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Cap and Trade

by Megan Mansell Williams

December 12, 2008
Public Smog may sound like a cough-inducing haze headed to a city near you, but breathe easy. It's actually a conceptual zone of fresh air that once hovered in the atmosphere above Southern California: a park in the sky (subject to your imagination and prevailing winds).Conceived of by the San Francisco artist Amy Balkin, the ephemeral "park" "is an attempt to re-envision the space we inhabit as shared commons," Balkin says. "It's an artwork about the kind of control people are and are not given."Balkin opened the floating park over California's South Coast Air Quality Management District in 2004 with a $102 purchase of 24 pounds of nitrogen-oxide credits on the Chicago Climate Exchange-a trading market-and the somewhat unscientific decision that those 24 pounds constituted a cube of clean air over her head. She has since opened a 51-ton version over Europe; more are in the works.Balkin's vision isn't just for small carbon-credit parks. She recently attempted to nominate the entire atmosphere for the UNESCO World Heritage List, which recognizes sites of universal value and encourages-and helps fund-their protection and preservation. It turns out that the stodgy organization doesn't accept nominations from conceptual artists, only from governing states or nations.Photo Amy BalkinLearn More
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Cap and Trade