artistic inspiration from textile artists such as Faith Ringold and Precious Lovell who create quilts in order to remember narratives, reimagine futures, and bind generations together. I also take intellectual inspiration from author Octavia Butler and her community-based solutions to insurmountable challenges. My theoretical inspiration is grounded in Kari Noorgaard’s Climate change denial research, where she explores the inherent contradictions between climate change and the daily reality of many citizens of a small Norwegian town.

I intend for this artwork to inspire hope and climate action in my audience. This artwork will hopefully continue to live on past this exhibition in order to continue the conversation.


Petersen, Brian, Diana Stuart, and Ryan Gunderson. “Reconceptualizing Climate Change Denial: Ideological Denialism Misdiagnoses Climate Change and Limits Effective Action.” Human Ecology Review 25, no. 2 (2019): 117–42.
Farley, Wendy. “Truth, Beauty, and Climate Change: A Dialogue With Continental Philosophy about Living With Denial.” Environmental Philosophy 12, no. 2 (2015): 253–70.
Rothenberg, David. “The Point Is to Change It: Can Philosophy Address Climate?” Worldviews 22, no. 1 (2018): 11–27.
Murphy, Patrick D. “Pessimism, Optimism, Human Inertia, and Anthropogenic Climate Change.” Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment 21, no. 1 (2014): 149–63.
Norgaard, Kari Marie. “Climate Denial and the Construction of Innocence: Reproducing Transnational Environmental Privilege in the Face of Climate Change.” Race, Gender & Class 19, no. 1/2 (2012): 80–103.

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