Vicki Clough Curates

Musings on art and life.

Earth Day 2015—Dominant Power Structures and Fractured Causes

I want to type “Happy Earth Day!”, but it gets stuck on the way out of my fingertips because I feel that like many other worthwhile causes, it has been highjacked by corporate greenwashing and “social responsibility”(I’m feeling particularly cynical today). Earth Day is a recognition of the beginning of the current Environmental Movement that has been “current” now for over 30 years. It was fuelled by authors such as Rachel Carson who published her book Silent Spring in 1962, providing a much needed insight into the effects of chemical pesticides on the environment and wildlife (over-simplification, for the sake of brevity) to a broad audience through wide circulation. The momentum that the movement gained by grassroots activism and knowledge sharing led to policy changes and certainly, some things got better. However, science has provided us with indisputable evidence of the state of the environment and the fact that other “things” did not get better, in fact, they got worse.

Namibian Sand dunes, taken by Landsat in 2000. Image from www.livescience.com

Namibian Sand dunes, taken by Landsat in 2000. Image from http://www.livescience.com

The worst effects aren’t always seen by most in western countries. It’s invisible to us, but we are complicit in the act of poisoning the environment, even though we are physically removed from the effected geographic locations. I’m not going to jump on a soapbox and proclaim that everyone should change their ways. For the most part people don’t know what to do, if they even know what the problems are. Also, environmental issues are only a part of a much bigger problem that this modest blogger cannot even begin to stretch her head around, never mind cover them in an infinite series of posts. And yet, there have been many, like Carson, who have published books on the subject of the environment and the social and political structures that keep the status quo and prevent change (eg. Milbrath’s Envisioning a Sustainable Society, Learning our Way out provides an affective look at dominant power structures that inevitably links to all social causes and issues, don’t let the date of publication fool you, it’s as relevant today as when it was first published, if not more so). I’m not going to (personally) tug at your heartstrings or try to hook you with shock-value images and stories. If you’re reading this, then I’ve already done that with the blog title and I think that’s a task best left to the video below and I’ve only chosen images that depict our planet from up high, because, well, it’s Earth Day and this is our earth. What I am going to do is provide links to sites that list not-for-profit organizations who aim to spread knowledge so that citizens (and we are all citizens of somewhere) can make informed decisions. Compiling this list myself would take days and would remove the power you possess to make your own reading and viewing choices.. so, I have only included the one video to accompany this list, because it covers what I fear most about the environmental movement. These listed/linked organizations also aim to provide educational programming and travelling exhibitions to that children and young adults have access to information that is of vital importance to their future.

I've only ever seen the Northern Lights from the window of a plane, but it looked similar to this image captured by Alexander Gerst from the International Space Station on August 29th, 2014. Image from ww.livescience.com

I’ve only ever seen the Northern Lights from the window of a plane, but it looked similar to this image captured by Alexander Gerst from the International Space Station on August 29th, 2014. Image from ww.livescience.com

Something that interests me about the current state of activism and social justice causes is their fractured nature. It seems to me that the hippy culture of the 70s provided a robust network of people, from all walks of life, who were bravely advocating for the rights of all life on earth. They were not just concerned with one particular issue, but used their sense of agency to speak loudly against all kinds of issues including race and gender equality, poverty and other important social and political causes. I’m not saying that that kind of solidarity doesn’t exist anymore and I certainly am too young to be able to compare timeframes, but it appears to me that causes have become disassociated even though they share common source of oppression and censoring. Please, correct me if I’m wrong, but the point made by Prince Ea in the video below speaks to this when he says “…because whatever you’re fighting for, racism or poverty, feminism, gay rights or any type of equality, it won’t matter in the least, because if we don’t all work together to save the environment, we will be equally extinct.” So, no, I won’t “celebrate” Earth Day. Not until some of the major issues we are facing begin to become less topical and urgent. Earth Day should recognize a pivotal moment or shift in consciousness that is in line with what our planet and humanity really needs in order for it to survive. That shift begins with sharing ideas, knowledge, skills and an understanding that we are ultimately all fighting for the same thing. Is there an ideology at play in my attempt to share knowledge and encourage unified sensitivity to social and environmental issues? Sure, but it comes with the caveat that there are limits to what this can do, but nothing happens unless and attempt is made. The rest is up to you.

The list, as promised:

Pure Earth (formerly known as the Blacksmith Institute)

Earth First!—an interesting activist group, for sure

Natural Resources Defence Council

Mother Jones have an excellent article outlining some of the major research and NFP groups

GreenMuseum is a great resource for those interested in Eco-arts practices and articles on the subject

Films for Action is one of my favourite resources for informative documentaries and articles that cover a variety of issues and causes. DEFINITELY worth checking out.

Of course, these lists are not exhaustive and many of the sites feature the same groups.

*I fully acknowledge that this post is meandering in focus, but it’s reflective of my frustrated attempts to grasp the complexity of the world I live in.

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This entry was posted on April 22, 2015 by in activism, Art, criticism, Eco-art, Nature Art and tagged , , .
Vicki Clough

Vicki Clough

Vicki is an independent curator and craftsperson with a focus on socially engaged and participatory art and events. In January 2016 she helped launch Reconstructing Resilience, an ongoing research and curatorial project that aims to address the various forms of sustainable practice. She has been the Curatorial Director of Figment Toronto since 2014 and has also co-curated exhibitions including Move to Stillness, for the Harbourfront Centre's Kick Up Your Heels Festival (2015), The Duel, AGO First Thursdays (2014) and What Are You Made Of? OCAD U Graduate Gallery (2013). She initiated the Toronto based workshop model and website Polymers in Action: Socially Engaged Art and the Environment as part of her studies at OCAD University, where she obtained her Master of Fine Arts degree in Criticism and Curatorial Practice. She publishes on anything that interests her deeply and moves her to the point of lengthy verbal expression.

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