How does being connected to the world, in some way or other, actually feel? How does one connect to the world, and why do we feel disconnected from the world? I’ve been very interested, over the last ten years, in how increasing knowledge about the climate has created some kind of action according to this knowledge. 

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  • Olafur Eliasson, Erosion, 1997

    Olafur Eliasson, Erosion, 1997

  • Olafur Eliasson, Erosion, 1997

    Olafur Eliasson, Erosion, 1997

  • Olafur Eliasson, Erosion, 1997

    Olafur Eliasson, Erosion, 1997

  • Olafur Eliasson, Erosion, 1997

    Olafur Eliasson, Erosion, 1997

  • Olafur Eliasson, Erosion, 1997

    Olafur Eliasson, Erosion, 1997

  • Olafur Eliasson, Erosion, 1997

    Olafur Eliasson, Erosion, 1997

  • Olafur Eliasson, Green river, 1998–2001, Los Angeles, 1999

    Olafur Eliasson, Green river, 1998–2001, Los Angeles, 1999

Surprisingly, however, the way our behaviour changes does not really stand in proportion to what we know. We know a lot, but we don’t change and we don’t do a lot.

I am intellectually well aware of certain things – this awareness is stored in my mind. It is not disconnected from my body, but it is also not explicitly connected to my body. We have different types of awarenesses: I have awareness from reading the paper, for example, but I also have awareness from having encountered something physically. To be a bit reductive: we have physical experiences and we have knowledge-based experiences. I know about things because I read about them in the newspaper or other media.

Olafur Eliasson, Green river, 1998–2001, Tokyo, 2001

Olafur Eliasson, Green river, 1998–2001, Tokyo, 2001

But what happens when you read about something very far away – a place you have no physical contact with – and yet you feel you have to do something about it, and so you do do something. What is the sequence? Knowledge, feeling, action.

Is it our responsibility that somebody else does not have access to energy? I would argue that we’re all connected, as we’re using energy from the same planet, the same fossil energy. The question is more about why we do not feel more connected to what is going on. And I personally am curious about this because I also don’t feel connected, but I know I have to feel more connected and try to do something. This question of energy access is not just about climate issues, green economy, and so on; it is also a more fundamental question: do we understand that all humans have the same basic desires and needs? We all want to be happy, and we are also fundamentally social beings.