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Karen Sarrow / #Primary


Karen Sarrow

# Primary

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November 23 - December 17, 2022



Karen Sarrow Artist Statement


I’ve been disturbed by pollution since I was a child. At Ohio State, I researched environmentalism in a formative class in Environmental History in the 1990s, when the Mississippi was flooding out the wedding of a family friend, and it became obvious that most of the time, destruction by nature has the upper hand with human infrastructure. In 2012 I started reading Bill McKibben, who was then reporting California’s exponential fire patterns. In 2015, I joined and worked with 350.org in New Jersey. 350 is a nonprofit formed by McKibben and Naomi Klein. “350” references the sustainable amount of parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. CO2 PPM is long past 400 now. We need drastic measures to reduce and remove carbon for a more sustainable future. In many ways, we already have the technology, but outside of a few places in California and the Middle East, we have not scaled existing technology. Nor have we adopted en masse, as consumers.


I’ve previously opposed nuclear energy. #nonuclearwaste. But a few years ago, our oldest son started arguing for more nuclear power. We told him the existential problems nuclear Power has; the expense of building it, the risk to communities from radiation, and the need to be transparent and equitable about toxic waste. The history of environmentalism is not one of transparency or equity. Yet our younger generations deeply understand and remind us that it is too late to rely on our governments or populations to act quickly on renewable energy, we’ve been waiting too long for solar power, wind power, and batteries to be adopted by every neighborhood in the world. There are serious environmental issues with producing solar and wind as well, and that involves the extraction of copper.


We need a public, transparent plan for nuclear power and waste, and community safety before we build more new nuclear plants. California rightly shutting down the nuclear plant built, in full community opposition and planning, on a fault line. I could envision a boom for nuclear energy, which would make a large mining, environmental footprint in mountainous areas and beaches, and use copious amounts of water (hopefully, recyled water). This time we’d be mining rocks and bulding power plants to reduce unsustainable atmospheric carbon dioxide.

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