On this threshold of the 21st century we find ourselves on an increasingly destructive trajectory with our natural environment. The visual and print media broadcast endless cascades of recycled image and information “loops” that amplify this enormously tragic fact. Environmental catastrophes such as the Asian tsunami in 2004, hurricanes Katrina and Rita swamping New Orleans, or the massive earthquakes in Pakistan and Northern India make compelling news clips.
Increasingly global climate change – shouldn’t we use the word disruption instead? – and other more covert assaults on the environment are also gaining more attention. Many among us, especially those deeply committed to the environment, are very excited about this shift. I am an enthusiastic supporter of Al Gore and his outstanding effort to highlight this “Inconvenient Truth.” But there is a fundamental problem in our collective response. Whether the cause be natural or anthropogenic, images of natural disasters tend to converge with positive environmental images as the primary representation of nature in our collective minds. As a result, most of us either feel powerless, or we retreat into denial and continue with our lives. And we are trapped in our collective inaction.
I believe there is a deep hunger among all people for imagery and ideas to contradict this media onslaught. In our fast paced and “now” centered culture we tend to minimize or overlook the extent to which artists and art have changed the course of human history. There is a real and urgent need for art that reminds us of our sense of place in nature. All media documenting nature and environment suffer from a shortage of icons and images that engage and uplift people at all levels.
“A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.” A Sand County Almanac Aldo Leopold (p. 262 , 1966 edition)