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There are three transparent sculptures on Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s third-floor overlook that hold our hopes and fears for the future. Composed of recycled plastic, they resemble giant tardigrades—near-microscopic creatures that can survive in extreme conditions. But they are also time capsules for the messages visitors have been leaving since the art installation went up in November 2021. Artist Asia Ward’s collaboration with the museum, which is part of the museum’s We Are Nature experience, is intended to spur contemplation of how humans impact the world around them. Visitors write their hopes and fears for the future on notecards and place them on a nearby wall by one of three future dates—2027, 2035, and 2095—each of which represents a potentially critical moment in the evolving climate crisis. Museum staff regularly collect them and will place them inside one of three tardigrades, each one to be opened in its corresponding year.
“I hope that nature is treated nicer,” reads one message written in a child’s scrawl. Another, in a delicate cursive, wants a more “accessible and accepting society” but laments the “progression of white supremacy, patriarchy, and ableism.” There are jokes (“Hey, if you get this message, unfreeze my body”), pop culture references (The Simpsons is mentioned), and sometimes advice (“Be the change you want to see”). Though some messages express despair for the near-term, Ward says the notes tend to become more hopeful over time. Many of the people leaving messages will never see 2095, but they believe a better future is possible. “I’d say it leans more toward positive,” Ward says. “It’s 60% positive.”
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