Science & Society: Climate Futurism

When it comes to climate change, much of our cultural imagery is apocalyptic. The result is that most of us can’t imagine, realistically, getting it right. And if we can’t imagine possible climate futures, we can’t create them.

This is design’s time to shine. Practically, tangibly, design—from buildings and technology, to materials and processes—shapes how we experience and move through the world, shapes what we value and how we interact. Given how much the climate has already changed, and how much more change is inevitable, we urgently need design to lead us toward a transformed world.

What if climate adaptation is beautiful? What if we look to nature for solutions? What if technology is a tool instead of a mode? What if museums are hubs of R&D for society? What if we act as if we love the future?

Join solar/salvage punk artist Olalekan Jeyifous and MoMA curator Paola Antonelli, both trained architects, as we grapple with the role of design in addressing the climate crisis. This event is moderated by Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, ecologist, policy expert, curator of the Climate Futurism exhibition, and author of the forthcoming book, What If We Get It Right?: Visions of Climate Futures.

Before and after the conversation, join us for stargazing with the Amateur Astronomers Association of NY, and Taiwanese food by GaMaDiam Goods will be available for purchase throughout the event.

About the panelists

Olalekan Jeyifous examines contemporary socio-political, cultural, and environmental realities through the tradition of architectural utopianism, from a sci-fi inspired and Afro-surrealist perspective. His practice is rooted in borrowed and invented utopian or dystopian narratives anchored by direct relevance to contemporary social issues. To articulate these narratives, Jeyifous regularly combines digital illustration and 3D computer models with photographs, hand-drawings, and collage, to produce detailed illustrations, photo-montages, 360° VR experiences, adaptable and mobile architectural sculptures, and large-scale public installations that examine architecture and its relationship to place and community through an eco-political lens. Jeyifous received a BArch from Cornell University, and has exhibited at venues such as the Studio Museum in Harlem, MoMA, the Vitra Design Museum, and the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain. He has been a Wilder Green Fellow at the MacDowell Colony, has completed artist residencies with the Drawing Center’s Open Sessions program and the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center, and is the recipient of a 2021 Fellowship by the United States Artists. He has spent over a decade creating large-scale installations for a variety of public spaces and was recently co-commissioned to create a monument dedicated to Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm as part of the City of New York’s “She Built NYC” initiative.

Paula Antonelli is an Italian architect, curator, author, editor, and educator. She is the Museum of Modern Art’s Senior Curator of Architecture and Design, as well as MoMA’s founding Director of Research and Development. Her work investigates design in all its forms, from architecture to video games, often expanding its reach to include overlooked objects and practices. Her exhibitions, lectures, and writings contemplate design’s intersection and interaction with other fields (from technology and biology to popular culture) and with life—that of individuals, communities, all species, and all planets. Her goal is to promote people’s understanding of design, until its positive influence on the world is universally acknowledged. She has been described as "one of the 25 most incisive design visionaries in the world" by TIME magazine

Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson is a marine biologist, policy expert, writer, and Brooklyn native. She co-founded and leads Urban Ocean Lab, a think tank for the future of coastal cities, and is the Roux Distinguished Scholar at Bowdoin College. Recently, Dr. Johnson co-edited the bestselling climate anthology All We Can Save, co-created the Spotify/Gimlet climate solutions podcast How to Save a Planet, and co-authored the Blue New Deal, a roadmap for including the ocean in climate policy. She serves on the board of directors for Patagonia and GreenWave, on the advisory board of Environmental Voter Project, and on the steering committee for the Ocean Justice Forum. Recent recognitions include, the Schneider Award for climate communication, the Time 100 Next List, and appointment to the Secretary of State’s Foreign Affairs Policy Board. Dr. Johnson’s forthcoming book is What If We Get It Right?: Visions of Climate Futures. She is in love with climate solutions.

This event is supported by the Simons Foundation.