Scientists plug in CO2 Toaster

Science Art Nature logo header at Stanford

Exhibit showcases CO2 Toaster as a creative example of Art & Science working together

Don’t wait until we’re toast! Cut your CO2 Now!
Use the CO2 Toaster Widget To Track CO2

Toronto, Canada — June 2010:

Science Art-Nature, based in Palo-Alto, California, plugged in the CO2 Toaster for an online art exhibit held in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Pacific Region of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Science Art Nature exhibit at Stanford

The animated CO2 Toaster widget is one of 38 artworks selected for exhibit as examples of Science Art. The widget was designed to be an engaging and memorable tool to track CO2. It is a creative collaboration by artist/author Franke James, designer/programmer Bill James, and Michael McGee, creator of

The CO2 Toaster always shows the latest monthly data by pulling NOAA data for atmospheric CO2 from the Mauna Loa Observatory in the United States. The code can easily be added to most websites or blogs.

Why is tracking CO2 important?
Bill McKibben, founder of and author of Eaarth, has noted: “350 is a very tough number. We’re already well past it. The atmosphere holds 390 ppm today, which is why the Arctic is melting and the ocean steadily acidifying. To get back to a safe level we need a very rapid halt to the use of coal, gas and oil so that forests and oceans can absorb some of that carbon.”

The story behind the CO2 toaster

Franke James says, “We developed the CO2 toaster as our personal climate action for’s Day of Climate Action. We thought it was the best way to deliver this simple message on a daily basis: Don’t wait until we’re toast! Cut your CO2 Now! Since that event in October 2009, thousands of toasters have been downloaded for free. The opportunity to spread the message further through the Science Art-Nature exhibit was perfect. The toaster shows that artistic metaphors and concrete data can mix to produce lively offspring. Right brain people and left brain people can work together and produce some amazing results.”

Michael McGee comments, “CO2 prefers to keep quiet and out of sight. The CO2 Toaster widget yanks away the invisibility cloak and reveals the CO2 trend for the culprit that it is. This widget grabs attention and shares important information about our planet. Not only does it say what CO2 is right now, it shows what CO2 has been, and what it should be.”

The Science Art-Nature Exhibit

The 38 images included in the 25-topic exhibit will remain online as part of Science Art-Nature’s mission to raise the prominence of Science Art and the benefits of combining the accuracy of science with the evocative power of art. The exhibit helps to communicate the benefits of Science Art by informing viewers about nature and encouraging the sustainable use of resources.

What is Science Art?

“Works of Science Art skillfully represent truths about the world and its creatures, often suggesting important connections among subjects and their surroundings and teaching us indirectly about nature itself.” Science Art-Nature

Science Art Categories: The 35 categories included Atmospheric and Oceanographic Sciences, Organismal Biology, Ecology, Anthropological Approaches to Environmental Change, Materials Science and Nanotechnology, Computer and Information Sciences Link, Education, Agriculture and Horticulture, Ecotoxicology and Environmental Protection.

Participating Artists: Bev Abbott, Chris Augusta, Carel P. Brest van Kempen, Martha Brouwer, Pery Burge, Kelly Dodge, Christophe Drochon, Lori Dunn, Ulco Glimmerveen, Franke James, Bill James, and Michael McGee, David N. Kitler, Martin Lasack, Liz Lee, Terry Miller, Robert Mullen, Rick Pas, Patricia Pepin, Teri Power, Jennifer Rodriguez, Edward Rooks, Judith Gebhard Smith, Jim Turanchik, Darryl Wheye, Ria Winters, Floy Zittin.

About Science Art-Nature

Science Art-Nature is a nonprofit organization founded by Stanford University scientists, Don Kennedy and Paul Ehrlich, artists Tony Angell and Darryl Wheye, and nonprofit consultant Pamela Meadowcroft. It has launched an online Science Art exhibit with the generous support of Artists for Conservation (AFC) Center for Conservation Biology, Stanford University (CCB) National Audubon Society Stanford Institute for Creativity and the Arts (SiCa) and an anonymous donor. The exhibit features artwork relevant to the research presented at the AAAS Pacific Division meeting, “The Art of Science,” Ashland, Oregon, 13-17 June, 2010.

Exhibit link

Just look where “Dinner with a Stranger” has led…

illustration by Franke James

illustration by Franke James

The unlikely results of “Dinner with a Stranger”

I never expected that by saying “yes” to one dinner with a stranger last Christmas, that I’d still be talking about it one year later. The dinner took place last January and benefited the Yonge Street Mission. I created a visual essay about it called “Dinner with a Stranger.” (See the original essay here.)

When the essay first launched, it quickly got picked up by Digg, Reddit, Kottke, BlogTO, etc. It was so popular, our server crashed. Some resourceful people mirrored it on other sites while we frantically worked to move to a server with cloud computing (the advantage being expandable bandwidth).

What was the response?

I heard from people who had similar experiences,

I love it! What a great story – I’m so happy you said yes, and shared the story here. I hope that the idea catches on. Five or six years ago my husband and I got a somewhat similar, completely random online request. Only, it wasn’t asking us for dinner – it was from an 18yr old kid across the country who had just graduated high school….”

I heard from people who were admiring but fearful,

Wonderfully wacky and fun but I’m happy to see that you did some research before agreeing to the request. You two are an inspiration and the Yonge Street Mission is a very worthwhile charity.”

I heard from people who were touched,

Thank you so much for the heart warming story. It shows such trust, care and thoughtfulness I hope that others take up the cause. Brought a tear and a smile to my face.”

I heard from people who were inspired,

My mind is swirling on how can I use this for our non-profit youth group. Better yet to help small business help jump start the economy…WOW what a concept….help Mother Earth and the people that live on it…thanks Franke.”

I heard from people who were having lunches instead of dinners,

Wonderful posting! Communities In Schools (a national, private nonprofit dropout-prevention initiative) hosts an annual “Lunch with a Leader” where people bid for lunch with various celebrities with the proceeds going to help CIS. Thanks for the posting!”

I heard from people who wanted to make it happen in their town,

What a fabulous idea and wonderful way to pay it forward. I’m actually thinking about doing something similarly here in Massachusetts. Thank you Franke for posting your experience in what can be said a very colorful way. And Thank you to Mark the “stranger” for taking the first step.”

And then I heard from…

CBC screenshot

folks at the CBC who wanted to spread the story on TV and radio….

CBC television’s The National and CBC radio’s The Spark both contacted me separately and wanted to share the story of “Dinner with a Stranger” with their audience. Wow! The same story told in two different mediums.

And the magic of the story worked for TV and radio audiences too…

“Just saw your spot on the CBC- awesome!! And I really liked that idea of dinner for charity, what a refreshing change from mainstream consumerism!” Facebook comment

What a great idea with an even better cause! Your creative flow is inspiring and heart warming not to mention hilarious! Just caught it on CBC News and found myself totally absorbed by the report. I guess I’ll keep this in mind for my next big surprise to my partner. Thank you! Happy Festive Season!”

How lovely! Both the Dinner with a Stranger and your totally entertaining website… How did I know about this? Doing my year-end taxes while listening to the CBC and was so intrigued by the story I just had to search you out. What a pleasure. Happy holidays!”

Check out the stories for yourself… Each creative team brought new creativity and added a new dimension to the experience of “Dinner with a Stranger”.

Watch “Stranger for Christmas” by CBC video-journalist, Peter Wall.

CBC screenshot

Listen to “Dinner with a Stranger” with host, Nora Young:

CBC Spark screenshot

The Spark is hosted by Nora Young with creative, research and technical assistance by Elizabeth Bowie and Dan Misener. [DWAS interview runs from 17:11 to 24:54]

Is this the end of the “Dinner with a Stranger” story?

Nope. It’s just the beginning. In the New Year, I’ll tell you the story of my Dinner with a Stranger in Sweden. It took place while I was attending the UN climate change talks in Copenhagen in December 2009.

photo of dinner in sweden by Franke James

I also look forward to hearing whether you would say “yes” to dinner with a stranger.

My best wishes to you for a wonderful holiday, and happy, healthy and green 2010.

In honor of the first Dinner with a Stranger I’ve made a donation to the Yonge Street Mission for their Christmas dinners for the homeless.

close-up photo of Franke's Christmas tree


Just look where “Dinner with a Stranger” has led… © 2009 Franke James

Illustrations, photos and writing by Franke James, MFA except as noted:

Screen shots from CBC National News and CBC Radio The Spark.

[originally posted on Franke James site]