Artist’s Brilliant National Park Posters Advertise a Grim Future

Drawing upon the WPA’s classic National Parks posters, Hannah Rothstein’s new series envisions our natural treasures ravaged by climate change.

National park posters
Posters show the before and after of climate change effects.

Hannah Rothstein / @HRothsteinArt

With a wry and poignant twist, artist Hannah Rothstein has reimagined the great WPA posters once used to lure visitors to the splendors of U.S. National Parks. Where the original might have promised Yellowstone’s campfire programs and nature talks, the new version offers dying trout and starving grizzlies. Welcome to the National Parks of the year 2050 if climate change is allowed to stake its claim.

Rothstein describes National Parks 2050 as a call to action.

"We have the ability to outsmart the issues highlighted in National Parks 2050, but we need to act now. From Franklin to Fuller, America has been made its greatest by embracing ingenuity and innovation. If we dive headfirst into inventing for a brighter future, we can prevent National Parks 2050 from becoming a reality."

"I hope the series inspires everyone,” she continues, “from everyday citizens to policymakers, to acknowledge the issues ahead, admit that climate stewardship is a non-partisan issue, and work together to find the solutions I know we’re capable of creating.” There are seven reimagined posters in all, which you can see on the following pages. Also, if you purchase a National Parks 2050 print or an original painting, 25 percent of the proceeds will be donated to climate-related causes.

Mount Mckinley poster by Hannah Rothstein

Hannah Rothstein / @HRothsteinArt

While we may know it now as Denali National Park and Preserve, the Alaskan wonderland would nonetheless be a wonderless soggy mess if it all melts.

Redwood National Park poster by Hannah Rothstein

Hannah Rothstein / @HRothsteinArt

Not the big trees! We can't lose them, we just can't. Before the mid-19th century, coast redwoods spread throughout a range of some 2 million acres along the west coast. People had been peacefully co-existing with the forests forever. But with the gold rush came the logging; today only 5 percent of the original old-growth coast redwood forest remains. These gentle giants need us, humans, to behave with responsibility and respect.

Crater Lake Poster by artist Hannah Rothstein

Hannah Rothstein / @HRothsteinArt

Some 7,700 years ago, an eruption in Oregon incited the collapse of a volcano and in the crater left behind, the magnificent Crater Lake was formed. Fed by rain and snow, it’s the deepest lake in the U.S. and stands as a contender for one of the most pristine lakes on earth. Let's keep it that way.

Saguaro National Monument Poster by artist Hannah Rothstein

Hannah Rothstein / @HRothsteinArt

While the arid desert landscape may seem best-prepared to handle increasing temperatures, that logic doesn't actually hold. With such little moisture, there is nothing to keep warmer temperatures in check; deserts of the Southwest have already seen a higher increase in average temperature than elsewhere in the country, say researchers.

Great Smoky Mountains Poster by artist Hannah Rothstein

Hannah Rothstein / @HRothsteinArt

Home to some 187,000 acres of old-growth forest, the southeast's Great Smoky Mountains get their name for the swaths of picturesque fog that rolls along the mountains and valleys. In 2016, more than 16,000 acres burned as a complex of wildfires raged through the hills, inspired by a period of "exceptional" drought.

Yellowstone Poster by artist Hannah Rothstein

Hannah Rothstein / @HRothsteinArt

According to the National Parks Service, scientists have already documented these changes in Yellowstone:

  • Average temperatures in the park are higher now than they were 50 years ago, especially during springtime. Nighttime temperatures seem to be increasing more rapidly than daytime temperatures.
  • In the last 50 years, the growing season (the time between the last freeze of spring and the first freeze of fall) has increased by roughly 30 days in some areas of the park.
  • At the northeast entrance, there are now 80 more days per year above freezing than there were in the 1960s.
  • There are approximately 30 fewer days per year with snow on the ground than there were in the 1960s.

In 2050, will we oldtimers be reminiscing of the good old days when the geysers were glorious and grizzlies robust?

For more, visit the Rothstein website – or follow her on Instagram.