Watching the Future Melt Away

3 min readSep 21, 2014

By Ryan Schlief

The People’s Climate March on 21 September 2014 demands world leaders to end climate change. @melted_away presented a 3,000 pound ice sculpture in New York City and invited artists and activists to be writers in residence during the March.

— — — — — —

It’s the opposite of watching paint dry.

Each shiny letter is slowing loosing its weight and form just sitting here. And I am just sitting here watching it slowly come apart. Melting is faster and more unexpected than drying. I am waiting for the middle “T” in “FUTURE” to loose its balance and slide. The sculpture is not dripping water — small and steady streams are running down the corners of the table. The decay of the sculpture is inevitable.

I’ve watched ice melt before. Growing up in Minnesota, I saw icicles drip and the snowdrifts disappear into the ground each spring. I knew this would happen the same way year after year – so I gradually watched less intently.

But I’ve never tried to stop ice melting. Here, among the tall buildings, the tourists and spectators in New York City, I am not sure how we would even start. We could cover the ice with plastic to limit the erosion from wind and the occasional drops of rain today. A sign asking people not to touch the sculpture may help. As each letter falls, we could repair it somehow or maybe just add a new letter. The whole process feels very much out of my control.

But, this sculpture was made to melt. I don’t think we were meant to save the sculpture or repair it or cram it into a freezer at the bodega across the street until we came up with a better plan. The sculpture is already not what it was this morning — so what are we saving anyway?

Natural events are not happening the same way year after year. Out of habit and trust, maybe we were not watching as closely before, but we have seen and felt the changes. World leaders are meeting again this week and it is time to choose the people and environment first. They need to be bold and we need to be bolder.

As the sculpture continues to do what it is meant to do, it’s inevitable falling apart is in contrast with the massive coming together around me. Watching this grow thankfully is nothing like watching paint dry or ice melt. It gives me incredible hope.

Ryan Schlief is the Executive Director of the International Accountability Project – an international human rights organization that seeks to create new global policy and practice for development that respects people’s homes, environment and human rights. IAP is a supporting organization of the People’s Climate March.

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