Meat & Climate Change on a Burning Planet by Nancy Smith

This quilt was designed utilizing a data set from Our World In Data, which tracked the increase in animals killed every year for meat production. In the quilt, red = cows, orange = pigs, and yellow = chickens. From top to bottom, the data represents the years 1964-2020, with the color showing the percentage increase from year to year. The color palette was chosen both to represent colors associated with death, such as red, as well as to highlight issues like global warming which are shown through the fire-like set of colors. The pattern lets the three data sets live side-by-side, and hopefully, creates an effect of lightness and openness on the top, and weight on the bottom, highlighting the environmental problems with animal agriculture.

I am interested in how data physicalization can help us understand environmental data in a different way. We’re so inundated with charts and graphs, and we see a lot of environmental data on a regular basis, even in popular press articles. While data is incredibly important in understanding the climate crisis and our impact on the planet, representations of that data tend to be limited to slick, computerized, modern representations. There is a tendency to think of data visualizations as a kind of objective truth, devoid of emotions and lived experiences. Quilts, on the other hand, tend to be thought of as highly emotional and practical objects, handmade, and imperfect. It is my hope that through a quilt, data can become more accessible to people who don’t tend to resonate with computer-designed infographics, and perhaps more ingrained in everyday experiences such as touch, as this quilt can be used in practical ways, such as keeping warm, or in more creative artistic ways, such as hanging on a wall. This work is meant to be experimental, and I look forward to exploring more connections between textiles and data.