Message (of Climate Change) In a Bottle

Scientist Kurtis Baute sealed himself in an airtight homemade greenhouse in Courtenay to draw attention to climate change, and made international headlines in the process.

Photograph by Kurtis Baute.

Sweating it out in a small, airtight, plastic-covered greenhouse he built to show his YouTube followers what climate change looks like up close, scientist Kurtis Baute went from being nervous and curious about his project to scatter-brained and sluggish as his body fell prey to the effects of the excessive carbon dioxide that gathered in the enclosed space.

Though Baute successfully recreated the process of what is happening to our planet as greenhouse gasses like C02 get trapped in the atmosphere, his real mission was to raise awareness about its effects — and he achieved that in a big way. Along with coverage from TV networks like BBC and CNN, in just 14 hours on October 24, Baute gained 4,000 new Twitter followers and made three million Twitter impressions.

“We have a long way to go in terms of public science literacy,” says Baute, who has a Master of Science degree in environmental studies. “And that’s really what the issue comes down to — that people don’t understand what the air even is, so how are they going to understand something as complicated as climate change?”

While he originally estimated he would be able to last three days in his airtight enclosure filled with 200 plants, upon recalculation he hoped he’d get to 21 hours. In the end, he lasted for 14 hours before being forced out by excessive heat and unsafe C02 levels.

“It’s an interesting thing in science, because when people don’t get the results they expect, the instinct is to say, ‘That’s too bad.’ But really, any result is information, and even if it doesn’t fit your hypothesis it’s still something that you’ve learned,” says the 29 year old, who makes a full-time living from his YouTube science channel.

“At the same time,” he adds, “my goal wasn’t really to do research [because] scientists have done the research and we know that climate change is happening … My goal is to raise awareness. I feel like I’ve already succeeded.”

This article is from the December/January 2019 issue of Douglas.