Slow emergencies are “defined by forms of harm and damage that are not punctual and acute but rather occur ‘gradually and out of sight’.” (Anderson, 2019) While they are often unseen, their effects are palpable. The Smallest Measure studies the concept of slow climate emergencies through the observation of one of the cleanest air sources in the world; Cape Grim, in lutruwita/Tasmania.
Jointly managed by the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), the Baseline Air Pollution Station at Cape Grim measures all major and minor greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, stratospheric ozone-depleting chemicals, such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), concentrations of natural and anthropogenic aerosol particulates, reactive gases, radon and solar radiation, wind speed and direction, rainfall, temperature, humidity and air pressure and solar radiation, including harmful UV-B radiation. Untouched by land, the wind that blows over the Southern Ocean, arriving at Cape Grim, is considered ‘baseline’ air and represents the background atmosphere, giving an indication of the driving forces behind anthropogenic climate change.
This work shows how landscape and science work together in the formation, collection and analysis of the air and the ways in which global changes in this seemingly invisible matter affects all life-forms. Changes in air quality and changes in human and non-human health are interdependent, yet the pervasive, slow and violent effects of climate change and global warming are still being perceived as if they are yet to come, or may never arrive. This work surveys the rigorous and long-term work done by CSIRO and BoM scientists at Cape Grim, which highlights the need for current conditions to be responded to in order to secure future life for all.