Climate hero of the week

Climate hero of the week: The man making climate model flavored ice cream

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Jonathon Keats Sorbet

Image: StateFestival.org

Here at OutwardOn we are dedicated to honoring those who create innovative solutions to our world’s biggest climate problems. This week in Climate Hero of the Week we’d like you to meet Jonathon Keats, a philosopher, an artist, and most recently a confectionaire. Keats sat down in a recent interview to explain his latest scheme: help people better understand climate models by eating ice cream.

Keats calls the process “data gastronification.” By creating “anthropocenic sorbets,” he aims to make an edible climate model that your brain will be able to understand based on how your stomach is feeling. Whether that equates to something that tastes any good is still up in the air, but potential analysts can at least take heart in knowing that Keats isn’t actively trying to poison them. He assured everyone that the chemicals he is using to create the sorbets are safely edible.

But the big question up in the air is, what is Keat’s goal in creating these confections?

“I realized that the eyes were not really the only organ that we have at our disposal, that we also could eat our data, so to speak. The logic being that the human gut is actually pretty smart, unlike the eye — the gut is second only to the brain in terms of the number of neurons.”

“And so it seemed that we could enlist the gut to be able to understand phenomena ranging from dark energy to climate change by means of representing models through biomolecules instead of colors and shapes, and then by digesting — literally — the data or the models, as a means by which to process them internally.”

By looking at climate models provided by Steve Easterbrook, a computer scientist at the University of Toronto, Keats has been creating a mix of his own sorbets to translate the visual information in the models to information that can be experienced in a different way.

“So what I’ve been doing is to take all of the positive and negative feedback loops and create three different types of sorbet, three different flavors, that have biochemicals that are chosen for the fact that they trigger specific receptors. For example: Vanilla extract specifically has the effect on the receptor known as TRPM-5, as opposed to cinnamon which has an effect on TRPA-1, and eucalyptus oil has another one, fatty acid has an effect on yet another.”

At its heart, the project may be mostly a stunt, a way to draw more attention to the issue, but Keats truly hopes that his experiment will help people better understand what they are facing with climate change.

“I think that for somebody to deeply understand it, and not to act on it, would be almost unimaginable. But I think that there’s a way in which to enforce your own ignorance out of self-interest. It really becomes important to find ways in which to enrich the understanding so that it won’t leave you alone.”

“I would say on one hand, we need to find other ways in which to engage people other than those that we currently have.”

Keats focus in his activism is not in teaching people to only fear the consequences of climate change, but to also under the processes that cause those consequences. Choosing knowledge over fear? Ingenuity and inclusiveness? And he has ice cream? Jonathon Keats certainly earns our Climate Hero of the Week.

Justin, or as his friends call him, Justin, is a content provider at 301 Digital Media and a student at Middle Tennessee State University. He loves to read, use big words, and is nowhere near as clever as he thinks he is.