It doesn’t take much digging nowadays to find a startling new headline — “Overlapping pandemics: Monkeypox intensifies as COVID-19 continues to thrive,” one might read. While such public health emergencies and other tense political debates occupy much of the news cycle, it also seems that there is increased reporting on extreme weather events. Puerto Rico’s entire power grid was wiped out by Hurricane Fiona last week after several years of infrastructure improvements that followed Hurricane Maria in 2016. Just yesterday, Hurricane Ian became one of the most powerful storms to strike the US as it neared the Category 5 threshold. And for weeks now, nearly a third of Pakistan’s population has been underwater due to extreme flooding that closed out the summer. Tufts students are inundated with very real and diverse stories of how the climate crisis affects the daily lives of global populations, but how can we consolidate solutions that target the various issues at hand?
A recent study analyzed drawings done by five orangutans in a Japanese zoo and found that the drawings — especially those of one orangutan, Molly —correlate with environmental factors like seasons, daily life events and even changes in keeper identity. In total, 790 orangutan drawings were studied, 656 of which were chosen randomly from those done by Molly.Researchers found differences in color preferences that related to the current season; the orangutans tended to use purple in the spring and green in the summer and winter. In addition, Molly used more red in her drawings when another orangutan in a separate location was giving birth. The content and patterns of the drawings also changed in relation to more mundane, daily events in Molly’s life. These included new art supplies on one day, when an elementary school class visited on another and the change of her keeper once over the course of the experiment.