Future Under Climate Tyranny (A 4°C Warmer World) (2011) by Maggie Puckett

Maggie Puckett, American, 1981- . Future Under Climate Tyranny (F.U.C.T.) (A 4℃ Warmer World), 2011. Collage with handmade paper (abaca, cotton, flax, wheat straw, beach and desert sand, soil, marine plastic, dried anchovies, dried shrimp, feather boa, seaweed, dried garden plants, vegetable seeds) and pigment. Purchased with the Rebecca Morris Evans, class of 1932, Acquisition Fund and with the Eva W. Nair, class of 1928, Fund. SMITH COLLEGE MUSEUM OF ART. SC 2012.44.

  • This piece imagines a map of the world if global temperatures were to warm by 4°C. The artist Maggie Puckett is a papermaker, printmaker, bookbinder, graphic designer and urban gardener committed to making sustainable and healing art that addresses social and environmental issues. 
  • Fully assembled (image above) the piece’s dimensions are 68 x 123 x 1.5 inches (173 x  312 x 4 cm). You can request to see it at the Cunningham Center for the Study of Prints, Drawings and Photographs at the Smith College Museum of Art
  • Switching geographic North and South in this map achieves three effects: 
    • Forces the audience to look at the world differently 
    • Challenges the bias of looking at the Earth in a singular, arbitrary way
    • Creates a metaphor for how climate change would turn the world upside down

How is this related to climate?

  • The artwork reveals the potential fate of cities and territories around the world if global temperatures were 4°C higher than they were when this piece was created in 2011. 
  • Each region on the map is colored specifically to show what would happen to it under 4°C of warming, as indicated in the key (image below).

The piece’s key (from Puckett, 2011). Desert: Beach and desert sand is used to mark areas that will undergo desertification. Extreme weather: Chunks of soil and bits of rock mark regions that will experience an increase in extreme weather. Ice: Places that will be covered in ice are painted white. Habitable: Areas that will become habitable are painted various shades of green. Sea level + 100m: Pink paint indicates areas that will have 100 meters of sea level rise. Sea level + 3m: Red paint shows regions that will experience 3 meters of sea level rise.

A close up of a part of the piece showing areas that will undergo desertification (light brown sandpaper), that will see an increase in extreme weather (gray-brown areas covered in soil) and that will have sea level rise of 3 or 100 meters (red and pink) (from Puckett, 2011).

A close up of part of the piece showing areas that will become habitable (various shades of green) and that will have sea level rise of 3 or 100 meters (red and pink). Note that northern regions, such as northern Canada and Russia, as well as parts of Antarctica, will become suitable for urban and agricultural development due to higher temperatures (from Puckett, 2011).

  • Other effects of climate and environmental change are shown in this piece through different colors and textures. 
    • Equatorial regions of the ocean are painted a pale color to represent a lack of marine life. 
    • Northern and southern ocean regions are painted a darker color and covered with dried seaweed and anchovies to represent rich marine life. 
    • Real marine plastics (image below) are included in the piece to represent how the oceans will be filled with plastics and other debris.

A close up of the piece showing the marine plastics stitched into it (from Puckett, 2011).

  • The color palette, textures and materials used hope to inspire a range of emotions in the audience regarding the current climate crisis:
    • The abrasive surfaces of the sand and soil, which represent regions that will undergo devastating changes, contrast the optimistic shades of green paper, which represent regions of hope. 
    • The bright red paint that indicates areas of sea level rise creates a sense of anxiety, while the bright turquoise and deep green of the biodiverse areas of the oceans create a sense of serenity. 
    • These contrasting emotions convey the fear and anxiety surrounding climate change, while also leaving room for hope and optimism that are necessary for creating positive change.

Further Exploration

  • Art often conveys information in a way that scientific literature alone cannot. Works of art can draw on viewers’ emotions and provide new and unique perspectives. Future Under Climate Tyranny had this exact effect on students in Smith College Lecturer in Psychology Michele Wick’s class The Human Side of Climate Change (photo below). One student said: “I have seen a lot of temperature and sea level maps for climate change but I think that [Maggie Puckett] did hers in such a unique and different way that it forced me to pay attention and have more of an emotional reaction than I often do to such maps. Really, to some extent, I have become disinterested in these maps, so seeing it in such a different format … broke me of that cycle.”

References and additional resources