News Environment Artist's Viral Postcards Depict 50 American States in Climate Crisis These sobering postcards can be sent to your local representatives. By Kimberley Mok Kimberley Mok Twitter Writer McGill University Cornell University Kimberley Mok is a former architect who has been covering architecture and the arts for Treehugger since 2007. Learn about our editorial process Published October 28, 2022 11:00AM EDT Fact checked by Haley Mast Fact checked by Haley Mast LinkedIn Harvard University Extension School Haley Mast is a freelance writer, fact-checker, and small organic farmer in the Columbia River Gorge. She enjoys gardening, reporting on environmental topics, and spending her time outside snowboarding or foraging. Topics of expertise and interest include agriculture, conservation, ecology, and climate science. Learn about our fact checking process Share Twitter Pinterest Email Hannah Rothstein News Environment Business & Policy Science Animals Home & Design Current Events Treehugger Voices News Archive Postcards have a fascinating history: since their inception in the 1860s, they have been a low-cost way of exchanging brief messages, without the need for formal stationery, envelopes, and postage stamps. Even today, many travelers around the world still write out short missives on postcards depicting a picture-perfect version of the places they visit, before sending them off to friends and family back home. But what if a changing climate irreparably alters these beautiful destinations? What would these climate impacts look like in the postcards of an ecologically uncertain future? In a clever and sobering twist on a long-standing tradition, American artist Hannah Rothstein has created a series of thought-provoking postcards that would more accurately reflect the devastating changes that the climate crisis is wreaking upon each state. Titled "50 States of Change," the project was done in collaboration with Greenpeace USA, and is intended as a potentially Internet-viral alternative to writing a letter to one's elected representatives in various levels of government. As Rothstein tells us: "I wanted to give people an easy, impactful way to demand climate action from their politicians. Historically, folks might have written letters to their politicians, but taking the time to do this doesn't dovetail well with modern life. So I struck upon the idea of creating an instantaneous, updated version of political letter writing. '50 States of Change' achieves this by giving people powerful imagery to share on social media along with a caption that tags politicians and demands climate action. Over the past few years, we've seen how widespread online outrage can drive policy change, and it's my hope that this project will do that for climate issues." Hannah Rothstein Rothstein's postcards have all the usual elements of a postcard, but upon closer inspection, one sees that there are variations on the themes of human-induced ecological disasters: melting glaciers and permafrost in Alaska; increasingly severe wildfires in California, Idaho, and Montana; and more flooding in states like Georgia, Florida, and North Carolina. Hannah Rothstein To create a sense of accuracy and urgency in these images, Rothstein says that she relied on scientific evidence that is widely available to the public: "Each state's postcard features an impact of climate change that the state is already experiencing. I wanted the postcards to feel hauntingly familiar and chilling in order to make climate change feel concrete and close. I referenced scientific research from National Climate Assessment, and news reports on recent natural disasters to decide which effect of climate change to feature in each postcard. In reality, however, most states will experience multiple negative effects due to climate change." Hannah Rothstein It took Rothstein about a year to complete the series of digital images. Though Rothstein had experience creating viral art for some years now, she needed help to craft an awareness campaign that would get people to actually send these provocative postcards to politicians, and to disseminate them on social media. Hannah Rothstein To that end, Rothstein partnered with Greenpeace USA to develop strategies on how these postcards might be used and shared more widely. As Greenpeace USA's senior communications specialist Tyler Kruse explained to Treehugger, art projects such as Rothstein's could help to inform the public and prompt more action at higher levels of government: "The most recent IPCC report showed that we have the solutions to slash more than half of global emissions in just eight years. Unfortunately, the report also showed that political willpower and urgency are still sorely lacking. We wanted to find a way to quickly show our elected leaders what they're doing by continuing to delay climate action. Hannah’s simple yet powerful art was something that did that." In conjunction with the postcard project, Kruse adds that Greenpeace has also launched other tools to give citizens and grassroots organizations more information: "So far we’ve created an interactive map that allows people to find climate impacts in their state. The tool has been useful for organizers as a one-stop spot for data. In the future, we're hoping to scale up a letter-writing campaign that targets key members of Congress." Hannah Rothstein Ultimately, Rothstein hopes that these postcards can be a visual reminder of what is at stake, and for people to use them as a vehicle to agitate for broader change: "It can be easy for people to put climate change issues on the back burner because these issues feel far off, non-urgent, and abstract. But through art, one can give a voice to data and numbers, and give science—which by nature must be presented in a neutral manner—the viscerality it needs to make an emotional impact. With '50 States of Change,' I'm trying to make climate issues feel as pressing and urgent as they actually are. If we don't solve them now, we'll face increasing natural disasters like those pictured in the postcards, and, ultimately, an uninhabitable planet." To see more, check out Hannah Rothstein, 50 States of Change, and Greenpeace USA's interactive map, and send a message to your local representatives to end fossil fuel subsidies. View Article Sources "History of Postcards." World Postcard Day.