WHOLE EARTH? Aligning human systems & natural systems

The Hard Rain Project (HRP), the UK National Union of Students (NUS) and Australasian Campuses Towards Sustainability (ACTS) will launch the WHOLE EARTH? exhibition simultaneously at universities in North and South America, Africa, Asia, Australasia and Europe in autumn 2015.

“NUS is really excited to be partnering WHOLE EARTH? For the first time in history, the majority of the world’s population is 25 or younger. Yet national governments’ primary focus is managing the shorter-term interests of a predominantly older electorate. It is vital that students have a voice in the debate about our future. WHOLE EARTH? gives us the opportunity to connect students around the world and create a huge constituency to bolster the resolve of governments to take the difficult, long-term decisions that underpin security for young people alive today and their children”.
Piers Telemacque, NUS Vice President. 

WHOLE EARTH? is our successor project to Hard Rain, which was launched in 2006 and has since then been seen by some 15 million people on every continent (see sidebar text).

WHOLE EARTH? brings the college-age generation more firmly into the sustainability debate, helping them understand the threats as well as the solutions and opportunities that these challenges open up.

The exhibition responds to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) initiative and is based on the premise that the future belongs to today’s young people. And it is based on the premise that students, universities and young people everywhere can play a major role in making society more sustainable.

Although the UN has consulted widely to draft SDGs that would guide development over the coming decades, or even centuries, student organisations have not been consulted. Early results show that the drafters have struggled to secure the political will to combine the development hopes expressed in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) with plans to save
the environmental resources upon which all development is based.

If the SDGs are essentially a continuation of the MDGs, with more liberal use of the word sustainable, a unique opportunity to underpin security for future generations will have been lost. In the years since 2000 the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment demonstrated that many ecosystem services are deteriorating and increasing poverty for many people. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports predicted hunger, water scarcity and damaging weather in many regions, and the Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) initiative has shown the massive economic benefits of biodiversity and the growing costs of biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation.

So students emerging from universities today not only face debt, a dearth of economic opportunities and crumbling infrastructure in many regions, but a present and future impoverished and endangered by the accelerating destruction of the planetary systems upon which our civilisation is based. Combined, these bleak realities mean graduates are focusing their attention on sustainable development – paths of progress that will support them throughout their lives and the lives of their offspring.

Under the banner of WHOLE EARTH? and students’ unions everywhere, students are organising to produce their own “Students Sustainable Development Goals”, to be negotiated with local and national governments, the EU and the UN. These negotiations will be coordinated by a new alliance, Students Organising for Sustainability (SOS), to be coordinated by the UK National Union of students (NUS). SOS will launch with WHOLE EARTH? in September 2015.

It will be the first exhibition to open simultaneously to a connected, international audience at multiple venues. This innovative approach will ensure media coverage at each university and public venue and is an opportunity to bring students, academics and the public together with political and business leaders. WHOLE EARTH? supports a programme of talks and events designed to give students a voice. Rather than signatures, we aim for a million selfies, collaged together as a mosaic artwork: a reminder to political leaders that they are responsible for future generations as well as today’s voters.

The University of Salford is our media partner.  UoS students will link visitors at all the venues from their state-of-the-art facilities, part of Media City, Salford. Students, academics, the public and people at the sharp end of the environmental debate will be able to explore global issues with a global audience.

Dissemination will include online, new media and social networks, bringing in student creativity and talent at all partner universities. UoS will ensure the widest circulation and engagement by schools, universities and the public. 

WHOLE EARTH? was conceived and produced by Mark Edwards,  who has spent his professional life documenting environment and development issues around the world. It was written by Lloyd Timberlake, an acknowledged expert in the field of sustainable development. The Stockholm Resilience Centre provides scientific support to the project with the latest insights on planetary boundaries and global

The original Hard Rain exhibition—a vivid reminder of the price of inaction—introduces the new display. The combination of art and rigorous science gives the exhibition wide appeal.

E-mail Mark Edwards at Hard Rain Project for costs and commitments.

Comments about Hard Rain/WHOLE EARTH?

WHOLE EARTH? deals with the urgent need to make peace with nature. Mark Edwards and Lloyd Timberlake have done a wonderful job showing how human beings can be natural partners with nature. Hard Rain showed in a very realistic way the problems but here we have the solutions, the hope and the possibility for change.  
Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary- General, United Nations

So the lesson from Hard Rain is not only of the damage we are causing, but of the shared responsibility we all have to respond – and to do those things which, step by step, can make a real difference.  
Rt Hon David Cameron MP, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

If Hard Rain is a photographic elegy it is also an impassioned cry for change. Forceful, dramatic and disturbing, it is driven by what Martin Luther King called “the fierce urgency of now” – and I believe the call for a truly global response to climate change is an idea whose time has finally come.  
Rt Hon Gordon Brown MP, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

Why don’t people in power understand that their money and business are worthless if the planet dies?  
Mathieu Pendergast, UK

Hard Rain inspires me to try and stand again. To know that others share this bleakest outlook brings a ray of hope. At first I thought that Dylan’s lines should not be illustrated. I was wrong.  
Christy Moore, singer, songwriter

Hard Rain is a piece of sustained beauty. I treasure it.  
Arundhati Roy, author and environmental and human rights campaigner

So why is Hard Rain so stunning and so moving, and why does it feel so right? Part of the answer, of course, lies in the quality of the visual images. But the thematic bundling of these images with Dylan’s song could still seem gauche or exploitative were it not for two factors. The most important of these is the sheer brilliance of the dialogue Edwards has created between the words and the images, the way they synthesise into some third form that combines the stillness of a picture with the urgency of a ballad. Edwards’ conjunctions are so carefully and thoughtfully constructed that they enforce on the viewer a kind of tact that wards off mere voyeurism.  
Fintan O’Toole, Times

Hard Rain has deep pathos jumping out of every page which stirs the conscience of the reader in a profound way. The pictures and words remind us of the terribly unequal world we have created and the stark privation and distress that continues to exist in human society across large parts of the globe.
P K Pachauri, Chairperson of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; Chancellor of Teri University

We need to give a damn, and here we can see, if we take a few minutes, why we should. This is the power of art.  
Colin Tudge, science writer and broadcaster

This disturbing, powerfully moving work is a masterpiece that summons up the ghosts of our past and a vision of the future that is ours to change. Regret and optimism make strange bedfellows, but great artists have always known this.  
Tim Smit, Chief Executive and co-founder, The Eden Project

In this extraordinarily powerful work – moving, delicate, cryptic, violent by turns – Edwards and Dylan remind us of how much is at stake.  
Gerry McCarthy, Sunday Times

Everyone should see the ‘Hard Rain’ presentation. It’s powerful and beautiful. The simple honesty of the interaction between image and lyric really spoke to me. It had a profound effect on everyone in the audience. 
Jo Pye, Glasgow School of Art

The fist picture I saw left me speechless. I have never been so moved in my life as I was in the 20 minutes I spent looking at Hard Rain exhibition.
Annie Ngo, NHCC

As a result [of seeing Hard Rain] we have written to our head teacher asking if we can meet her and discuss some changes we can make in our own school to make a cleaner environment. I only hope I can make the difference it calls for as well as one day creating something as moving as this myself.  
Alice Ewing, Farlingaye High School, Suffolk. UK

I showed Hard Rain to my class. The intense look in everyone’s eyes was amazing. Five kids I didn’t even know came up later that day to thank me because it made such an impact on them.  
Nikki Price, Manhatten Beach, California

Hard Rain was truly a life changing event for so many of us at NHCC.
Jean Kim Maierhofer, North Hennepin Community College (NHCC)

I couldn’t help but stop to look, Then I realised I had to look!
Loughborough comments board 

Hard Rain caught me unawares, the same unawareness no doubt responsible for all this in the first place. It brought me back to my senses and deeply unsettled me... action is already taking place.  
Paul Roche, visitor


Bob Dylan is the most influential singer-songwriter of his generation. He has won numerous awards and Grammys. In 2008, he was awarded a Pulitzer Prize Special Citation for his “profound impact on popular music and American culture, marked by lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power.” In 2013 the French government presented him with the country’s highest award, the Legion of Honour.

We are deeply grateful for permission to reproduce the lyrics of A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall which has made this project possible.

Lloyd Timberlake is an expert on sustainable development. As a writer and journalist, he has reported from more than 65 countries, mainly on environment and development issues. His articles have appeared in most of the world’s newspapers. He has served the director of communications for the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, a Geneva-based coalition of about 200 of the world’s most powerful companies. More recently he advised President Obama’s National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling.

He has written prize-winning books in his own name (Africa in Crisis, Only One Earth, When the Bough Breaks) and books for organizations such as the World Commission on Environment and Development and the UN Environment Programme. 

He has appeared as juggler onstage with the Rolling Stones and in the House of Commons. He now lives in Washington DC and kayaks in the Chesapeake Bay.

Mark Edwards was the first photographer of his generation to specialise in photographing environment and development issues. The defining moment that set him on this track was getting lost in Sahara desert. A Tuareg nomad rescued him and took him back to his people. He rubs two sticks together and lights a fire; they have a cup of tea, and he turns on an old cassette player. Bob Dylan sings A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall. Edwards has the idea to illustrate every line of Dylan’s extraordinary lyric. 

Assignments for magazines, NGOs and United Nations agencies (supplemented with stow-away trips on jumbo jets) have taken him to over 100 countries. One of the most widely published photographers in the world; his pictures are in museums and private collections and have been exhibited in galleries in Europe and the US.

He has presented the Hard Rain keynote at the United Nations headquarters in New York, to parliamentarians in Europe, the National Assembly of Cuba, IPCC scientists, business leaders and at universities around the world. 


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