Sculpture design for green energy by artist Raphael Shirley, in collaboration with design team
Today, The Next Renaissance is in progress. Unprecedented achievements are evolving in ecological finance, quantum computing, green energy design, advancing knowledge of nature's ecosystems, and in new levels of unbounded creative thinking and artistic expression. This will have a transformative impact on the future as have the Arab-Islamic Renaissance, also known as the Islamic Golden Age (8th-14th Centuries) and the Italian Renaissance (15th-early 17th centuries). These periods of flourishing intellectual, artistic, and scientific achievements, had the same challenges that persist in our current era—power struggles, economic disparities, class and gender inequalities, religious conflicts, and health crises. Today's renaissance confronts the additional crisis of climate change.
A truly transformative Next Renaissance would come from determined leadership and citizens who would apply the world-changing innovations to developing solutions for the interdependent societal and environmental challenges. And they would build the desire for such a flourishing world.
"Nature is an unpaid worker" - Paula DiPerna
The forest north of Mandal, Norway. A summer sunset photographed by Kai-Wilhelm Nessler.
"Nature is an unpaid worker," says Paula DiPerna, a pioneer and leader at the forefront of finance and climate policy, from the Oval Office to Antarctica, coral reefs to carbon markets.
During DiPerna's early career as a writer and documentary film co-producer for 20 years she traveled extensively around the world on the famous vessel Calypso with the expedition teams of the Cousteau Society, the environmental organization founded by pioneering marine ecologist Jacques-Yves Cousteau.
DiPerna with Jacques Cousteau in Cairo, 1994. Picture: Paula DiPerna
Paula DiPerna's experiences with Cousteau in ocean explorations and in endangered regions facing the crisis of environmental degradation, drove her determination to work towards shaping ecological finance methods based on the value of nature.
As the climate crisis and intensifying wildfires to record-breaking heatwaves, are resulting in devastating destruction to humans and wildlife she has been explaining to governments, and in publications and public media, how capitalism can be used to fight the climate crisis and protect the planet’s essential assets.
In her new book, Pricing the Priceless: The Financial Transformation to Value the Planet, Solve the Climate Crisis, and Protect Our Most Precious Assets by Paula DiPerna, DiPerna details how to attach monetary value to commodities like water and fresh air, and to show the true far reaching cost of using these natural resources in products and services, in order to incentivize people and businesses in the fight against climate change.
Nestled along the southern shores of Homebush Bay, the resilient Badu Mangroves stand as a testament to nature's perseverance. Once shadowed by neglect and industrial scars, these mangrove forests have triumphantly emerged from a past marred by pollution. Today—they thrive—as a sanctuary of Sydney's marine and bird life, whispering tales of revival and hope. The Badu Mangroves symbolise the power of restoration and enduring spirit of nature. Photograph by Matthew Lahoud, Sydney, Australia
In her personal journeys around the world, DiPerna has witnessed many examples of the dichotomy in the valuations of nature vs. profit systems, and has had many conversations about the shortcomings of the GDP--Gross Domestic Product, which only measures a country's output, it doesn’t measure intangibles other than research and development. DiPerna makes the point that if you can measure research and development intangibles and feed that into the GDP, then why can’t you value nature and feed that into the GDP as a standing value."
hangseng_80-09.from high altitude series (2008-10). Michael Najjar rendered data of 10 leading stock indices into mountain ranges - a metaphor for corporate environmental impact. Photographed during his trek to Mt. Aconcagua. Hybrid photography, archival pigment print, aludibond, matte plexi (diasec), custom made aluminium frame. 79.5 in x 52 in.
DiPerna asks, "How can our markets value things that are completely dispensable, like Uber or an espresso coffee machines, or any of the other doodads that wealthier people have - these are just disruptions. Uber didn’t invent anything, they just disrupted what was a legacy business. What is the value in that per se is hard to define. But it is valued in the billions of dollars as a company. How can we value Uber in the billions and the atmosphere at zero. Whatever Uber’s worth, the atmosphere can’t be worth less.. The atmosphere is indispensable, Uber is dispensable."
She talks about the Paris Climate Conference where governments have offered African developing countries preferable lending terms so they can invest in climate change. "This is completely in reverse", she says. The countries that are supposedly debtor countries are actually creditor countries. We owe them for holding on to the rainforest. We owe them for the sequestration of carbon. We owe them for the oil that’s underground that they haven’t exploited yet. Why don’t we just pay them instead of loaning money?"
Peruvian Amazon. Photographs by Helena de Bragança
Long term destruction of nature for profit has numerous examples. For one, the seabed mining of Nauru, a tiny island country in Micronesia, northeast of Australia, is an aquaculture settled by people from Micronesia around 1000 BCE. It features a coral reef and white-sand beaches fringed with palms and tropical vegetation. Destruction of the sea around Nauru and reef suffocation has been caused by phosphate mining and increased siltation, rising warming of the oceans in general, and dumping of trash and garbage from the island itself. Destruction to biodiversity upset the interdependent ecosystem of fish, wildlife, corals, and vegetation which in turn harmed the sustainability of human life for food, lively hoods, catastrophic weather events, air pollution, and more. In many regions, people need to poach wildlife and cut trees in order to earn money to survive.
DiPerna explains that a lot of people are working on solutions, and although it's not adding up, there are the bright spots. Africa has recognized the intrinsic value of offset projects initiated in Africa, and so is holding on to them rather than selling them into foreign markets, for the sake of keeping that value in Africa to improve the lives of Africans. At the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, very vocal activists in the Amazon said that "if the North cares so much about our rainforest, let them rent them. If that had happened with the industrialized counties, everything would be different today including poverty."
Paula DiPerna participated in the global finance conversation for A View From The Cloud, a public program with cross-disciplinary experts at the UN Church Center co-produced by Streaming Museum and World Council of Peoples for the UN.
"Climate change requires financial and political institutional systems-wide investments and changes. Addressing climate change is a major jobs creator and employer also for the innovation revolution. We need to rehabilitate our institutions and that requires scrutiny, kindness, open mindedness and fresh views and anything to open up the systems and push them to move quicker, we’re just moving too slowly."
DiPerna says that the rise in environmental, social and governance (ESG) investment is awakening the Wall Streets of the world to put a price on nature's ecological benefits and their economic value. There are interesting tools for econometrics being funded by foundations and commercial entities. DiPerna is a Special Advisor to CDP (Carbon Disclosure Project) which runs the global disclosure system for investors, companies, cities, states and regions to manage their environmental impacts.
Her advice to young people: "Don't get hung up in convention. if it's a good idea, try to find a way to do it. Challenge authority with respect. Embrace beauty - in people, in imagery and locations. Beauty is free to all and if you embrace it you get a lot of payback.
The forest north of Mandal, Norway, photographed by Kai-Wilhelm Nessler.
The interplex of nature, arts and technology
The Energy+Art Garden (TEAG) immerses visitors in a futuristic world of clean energy producing interactive sculptures and lighting, lush plantings, pathways, and gathering points for public engagement.
TEAG was designed for Spinelli Park in Mannheim, Germany for the Land Art Generator Initiative competition in 2023 and was showcased in a 6-month exhibition in the Park.
The design team: multimedia artist Raphaele Shirley, Nina Colosi/Streaming Museum, and architects Bernardo Zavattini and Claude Boullevraye de Passillé.
TEAG is influenced by the forms that have been central to the social systems of civilizations throughout history, and augments them with 21st century technologies that unlock the energies of the earth and sun. These forms–mound, ziggurat, pyramid, arena, and circle--used for agriculture, community, and ceremony, have cosmological, cultural and spiritual meaning, and align with the symbiosis of humans and the cycles of nature.
TEAG is a self-sustaining oasis that uses a geothermal energy system Climeon (Climeon.com) which generates energy for the park and the Mannheim City grid, and funds the maintenance, community programming, gardens and organic farm. It is constructed with photovoltaic and thermodynamic solar systems by SoloPower Systems Inc. (solopower.com); carbon capture materials for building elements by Twelve (twelve.com) and Pavegen (pavegen.com) floor tiles that generate kinetic energy from people’s movement over them, and also produces light patterns and energy for visual displays and personal electronic device recharging. The composting of organic waste supports the hanging gardens that grow vegetables and air quality and its flow through Mannheim is enhanced through the plantings of diverse native wildflowers and supports eco-regeneration for rewilding the site.
The Energy+Art Garden is among the featured designs in the Land Art Generator Initiative's publication Land Art and Climate Action: Designing the 21st Century City Park which the American Society of Landscape Architects has named one of the Best Books of 2023. The book presents exceptional climate solutions that provide a range of social co-benefits and inspire people about the beauty, abundance, and vibrancy of a fossil-free world.
Artists' creative process dissolves boundaries:
a mind-set for problem solving across fields
John F. Simon, Jr. Moment of Expansion, 2014. HDU, Trupan, acrylic paint, plastic laminate 108 x 192 x 3"
The creative process of pioneer digital artist, John F. Simon, Jr. involves improvisation, mediation, and boundary dissolution.
The artwork Moment of Expansion (2014), Simon explains, "starts from a point in a frame and grows until the marks exceeds the boundaries of the frame. The forms in the work are architectural and industrial." He continues, "The reading I like to give is about how living systems are based on growth. Continual growth test the limits of resources and n this way our industrial consumer societies change the frame of the world. When you think about how much human consumption is altering Earth's resources, the limits of the frame are obvious. This work recognizes the systems that exceed those boundaries."
"Instead of predetermining a work and what meaning I want to convey, I use improvisational drawing to discover what I have to say. My process for working starts with making daily drawings. I am open to what is arising and letting that be reflected in the work. through being open to anything that can occur around me. What becomes persistent in the daily drawings gets enlarged and amplified in the bigger work."
"There's a close connection between the software and the daily drawing that led me into the meditation practice." Simon's daily practice of drawing in his studio is a meditative experience from which recurring themes emerge and are developed into large scale works. Photograph courtesy John F. Simon, Jr. and Xiaoying Juliette Yuan.
In Complex City (2000) Simon used software and computer hardware to tell his personal story of the changes, rhythms and movement he observed in his day-to-day life as an artist living in New York City around the year 2000.
The work interpreted his view of the city from his studio on West 35th Street, the skyscrapers and birds, factory windows, buildings, and the traffic he encountered " Simon recounts, "Environment has an impact for sure, even if you don’t think about it when you’re doing it. But if you see a shape regularly, you become familiar with it unconsciously, and when it comes up in the work, you don't know where it comes from.”
Simon's consistent introspective drawing, practiced daily for over 25 years, and documented since 2008 on iclock.com, has been described in his book: Drawing Your Own Path: 33 Practices at the Crossroads of Art and Meditation .
Complex City (2000). Custom Software,Macintosh PowerBook G3, Acrylic Plastic. Image courtesy of the artist
Technology's exponential advancement since he wrote ComplexCity (2000) is evident in Simon’s newest incarnation of ComplexCity (2023), an NFT version of the classic software now housed on an open public blockchain.
“Code brings me to places beyond my imagination. I would characterize the direction of programming from 2000 to 2023 as ‘more things moving faster’. I rarely have to think anymore about memory use or optimizations. The surprise in 2023 was how useful AI became to coding."
John F. Simon, Jr. Complex City 2023, NFT collection Artwrld. Courtesy, the artist
For Simon the new NFT ComplexCity (2023) became an exercise in boundary dissolution and exploring how art is collected, owned, and displayed in an open online format.
Previous programs with Simon produced by Streaming Museum include a 7-continent public space tour of HD Traffic; an exhibition and public program for Digital Art @Google headquarters in NYC; and an art+jazz performance at Juilliard at Lincoln Center in NYC.
Paradox Park, 2023, by Kurt Hentschlager, attempts a poetic framing the many paradoxes springing from western civilization’s complex yet frail life style, all driven and sustained by digital technology. For instance, we all understand that earth’s climate is irreversibly transforming, yet we stand by, frozen with anxiety and denial, doing little to nothing about it. Whether economically, ecologically, sociologically, or politically, we know that things are headed into dangerous, uncharted waters. We know we must act fast to survive, but can’t seem to break old habits.
"Reflecting this state of collective worry and unease, I envision Paradox Park as a virtual sculpture park scenario populated by a number of trapped avatar protagonists, that seem to be stuck in a mire. Monumental human heads and whole body human avatars, 3D captured and animated, are set in a featureless void, glued onto a barren ground plane or hanging midair. These avatars appear to be “alive,” fueled by AI logic, passing through raw emotions and mood transformations that occur over time, responding to visitors (or not), depending on set conditions, but nevertheless programmed to act unpredictably.
"The heads and figures in this virtual installation and performance are ephemeral, malleable and unstable. They are both figuratively and authentically human as much as being reanimated, reorganized, code-based beings. They emit sounds - somewhere in-between a human voice and amorphous ambient textures: part murmuring, part fragmented speech, part singing, part screaming, at times just humming. Their set of behaviors range from nervous to agitated, apathetic to emotional, often switching back and forth in rapid succession. Real-world visitors, to this world can move from one protagonist to the next. Placed in an irregular matrix, they are grouped in clusters, in a series of lit oases that stretch into the distance."