Tell me about your new exhibition, The Cooling Solution. How would you describe it in your own words?
Gaia Squarci: The Cooling Solution was born out of a five-year-long scientific research project, focused on how people in different countries are coping with rising temperatures and humidity, within the context of climate change.
According to the International Environmental Agency, 10 new AC units will be sold every second for the next 30 years, bringing the number of installed units worldwide to 5.6 billion by 2050. At a global level, between now and 2100, space cooling could account for up to 7% of the global total cumulative greenhouse gas emissions, about 350 billion tons of CO2. This is about ten times the current global annual CO2 emissions from fossil fuels.
The research, led by the University of Venice, in Italy, focused on tropical, populous areas whose economy is growing, and chose countries with good demographic data available, namely India, Indonesia, and Brazil. As their middle classes grow, more and more people will be able to afford cooling technology. Italy, the fourth country we worked on, was chosen as a European counterpart, and a market that presents behavioral differences from the point of view of AC adoption.
The message of the project is not that we should never use AC. Cooling technologies can save lives during heat waves or uncomfortable climatic conditions, especially for the most fragile subjects like children, the elderly, people with disabilities, and pregnant women. But while keeping us cool inside our apartments, AC contributes to GHG emissions and directly increases the heat outdoors, creating a “heat island” effect in urban environments. The more AC we use, the more we’ll need it. It’s a vicious cycle.
I traveled with Jacopo Crimi, the project’s communication officer, to investigate alternative cooling strategies coming from vernacular architecture as well as emerging technologies. We tried to emphasize the fact that our life choices and behaviors have an impact on people from different socio-economic layers in our own country, on people in other countries, and on our own future.