Library exhibit uses style of WWI messages to highlight climate battle


BURRILLVILLE – The battle against climate change needs YOU, and it’s coming to Burrillville. 

A new campaign by the Civic Alliance for a Cooler Rhode Island aims to utilize such direct and comprehensible words and imagery – once used to recruit support for U.S. battles against foreign nations – to draw attention to the need for urgent action on climate change. 

“In the war years, messages of saving food and tin for the soldiers were easy to understand,” explained a press release on the exhibit, coming to Jesse Smith Memorial Library beginning on Friday, Aug. 2. “Loved ones who signed up to defend against imperialism and the sinking of US and British ships needed help.”

Enter the US Food Administration, the War Department and the Defense Department, sending out iconic posters pleading with those who stayed home to save cloth for bandages and grow victory gardens so commercial food production would be sent to the troops.

In a similar vein, the Civic Alliance for a Cooler Rhode Island has developed a poster series for public engagement and advocacy to prevent the devastating impacts of climate change. The campaign converts the food poster thematic concept of WWI into climate advocacy.

“We believe this is a similarly urgent societal campaign that would benefit from the same kind of grass-roots outreach aimed at individual will and community motivation,” said Seth Handy, originator of the concept. “In the war years, posters such as these appeared on telephone polls, sides of buildings and town halls. Today, we hope that people will take photos and post on their own virtual walls.”

Getting the word out is essential to changing the way we think about our environment, according to Paul Roselli – project manager and member of CACRI.

Local artists Mimo Gordon Riley, Jim Bush, Edie Vonnegut and Lucy Handy framed their art themed to WWI messaging which helped to reproduce the “WWI look” of these posters to the fullest extent possible using poster size, artistic character, type of messaging and tone, font, graphic feel and urgency. Janet Downing Taylor, a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design and former graphic design professional at Hasbro, provided graphic design support and coordination.

The 25 posters can be seen at the library at 100 Tinkham Lane in Harrisville from August 2 to August 30. Exhibit times are available on the library web site.

An opening reception for the LivableRI Posters for Climate Change exhibit will be held at the library on Wednesday, Aug. 14 at 5:30 to 7:45 p.m. 

Funding for the project was provided in part by the City of Providence Mayor Jorge O. Elorza through the City of Providence Department of Art, Culture and Tourism; and members and patrons of the Civic Alliance for a Cooler Rhode Island.

Civic Alliance for a Cooler Rhode Island is a Rhode Island grassroots volunteer organization that assesses, informs, and activates efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in or attributable to Rhode Island. Go to for more information.

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