Cool Globes: Hot Ideas for a Cooler Planet - A Great Concept

Cool Globes are part of the skyline

Standing on the steps in front of the North door of the Field Museum, there is a magnificent view of Chicago, the Shedd Aquarium to the right, the lake filled with boats beyond, Navy Pier, the skyline and bouncing up everywhere are “Cool Globes”.  Chicago’s display of “Cool Globes: Hot Ideas for a Cooler Planet,” is an innovative project that uses the medium of public art to inspire individuals and organizations to take action against global warming.  Walking among the globes and reading the plaques, is a lovely activity on a clear, warm, summer day.

Wendy Abrams, an environmental activist developed the project in 2006 as a public commitment. resulting from her participation in the Clinton Global Initiative’s climate change program. The exhibit features more than 100 sculpted globes, each five feet in diameter, displayed along Chicago’s lakefront from the Field Museum north to Navy Pier. Artists from around the world, including Jim Dine, Yair Engel, Tom Van Sant and Jaume Plensa, designed the globes, using a variety of materials to transform the plain white spheres.  Each globe attempts to create awareness and provoke discussion about a specific solution to global warming.

Leadership in energy and environmental design(LEED) - Chicago leads the world

Setting an example, Cool Globes is a carbon neutral project. To offset the carbon emitted from the energy needed to create and maintain the exhibit and related events, Cool Globes has developed a diversified strategy that includes donated “green tags” (renewable energy certificates), investments to plant trees and foster environmentally friendly agricultural practices, and in-kind donations from alternative energy companies.

Chicago launched Cool Globes because of the City’s leadership and dedication to promoting environmentally sound policies. Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley’s goal is to make Chicago the greenest city in the nation.  Some approaches in an effort to reach this goal include the promotion of environmental programs and practices, including a bike initiative, adding hybrid buses to the city’s mass transit system, and building “green” libraries, public schools and police stations.  Mayor Daley is serving as honorary co-chair of the Cool Globes project.

There are also 200 mini-globes displayed around the city and each of the mini-globes depicts a solution to global warming. These globes were designed by some of the same artists who worked on the full-size globes, as well as by celebrities, including actor Chris O’Donnell, U.S. Senator Barack Obama and documentary filmmaker, Ken Burns.

Matt Binns and his globes

Each globe is five feet in diameter and has been sculpted from a mould to represent the Earth. Matt Binns, a talented sculptor who specializes in building aluminum globes, is the innovative designer of the original Cool Globes mould, which he handcrafted.

I spoke with Janice Gould, Art teacher at Lawrence Youth Services, whose art students are special needs children and gifted artists. “Green Schools”, was the theme of the globe these students contributed.  Janice commented that the small window of time available for completing the project, required students to work for one to three hours most days after school, making it a very intense experience.  She is very proud of her students and her city. 

She found the 80 volunteers efficient and pleasant and was impressed with the community spirit she experienced.  Janice’s art students will be extending their experience by using the images they created of the children around the world engaged in activities to reduce global warming as a design for holiday and note cards which will be on sale later in the year.

Green Schools, Lawrence Hall's contribution

Students participating in Chicago’s After School Matters Gallery 37 after-school arts program for teens designed 40 of the mini-globes. The Cool Globes project has been underwritten by a variety of corporate and individual sponsors, including Exelon, Abbott, Pepsi, Medline, Toyota and Hyatt.

Al Gore’s documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” has led to growing public concern about the issue of global warming. Cool Globes leverages this heightened awareness and uses public art to unite corporate, government and nonprofit organizations to issue a call-to-action to encourage day-to-day lifestyles changes and business operations that will reduce adverse environmental impact.

Globes in view

Throughout the summer, exhibit visitors are being challenged to implement five changes in their daily lives or business operations to combat global warming. Pledges can be made at the Cool Globes Web site ( At the end of the summer, a raffle will be held to award a Toyota Prius to one of the pledge participants.

On October 5, the globes from the Chicago exhibit will be auctioned. The proceeds will fund environmental education programs, including the expansion of Chicago Conservation Clubs in Chicago Public Schools.  Several other cities have already expressed interest in hosting a similar exhibit. New globes would be created for future exhibits, but the concept and goal of the Cool Globes project would remain the same.

Cool Globes is raising the awareness of solutions to global warming among children and adults by offering a lesson plan to support Chicago Public School teachers in discussing global warming and how kids can be part of the solution, with their students.

Line up for the tour

Docent-led tours and a guidebook provide in-depth information about the globes, and the global warming solutions they represent.  Free 45- minute tours leave from the steps on the north side of the Field Museum at 11:00 am and 1:00 pm Monday through Saturday and explore 10 to 15 globes in depth. Visitors can just join the tours. The globes will be in place through September 2007.

More tour information is available at: [email protected] and exhibit information is at: 312.573.5434 or

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