WHOLE EARTH? Aligning human systems & natural systems

Hard Rain Project and the National Union of Students launched the WHOLE EARTH? exhibition at the Eden Project and at universities and schools in the UK and Scandinavia in autumn 2015. It is based on the premise that the future belongs to today's young people - and that students and universities everywhere have a major role in making society much more sustainable. 

The exhibition may be shown as a stand-alone
display, but to do this would miss the point. Today’s students have a lot on their minds, and to really engage them in the issues around sustainable development the exhibition needs to be used by teaching staff across the board to explore the opportunities arising in a rapidly changing world.

Do read the comments from people who have used WHOLE EARTH? to open a dialogue between university and school students, academics, estate managers, university leaders and a wider public. They show how WHOLE EARTH? can be a catalyst for real change.

Will your university be part of this project?

University challenge

WHOLE EARTH? is designed to be shown outdoors, to reach everyone on campus. It provides the kind of evidence that students need to join the debate about their future. But it’s not prescriptive; at the heart of the display are 20 questions, addressed to a range of university disciplines, which challenge students and their tutors to show how they can use their skills to support the global sustainability agenda for a resilient, healthy and just society, living within environmental limits. It also provides a platform for universities to present the ways they are forging the new sustainable world through innovative teaching, research programmes, and on their own campuses.

There is nothing as powerful as examples. 

World tour 

In the face of climate change, all countries are “developing countries” needing to develop new ways of growing food, manufacturing, moving around and generally prospering. This demands a radically new, worldwide approach. So, to reach students on every continent, universities hosting WHOLE EARTH? in Europe are requested to send their edition on to a university or college in Africa, Asia or South America. Extensive tours have now begun in the Majority World. 

"Mark Edwards and Lloyd Timberlake have done a wonderful job showing how human beings can be natural partners with nature. Hard Rain exhibition 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
Visit to see the short film


University of the West of England

A letter from Jack Polsn.

Dear Steve, Jane, Helen and Jim,
I am writing to follow up the WHOLE EARTH? Launch event. I found the exhibition really inspiring and hope it has the same effect on UWE students and staff alike and encourage them to take positive action.

On behalf of the students at UWE, Bristol, please could I request a response from the University on the individual challenges that the exhibition highlights? It is crucial for us to ensure that we use these highlighted issues as a stepping stone to make change, rather than to simply acknowledge the issues and not take the necessary following steps.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind Regards,
Jack Polson
President – The Students’ Union at UWE, Bristol 15/10/15

The university’s response was developed through a series of workshops with students and staff which focused on meeting those challenges.

WHOLE EARTH? has been the catalyst for an open debate and provides us with a neutral vehicle and workable structure to address issues within the context of the passion and motivating power of its imagery and text.
Thank you.
Vicki Harris
Sustainability Team Facilities and UWE Green Capital Co-ordinator 

Bristol University

We launched the amazing WHOLE EARTH? exhibition at our welcome week student fair – and it was seen by 10,000 students in one day. We had to move it because so many people were crowding around it.

It is utterly amazing, visually stunning, and all sorts of people are commenting on it to us. It has really raised the profile of the issues of climate change and poverty in particular, and highlighted what different disciplines can do to contribute to creating a better future.

We all sometimes struggle to get sustainability stories to the top of the agenda, but today the University has made the WHOLE EARTH? exhibition its main front page picture with a lovely associated story. That sort of profile really does give reassurance, to those who work so hard, that it is all worth it.

If there is anyone who has not yet gone for it – I think all of us who have done so would say: go for it.
Chris Willmore
Bristol Green Academy Academic Lead

Canterbury Christ Church University

WHOLE EARTH? has had a really big impact at Canterbury Christ Church University. We launched the exhibition with a dedicated edition of the University magazine Inspire. This proved an excellent way to involve colleagues, including those from the support services who began to engage with the sustainability agenda with real enthusiasm. This year WHOLE EARTH? was the focus of a creative writing workshop which resulted in a poetic response which in turn inspired a textile workshop which generate a long-lasting legacy artwork. WHOLE EARTH? has given a very significant boost to the work of the Sustainability Office and done much to promote a culture in which sustainability is visibly part of our academic endeavors, using it higher up the agenda.

Dr Stephen Scoffham
Visiting Reader in Sustainability and Education
Canterbury Christ Church University

What to say before opening an exhibition as significant as this? All we have done is grow richer, despoil the world, dirty the seas, clog up the air and wipe out what, 50% of the world’s creatures. And we go on despite all the knowledge we have.
There is only one way to turn this around, and it’s through young people. That is why it’s wonderful that this exhibition is opening at Canterbury Christ Church University – it’s an attempt, with pictures and words, to touch people hearts – and change.
Michael Morpurgo

I study ‘Sustainable Businesses’ at Canterbury Christ Church University which is hosting WHOLE EARTH? exhibition. I have to admit I walked past it without reading it until my tutor sent us all out to look at it and write an essay on the issues it presents. Then I got it: the impact MY plastic, MY meat, MY waste paper is making to the planet that is keeping me alive. Then I felt anger toward the people I saw as role models who never taught me about sustainable development.
What’s good is that the exhibition doesn’t just show problems, it shows what my generation – and universities – can do to bring about real change. Now I’m going to campaign to make those changes.
Sadie Barton
Student, CCCU, Kent

University of Kerala

Why should you come and see WHOLE EARTH? Well, dear friends, this is the reason. An elephant came into our room some years ago. He was just a baby then; we didn’t take any notice. Now he has grown and fills the room, but we continue to pretend he is not there.
Do forgive the story, but this is what we have been doing globally with our environmental issues. WHOLE EARTH? shines a spotlight on the problems we’d rather not acknowledge. More than that – it sets out a road map to "align human systems and natural systems".
This is important. This is really important. Encourage your students to come, and your teaching and non-teaching colleagues too. Let’s all make a difference.
Dr Lal C.A.
University of Kerala, School of Distance Education

Christ University, Bangalore

Not content with showing WHOLE EARTH? at University of Kerala, Dr Lal rolled up the banners and went on tour to universities and colleges in Bangalore. Here are some of the emails he sent Stephen and me. They tell a wonderful story.

Lal C A
Monday, 27 June 2016 at 03:57
To: Mark Edwards
Cc: Stephen Scoffham

Dear Mark and Stephen
I arrived at Christ University in Bangalore. It was bit of an adventure transporting the exhibition on the bus, but I managed without too much difficulty!
Volunteers have put it up – do see the photos. The scene is now set for maximum participation. The lecture hall is very modern and grand for the presentation and especially Mark's speech and Bob Dylan's song in the DVD.
All best

Lal C A
Friday, 1 July 2016 at 01:36
To: Mark Edwards
Cc: Stephen Scoffham

Thanks Mark. Exhibition is on in the main campus these last two days. I’m doing two presentations a day as well as meeting smaller groups of students.

These sessions are very productive – students are showing a lot of enthusiasm. I end my talk with the Hard Rain video and Mark’s talk and then we have a discussion.

Lal C A

Monday, 4 July 2016 at 16:34
To: Mark Edwards
Cc: Stephen Scoffham

Dear Mark and Stephen
I’m home after a very fruitful week. The whole trip was much more effective than I anticipated. I spoke to over 1000 students in nine sessions bringing my story and Mark’s video together. The feedback has been overwhelming. We have really done something to make a difference.
Talk soon.

Kingston University

The Whole Earth? exhibition is a fabulous vehicle to engage students with the key issues which challenge our interconnected world. It’s thought provoking messages encourage students to debate their rights and responsibilities in this globalized world and inspires them to consider their capacity to find workable solutions.
Annie Hughes
Associate Professor, Faculty of Science, Engineering and Computing.

The Open Studio features a selection of posters from the Whole Earth? exhibition. These posters are included as prompts to think about climate change and its impacts on human and non-human life. They offer invaluable insights into not only why we should act, but also how we might do so. As such they are a fantastic resource for learning about climate change, and designing responses to it.
Paul Micklethwaite
Senior Research Fellow, Design School in the Faculty of Art, Design & Architecture.

Anglia Ruskin University and Cambridge University

Anglia Ruskin University and Cambridge University came together to exhibit WHOLE EARTH? in the centre of Cambridge. Mark Edwards, Joan Walley and Quinn Runkle helped us to launch the event by facilitating an inspiring discussion between students and staff from both Universities and the public.
During the two weeks it was displayed we analysed the social media responses to the exhibition. These demonstrated a variety of deeply felt concerns for the environment and the need to do something about it, and provide a powerful mandate for us to continue our education for sustainability work.
We have also taken the exhibition to schools in the area who have used it to stimulate lesson topics and to get students to think about the role they can play in creating a better future.
Alison Greig
Director of Education for Sustainability, Anglia Ruskin University

Social media analysis:  Summary

"So many truths to acknowledge and act upon"
This study, by Obehi Frances Sule, PhD Researcher at Anglia Ruskin University, set out to capture and analyse the social media response eight weeks into the ongoing display of WHOLE EARTH? in various locations worldwide. Almost a thousand social media users in four continents – 130 locations in 11 countries – used the hashtag #studentearth on Instagram, Twitter and YouTube to express their responses to WHOLE EARTH?. The 34% of respondents who were non-students came from diverse walks of life including politicians; Higher Education leaders; teachers; and people from media, energy-related and spiritual organisations.
Key findings include appraisive comments which were 100% positive, and a large proportion (mostly students) explicitly stating their support for "Aligning human systems and natural systems". The global population and migration issues highlighted in the exhibition were the next most talked-about points. The simultaneous launch of SoS (Students Organizing for Sustainability) caught respondents’ attention, with 11% of comments mentioning the potential of this new body to influence political change. A further 9% underscored the urgent need to "change the rules" in order to reduce society’s cost to the Earth.
Obehi Sule
Global Sustainability Institute, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge

University of Worcester

Having WHOLE EARTH? up on campus for a significant period has allowed colleagues at the University of Worcester to plan student interactions with the content, and it has proved a really effective engagement tool. We plan to put it up again ready for teaching this September.
Using it to engage the community has been equally if not even more valuable. Initially we displayed the exhibition in front of The Hive, our joint library which houses the university and local authority collections as well as being a county council and City hub. Working with our City Council colleagues, we produced a volunteering guide, so that any members of the public viewing the exhibition and feeling inspired to make a difference could immediately access the myriad of local volunteering opportunities. It was really well received.
While WHOLE EARTH? was at The Hive, and as part of a university storytelling festival, Institute of Education staff helped in devising activities for primary school children, in which the children were asked to make "one promise" inspired by WHOLE EARTH?’s images. Their success meant WHOLE EARTH? was taken on as the theme for The Big Sing where a further 2,200 children undertook the activities and made their own promises.
Working with local business, the University is looking at opportunities to bring WHOLE EARTH? into the City Centre as part of a city- and University-wide Go Green Week, led by first-year interdisciplinary students.
It also inspired a local photography exhibition at a community arts venue, which toured later on campus.
The exhibition itself is so versatile, easy to put up and take down using fences or balustrades, and visually stunning and impactful.
I would thoroughly recommend it as a way of engaging with your communities, as well as on campus.
Katy Boom
Director of Sustainability at the University of Worcester

Greenwich University

Greenwich Sustainability Hub launched the exhibition on behalf of Greenwich University. We created six £1000 WHOLE EARTH? fellowships to enable students to go deeper with their responses to the exhibition’s University Challenge questions. Over the following eight weeks, students turned their projects into reality, supported by academic tutors and Hub staff. They also provided weekly blog posts and pictures which were published on the fellowships programme’s webpage.
Students felt the fellowships had given them "real life work experience" in their field of study, and academic mentors praised the programme. The Crystal exhibition at London’s Docklands – the world’s largest exhibition on the future of cities – hosted a 10-day poster exhibition showcasing the six fellowship projects, and developed potential spin-off projects with some of the fellowship winners. Visitors at the Crystal also responded to the questions in WHOLE EARTH? by writing on cut-out leaves and posting them on a model tree with branches representing the different challenges.
Chantal Beaudoin
Sustainability Hub Manager, Students’ Union

Project webpage:
Link to WHOLE EARTH? Fellowships film:
The Crystal exhibition launch:

Walden School

Walden School, in partnership with Anglia Ruskin University, was one of several schools to have hosted WHOLE EARTH?.
Teachers from a range of classes responded to the questions in the display. Inspired by the picture of household waste, Sonia Hood (Head’s PA & Assistant Head of Boarding) and several students visited Waitrose, Tesco & Aldi. They asked the managers to explain how the stores dealt with their waste. They found out that only Waitrose recycled some of their waste; the other stores just destroyed theirs.
"WHOLE EARTH? really opened the students’ eyes to just how much waste there is in our society, not just at supermarkets but also how much individual households waste every day, as well as in our school – we measured all our waste for a week. Our group came up with a slogan: ‘Only take what you can eat and eat what you take’."

George Sand College

I am a teacher from France who took a group of secondary school students to Eden Project. Thank you so much for the WHOLE EARTH? exhibition. It left us deeply moved. It talks to you directly as an individual with a conscience, while at the same time giving you a global context.
Everything we learn in history, geography, biology etc can (and should) be understood in a new perspective, set against the crucial changes we are undergoing. I’ve waited all my life for something like WHOLE EARTH?. It really supports our work as teachers.
Over the past 15 years, we’ve been trying to open our students’ eyes to what is unfair and unsustainable, and to show how Human Rights are central to the well-being of every individual.
My students have produced ‘Carbon Blues’, a musical they wrote which will tour schools in France and which shows the urgent need to move to low-carbon technologies.
We’re educating tomorrow’s adults, and WHOLE EARTH? exhibition gives us all the depth of understanding we need to make the right choices.
Thank you.
Annick Durand
Collège George Sand

Whole Earth?  Sweden

WHOLE EARTH? in Sweden followed in the footsteps of Hard Rain. The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) funded the exhibition’s tour to 13 university cities. Students studying sustainable development took school students around the display, bringing the message to the next generation. Sida also funded an additional display, produced by Mark Edwards with commissioned photographs from Magnum’s Chris Steele-Perkins, showing the practical steps each location had already taken toward a more sustainable society. Two of the Swedish displays are now with universities in Africa, and one in Indonesia. Teachers Without Borders have agreed to take the project to their network of schools and universities in 184 countries. 

Dag Jonzon
Hard Rain Project, Sweden

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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