Laramie, WY (2010) – An art installation on the University of Wyoming campus, Carbon Sink: What Goes Around Comes Around, by British artist Chris Drury, is a large-scale wood and coal land sculpture that invokes a link between human activity and climate change – which upset some people in Wyoming, the nation’s top coal-producing state.

The piece is a swirl of logs and coal laid together on the ground. The logs were felled by pine beetles, insects that used to be killed off by the below-zero winter temperatures in the Rocky Mountains. But as the winters have gotten warmer due to climate change, the beetles have survived. When burned, the lumps of coal, adjacent to the felled logs, contribute to the Earth’s rising temperature. Drury had hoped that the work would spark debate on the college campus, but didn’t expect a full-out fight.

Coal mining is big money in Wyoming and the industry has donated significant amounts of it to the University. The sculpture has been up for the past three years and while time and weather are expected to wear it down slowly, it won’t be soon enough for coal industry insiders. The president of the Wyoming Mining Association, Marion Loomis, has threatened to erect a nearby installation “commending the affordable, reliable electricity that comes from coal.”

The sculpture was paid for by a public grant through the Wyoming Cultural Trust Fund and a private donor. Drury is a land artist who has built environmental sculptures across the United States and Europe.