David Buckley Borden

Warming Warning (artist’s model)

Wood, paint
9’ x 10.5’ × 28’


Warming Warning is a sculptural installation designed to immerse visitors in a three-dimensional visualization of ongoing climate change. The sculpture consists of a series of painted triangles (“deltas”) constructed from standard 4” × 6” timbers. Sunlight channeled and diffused through 6” gaps between the timbers bounces off the brightly painted sides. Shadow patterns and color-spectrum vibrancy shift as the sculpture reflects the sun’s daily arc. The visual experience of the installation also changes in response to the visitor’s perspective.

On one side of the piece, the > 1.5 °F change (since 1880) in the average global temperature is lined in black atop a white-to-red heat gradient. The other side of Warming Warning illustrates four different future scenarios of carbon dioxide emissions. These are representative of the paths we could take now towards either a fossil fuel-free future or an increasingly warm and uninhabitable planet.

Finally, Warming Warning leaves space for more triangles to be added. In its installation in 2018 at the Harvard University Science Center Plaza, a stack of nine wood timbers made up a reflection bench that suggested each person’s role in the narrative of unfolding climate change. The seating elements prompted each visitor to consider how they could color the future through individual and collective actions to address climate change.

Warming Warning was a co-creation of Harvard Forest Fellow David Buckley Borden and Harvard Forest Senior Ecologist Aaron M. Ellison. The installation was coupled with on- and off-campus events that were geared towards local work on climate and pathways for direct action. Local Warming Warning programs included workshops and presentations at Le Laboratoire, Somerville Museum, Cambridge Public Schools Design Lab, Project Zero/Harvard Graduate School of Education, and the Harvard Science Center.

Project Collaborators: Chris Borden, Bill Brown, Jack K Byers, Mike Demaggio, Collin Durrant, Jim DeStefano, P.E., Dr. David Foster, Lucas Griffith, CC McGregor, Roland Meunier, Dan Pederson, Matt Robinson, and John Wisnewski.

Supported by the Harvard Forest, Harvard University’s Office for Sustainability, and Harvard Common Spaces. 

About the Artists

David Buckley Borden is a Cambridge-based interdisciplinary artist and designer. Using an accessible, often humorous, combination of art and design, David promotes a shared environmental awareness and heightened cultural value of ecology. Informed by research and community outreach, David’s work manifests in a variety of forms, ranging from site-specific landscape installations in the woods to data-driven cartography in the gallery. David was a 2016/2017 Charles Bullard Fellow (Designer-in-Residence) at the Harvard Forest where he answered the question, “How can art and design foster cultural cohesion around environmental issues and help inform ecology-minded decision making?” As a Harvard Forest Associate Fellow David continues to collaborate with Harvard researchers to champion a cultural ecology supported by interdisciplinary science-communication.

Aaron M. Ellison is the Senior Research Fellow in Ecology in Harvard’s Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Senior Ecologist and Deputy Director at the Harvard Forest, and a semi-professional photographer, writer, and artist. He studies the disintegration and reassembly of ecosystems following natural and anthropogenic disturbances, thinks about the relationship between the Dao and the Intermediate Disturbance Hypothesis, reflects on the critical and reactionary stance of Ecology relative to Modernism, blogs as The Unbalanced Ecologist, and tweets as @AMaxEll17. He is the author of A Primer of Ecological Statistics (2004/2012), A Field Guide to the Ants of New England (2012), Stepping in the Same River Twice: Replication in Biological Research (2017), Carnivorous Plants: Physiology, Ecology, and Evolution (2018), and Vanishing Point (2017), a collection of photographs and poetry from the Pacific Northwest. On Wednesdays, he works wood.





Interior Jan D.jpg

Related City Resources

Urban Heat Islands

Flooding is not the only threat to Cambridge posed by climate change.  Increasing temperatures means that more hot days and more heat waves are coming our way.  High temperatures affect public health (heat is the natural disaster causing the most deaths) and infrastructure.  This heat threat is amplified in urban communities like Cambridge by the “urban heat island” effect.  Hard surfaces like dark roofs and asphalt absorb heat and can add another 4 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit to ambient temperatures in the summer.  About two-thirds of Cambridge is covered by hard surfaces and roofs.  The urban forest tree canopy, ground vegetation, green roofs, and reflective surfaces like white roofs help reduce the urban heat island effect significantly.  The City’s Climate Change Preparedness and Resilience Plan, the Envision Cambridge comprehensive plan, and the Urban Forest Master Plan are proposing strategies to cool the city and reduce our vulnerability to heat.

Cambridge Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment (CCVA) & Climate Change Preparedness and Resilience Plan (CCPR) - https://www.cambridgema.gov/CDD/Projects/Climate/climatechangeresilianceandadaptation.aspx

Cambridge Urban Forest Master Plan – https://www.cambridgema.gov/ufmp

Envision Cambridge - http://envision.cambridgema.gov/