A 'Mental Scotoma' is a figurative blind spot in a person's psychological awareness. This phenomenon typically arises because of cognitive dissonance and affects how we view reality. If a fact is deemed inconvenient, or not easily understood, or conflicts with our belief system, we dismiss it and do not recognize that it exists. This unconscious denial often occurs in an effort to protect the ego or one’s way of life from change. As sentient beings, many of us sense the negative impact we are having on the environment yet we continue to live unsustainable live styles. Our ability to feel the direct impact of our actions is dampened by our desires. Why do we, as a society, not all sense this connection and act to rectify the situation?

Our consumption of unnecessary goods and obsession with convenience, coupled with our definition of economic progress as dependent on immediate financial gains with no regard for future generations, posits us all as having a mental blind spot. Although we know that the coffee we drink, the car we drive, and the computer we use are all contributing to the rapidly changing climate, we continue our unsustainable live style. We justify our actions by pointing our finger at the climate change deniers, government agencies and corporations, claiming that our contribution to the problem is small compared to others. If we collectively overcome the mental scotoma and understand that the actions of one, multiplied by millions of followers, can change the course we are headed on, we can make a significant difference.

Anthro-eco Mental Scotomais an interactive installation that allows the participant to immerse themselves in the visualization of climate change data and, within minutes, see the changes that have occurred in our environment over the past century and a half. The data-controlled animation slowly creeps upward as the years traverse the screen notated by numeric data. It is undeniably convincing that we have made a significantly negative impact on the earth when the visualization reaches its peak in the present day and drops down suddenly to the 1850-1880s levels.

The piece consists of three animated pods, each analyzing and visually representing data as it changes from the late 1800s to the present. When the viewer enters the pods, their shadow overwhelms the data and obscures it, metaphorically representing their mental scotoma. The data becomes part of the body, engulfing it. In the center of the installation, a responsive environment consists of a visual depiction of the earth rotating and visual effects depicting temperature, water and CO2.  As the viewer approaches the earth, the layers of fire, water, earth and CO2 images intensify. Internationally acclaimed composer, Elainie Lillios’ electroacoustic music accentuates the experience, making it complete.

This installation brings awareness to our personal mental scotoma in regards to the destructive impact our life style is having on the earth. Hopefully it encourages dialog and inspires collective action to seek positive solutions.

Notes and credits:

POD 1: Global Surface Temperatures, 1850-2018

The dataset is a collaborative product of the Met Office Hadley Centre and the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia.  https://ourworldindata.org/co2-and-other-greenhouse-gas-emissions

POD 2: Global Average Absolute Sea Level Change, 1880-2014

Data from the US Environmental Protection Agency using data from CSIRO, 2015 and NOAA, 2015.  http://www3.epa.gov/climatechange/images/indicator_downloads/sea-level_fig-1.csv

POD3: Global Average CO2Levels, 1850-2014

Data is compiled by the Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science (IAC) at Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule in Zürich, Switzerland. https://www.co2.earth/historical-co2-datasets