A Prescient Message: “Emergency Room” Art Installation by Andy McWilliams

April 22, 2020

By Pamela Berns


When artist Andy McWilliams was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, he saw a clear parallel between the urgency of a his own personal health crisis and the global urgency of climate change. As a result, he created his 2016 art installation “Emergency Room.”

As the world tackles the challenges of COVID19, we hear Andy’s prescient personal message on a massive global scale: Health crises and global warming both “come with a catch. They have a threshold. And if you don’t make the correct changes before the threshold, you cross over it and you’ve committed yourself to the worst outcome.”


Yet, there is a lesson we are learning from the global response to the Coronavirus pandemic. When humans see a threat as immediate in both time and place, we have an incredible capacity to change our behavior en masse. While quarantining and practicing social distancing isolates us physically, we are taking these actions collectively.


The climate crisis requires a different response, moving swiftly away from fossil fuels and empowering society through renewables. But this too is an immediate crisis that requires us to act collectively, and it is a challenge we can work together to overcome.


Andy McWilliams is an artist, technologist, and community organizer. He is also the director of ThoughtWorks Arts, and founding member of ClimateAction.tech. View “Emergency Room” along with Andy’s commentary here.