Who knew that putting the laundry on the line could make a statement about global warming? In May, a group of artists strung 550 white shirts above the sidewalks of Manhattan’s Meatpacking District to draw attention to the reflective power of white surfaces — what scientists call albedo.

Snow and ice have high albedo values and reflect sunlight, keeping the earth cool, while dark surfaces have low values and absorb sunlight, warming the planet. As temperatures rise, ice and snow melt, reducing the earth’s albedo, which — you guessed it — causes the temperature to rise some more. Entitled Albedo Clouds on Little West 12th, the piece is the work of a group called the Canary Project. Founders Edward Morris and Susannah Sayler are slowly amassing visual evidence of climate change around the globe.

“The goal is to get people emotionally involved with what’s happening regarding global warming,” says Morris, “and we feel like art is the best way to do that.”

Story by Justin Nobel. This article originally appeared in Plenty in August 2007. The story was added to MNN.com.

Copyright Environ Press 2007

Losing our shirts
Follow these eco-artists by hanging up your white shirts outside to cool the Earth.