Dr. Robert Davies
Associate Professor of Professional Practice
Dep't of Physics | Utah State University
My work, jointly sponsored by USU's College of Science, the Caine College of the Arts, and the USU Ecology Center, focuses on synthesizing and communicating the science of climate change and sustainable human systems. Simply put: my focus is scientific storytelling ― for critically important stories.
And the critically important story emerging from every nook and cranny of this grand human enterprise we call science… is a clear and coherent picture of extreme risk. Humans are now the largest force for change on the planet ― a fact that has led the world’s geologists to propose a new geologic epoch: the Anthropocene, the Age of Humans. As a result of our large and accelerating impact on the Earth systems that envelope us, our global civilization faces a series of existential crises in the coming decades. Climate change, acidifying oceans, extreme biodiversity loss, and ecosystem degradation and collapse are all connected ― emergent from the same underlying pathology: a human paradigm of high input, high waste systems of hyper-consumption whose health is predicated on unlimited growth. As a result, no aspect of our civilization, as currently realized, is sustainable: not our food, not our energy, not our economy.
While roadmaps for changing course do exist, transforming the systems that once lifted us, but now imperil us, our society has yet to plot the course.
One piece of the answer is that while these results are well known by the scientists who study these systems, they have yet to permeate our society . This is not through lack of effort on the part of science ― indeed there have been significant, sincere, even heroic efforts on the part of many scientists and scientific organizations. But connecting people to meaning is not what science does best. Fortunately, humanity’s great endeavors comprise more than science. Human artistic endeavor ― The Arts ― is precisely that aspect of civilization quintessentially suited to connecting us to the essence of our knowledge. Meaningfully. Viscerally. Personally. The trick, of course, is that the storytellers must get the stories right. Science must inform the art before the art can tell the story. Telling these critically important stories, then, powerfully and meaningfully, in such a way as to build a common scientific foundation of understanding in the public consciousness ― a foundation from which we can begin to build meaningful response ― is the focus of my work.
THE CROSSROADS PROJECT
THE CROSSROADS PROJECT | RISING TIDE is a collaborative Art + Science performance project weaving together poetic science, compelling imagery and powerful music to tell the story of the Biosphere ― Earth's living systems ― and the Anthroposphere, humanity's radically unsustainable global civilization. Unfolding in five vignettes, the performance juxtaposes the paradigms of Nature with those of Humanity. Our impacts on our life support system are laid bare, set to scale, and a mindset for changing coure emerges.
Created at Utah State University with co-creators The Fry Street Quartet, USU’s string quartet in residence at the Caine College of the Arts, the performance includes the works of visual artists Garth Lenz, Rebecca Allan, Lu Guang, and Edward Burtynsky, with original music composed by renowned American composer Laura Kaminsky.
Since it’s premier at Utah State University’s Caine Performance Hall in the Fall of 2012, this production has been performed more than 30 times across the nation, as well as Mexico and Brazil.
For a more detailed description of the collaboration and performance, you can visit the Crossroads website.