"Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”  

Jane Jacobs

Bird Art for my Yard

A few months back I was in the Commons (a new downtown Minneapolis park) having coffee with some friends when I noticed an interesting sculpture. I glanced at it briefly, long enough to find it unique, but then we continued walking. It wasn't until this weekend that I finally realized what that sculpture was and its intended message. Those same friends told me about an event at the University of Minnesota campus where they were giving out pieces of a dismantled sculpture. After stopping by and grabbing two (a bird house and feeder) it finally dawned on me that the pieces they were giving away were part of that sculpture I had seen in the Commons.

The disassembled modules of the Orbacle's waiting to be taken to their new homes

The disassembled modules of the Orbacle's waiting to be taken to their new homes

Intrigued by the sculpture and the physical map they used to track where the bird feeder, bath, and homes were going I did some research into the history of the installment. It was called Orbacle's and won the Minn_Lab Creative City Challenge of 2017 which is why it was placed in the Commons for the past 5 months. The installation was 3 clusters that looked like bird nests on stilts. The structures were composed of 147 houses, 147 feeders, and 147 baths. The number 147 represents the 147 bird species that call Minnesota home. What is so unique about each module is that the metal hood over each wood structure is proportional to the typical length and wingspan of the species intended for each module. 

The Orbacle's in the Commons where they sat for the last five months (image courtesy of Minn Lab)

The Orbacle's in the Commons where they sat for the last five months (image courtesy of Minn Lab)

The installation was more than a work of art or habitat for birds. It was designed to connect visitors to the reality of climate change through the story of birds in Minnesota and the language of our senses. The Orbacle's were named A, B, and C and each represented a different scenario for birds in Minnesota depending on future emission levels. Orbacle A was the current situation, B is a low emissions scenario (the scenario the City of Minneapolis is planning for with our greenhouse gas reduction goals), and C is the high emission scenario resulting if we continue without modification of our fossil fuel consumption. We could lose most of our bird species if we follow the path to C. Their website has an interactive image showing the three scenarios, but the houses themselves were color coded to allow visitors to visually see the damage that could be done.

The installation was not meant to just pass along some facts, but to get citizens involved in changing habits in order to protect not only birds in Minnesota and beyond, but the environment at large. Four steps to start are: conserve energy, eat local, educate yourself, and start climate conversations and take action. The first three are easy, but the fourth can push you out of your comfort zone. An easy way to start is getting involved with a local environmental organization.

The Commons in downtown Minneapolis where the installation was housed over the summer (they are difficult to see, but are centered in the background)

The Commons in downtown Minneapolis where the installation was housed over the summer (they are difficult to see, but are centered in the background)

As soon as next spring arrives I plan to install my bird house and feeder. They will be daily reminders of what they were built to represent. Birds are just one species that is affected by climate change. Many more across the globe are struggling to adapt because of something we created and can easily fix if we all work together. I challenge everyone reading this to take at least one step towards reducing your carbon footprint. Enough small steps put together can create lasting change.