Support Hyperallergic’s independent arts journalism.
“Global warming my gluteus maximus,” wrote former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin in an infamous 2013 Facebook post, in which she argued that climate change wasn’t real because it had snowed in her home state in May. Now, Palin and fellow climate change deniers — like Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, US Senator Ted Cruz, the billionaire Koch Brothers, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and others — have become Climate Inaction Figures: toys modeled after prominent public figures who claim, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that there’s no need to act against global warming.
Conceived by creative directors Cabot Norton and Arturo Aranda, the figures were sculpted by Ridgewood, New York–based artist Nao Matsumoto, a self-proclaimed “toy geek.” “Each character represents a conflict between fact and fantasy,” Matsumoto told Hyperallergic. Working with a team of digital sculptors, Matsumoto first prepped and molded the figures in silicone, for the purpose of casting multiple pieces. The toys were then cast in urethane resin and hand-painted. The process involved lots of tiny disembodied limbs and torsos scattered around the studio, as well as the miniature heads of prominent Republicans drying on popsicle-stick-like stakes. The figures will soon be available as freely downloadable and printable 3D files.
Scarier than any Marvel Comics villain, the toys are packaged and branded like classic action figures, including a commercial complete with stoked little boys and a macho voiceover. Each Inaction Figure comes with a “fact-defying accessory”: Palin holds an oil drill; James Inhofe, chairman of the US Senate Committee of Environment and Public Works, wields a spiked snowball; Senator Ted Cruz wears a shield to “repel the forces of science.” Each one also has a “Denial Power Level” ranking — Trump’s, for example, is “Yuge.” And a few come with commemorative gold coins inscribed with infamous denial quotes, like Inhofe’s declaration that global warming is “the greatest hoax ever inflicted on the American people.”
The toys bring some welcome satire to the apocalyptically serious conversation surrounding climate change. “I believe that humor is the most powerful communication tool,” Matsumoto says. “Dropping the viewer’s guard with a dosage of humor, inviting them in and captivating the audience with a meticulously thought-out and well-executed presentation is my ideal way of communicating as a creative.” While highlighting the disturbing anti-science views of prominent people — which can often get buried in political rhetoric and self-justification — the toys also make that information weirdly fun.
The Climate Inaction Figures were made with in partnership with the Years Project, which focuses on practical solutions to climate change, like solar and wind energy, improved building methods, and putting a price on carbon. Led by Joel Bach and David Gelber, the Years Project is the group behind Years of Living Dangerously, an Emmy-winning documentary series about how we can act on those solutions. (The series’ second season will air this fall on the National Geographic Channel.)
“We’re realistic about the impact that any one campaign can have,” says Cabot Norton. “The debate is not suddenly going to end because of what we’re doing. But we do hope that by providing another way to talk about the issue and creating more support for taking action, we can help nudge the conversation to a point where our elected officials are forced to take action.”
Speaking of taking action, we couldn’t help but wonder: who would win in a fight, Climate Inaction Figures or classic action figures from our childhood? “It’s worth noting that even though the arms and legs look like they’re articulated, they don’t actually move — for maximum inaction!” says Norton. So, while these Inaction Figures might crush environmental legislation in the House and Senate, in a toy chest battle against the likes of Batman and Spawn, they would not stand a chance.