Future Climate Proverbs for a Changing Desert Environment


The third slate, installed near the road on Tumamoc Hill.

Ben Wilder

About the Project

Future Climate Proverbs invites you to create new weather proverbs to represent and remember present-day climate conditions, or to express your view of the future. Chalk is provided for you to respond to poetic prompts inscribed on monumental slates in English, Spanish, and O’odham. The prompts were composed by project lead Jonathon Keats and local poets Raquel Gutiérrez and Ofelia Zepeda.

You are invited to share photos to social media with the hashtag #FutureClimateProverbs 

Weather proverbs have been used by people around the world to predict when rains will come or what to expect in forthcoming seasons. Climate change has undermined the predictive power of old proverbs and pushes us to think anew. Collective observation can allow us to better understand the present and reimagine possible futures. Instead of merely being predictive, proverbs can become proactive.


A completed climate proverbs reads: "When heat of summer is struck by thunder, drought is drenched by las aguas. If winter storm clouds coolly gather, thirst is quenched by las equipatas.—Omar A."

Ben Wilder

Weather Proverbs

Weather proverbs are ubiquitous and have been used by peoples around the world to impart folk wisdom about natural phenomena—predicting when rains will come or what to expect in the coming season. Although some of the wisdom still holds today, climate change has undermined the reliability of much of the traditional ecological knowledge that has been recorded in farmer’s almanacs and passed down by word of mouth. In fact, discrepancies between the wisdom preserved in verse and the facts of observed reality can reveal the impact of global warming. By reexamining old proverbs, we can better understand the present. And by reimagining them, we can consider possible futures and our collectiverole in shaping those futures.

Previous Events

Future Climate Proverb Screenprinting Day | January 29, 2022

Brought to you in collaboration with the University of Arizona Poetry Center.

On January 29, from 9 am to 1 pm, the Poetry Center and the Desert Laboratory held a Future Climate Proverb screenprinting day. CREAM Design & Print was be on-site at the Tumamoc Hill boathouse to ink open-ended proverbs onto t-shirts, tote bags, and more. From 11am–1pm, artist and project lead Jonathon Keats offered drop-in weather proverb workshops in the Tumamoc Hill boathouse (west of the road at the base of the Hill) for those interested in creating their own. 



Artist Jonathon Keats speaks with workshop participants in the historic Tumamoc Boat House.

Desert Laboratory on Tumamoc Hill


Future Climate Proverbs Workshop | November 13, 2021

Encouraging interaction between diverse communities living in Tucson, and collective reflection on cultural memories and climate change, this half-day workshop invited people to share weather proverbs they've learned from previous generations, to learn about current climate research, and to reimagine proverbs for desired futures. The workshop will be guided by Jonathon Keats. Erin Riorden and Benjamin Wilder contributed insights about current and future weather patterns in relation to the local Tucson ecosystem.

Workshop participants made logbooks with the clauses written on facing pages. Each time either condition is witnessed (e.g., clouds are observed to look like little sheep or a downpour of rain is observed), the person keeping the logbook will document the condition and also document conditions related to the other clause (e.g., how wet it is after clouds like little sheep have been observed, and what the clouds look like before a big rain). The logbooks were crafted from an assortment of materials, some of which were natural and locally sourced. Each person embellished their book to make it truly personal.