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Sphere of concern

On Oct. 25, Wendy Abrams will talk about how her concern of climate change translated into her environmental advocacy, and the founding of COOL GLOBES. It’s a journey likely to inspire U-M students, as they set out on their own paths, combining academic knowledge, networking, and a passion to preserve and protect the environment.

Abrams will discuss the challenges she overcame in establishing her non-profit organization, and what happened when business leaders, policymakers, and even presidential candidates took notice of her success.

WHEN : 5:10 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 25

WHERE: Betty Ford Classroom, 1110 Weill Hall, Ford School of Public Policy

FREE: Open to public



Cool Globes: Hot Ideas for a Cooler Planet, is a public art exhibition designed to raise awareness of solutions to climate change.  Cool Globes grew out of a commitment at the Clinton Global Initiative in 2005, and was incorporated as a non-profit organization in 2006.  Since that time, Cool Globes premiered in Chicago and went on tour across the country from Washington DC to San Francisco, San Diego, Sundance, Los Angeles and Houston.  In the fall of 2009, Cool Globes opened the first international exhibit in Copenhagen. We currently have globes on display at Science World in Vancouver, along Lake Leman in Geneva and throughout the streets of Marseilles.  It is our hope that the millions of people who have experienced the exhibit, leave with a vast array of solutions to climate change, and with one clear message….we can solve this.


I never considered myself an environmentalist. To me, an environmentalist was a guy in a raft protesting to save the whales as he drifted in the Pacific. But in 2001, that changed when I casually stumbled upon a Time magazine article about global warming, depicting potentially catastrophic consequences within the century. As a mother of four, this hit a nerve – the next century is my children’s lifetime. I was suddenly motivated to act and spent the next five years educating myself by joining environmental groups, attending conferences, meeting with scientists and becoming engaged in the political debate.

The more I learned, the more I was bewildered by the discrepancy between the scientific community’s alarm and general public’s silence. The public seemed relatively unconcerned by the scientists’ daunting predictions, if they were even aware of the predictions at all. The American press showed disproportionately little interest in covering global warming, given the magnitude of the problem. When the press did cover the issue, studies showed that many people tuned out because they felt overwhelmed by the problem and helpless as to the solutions.

I was intrigued by the question of how to capture the public’s attention on a subject as complex as global warming. One night, in a casual discussion with friends, we came up with an idea – “public art with a purpose.” The idea was to put sculptures on the sidewalk, each depicting a solution to global warming, forcing people to confront the issue, but in a non-threatening manner.

As a participant at the 2006 Clinton Global Initiative, I was asked to make a commitment to take action. With the incentive to return to the next annual conference, I put my pledge in writing. I committed to raise awareness of global warming using the medium of public art, and established the non-profit organization, Cool Globes, Inc.

Over the next year, what I discovered was that this was an issue that people were eager to address, particularly when we mentioned the emphasis on solutions. People whom I had never met prior to this project devoted themselves entirely to Cool Globes.

The Chicago exhibit, which featured more than 120 globes, was hugely successful. Millions of people experienced the globes and the exhibit inspired more than 5,000 online pledges by individuals to adopt solutions to global warming. The popularity of Cool Globes in Chicago has inspired other cities across the country and around the world to inquire about the possibility of replicating the project. Cool Globes has gone on the road during across the United States from Washington DC to California to inspire more individuals to implement simple solutions in their lives to fight global warming.

This has been an exciting project from day one. I’m proud of all the hard work by so many who have made this possible. I do believe Cool Globes is inspiring people to make a change and fight global warming.