Eve, Pandora and Environmental Science

March 7th, 2011

You may have seen the excellent slideshow presentation of artist Gail Potocki’s work at Huffington Post. The author chose to include pieces which are strongly representative of the symbolist narrative Gail employs to confront the user with -among other themes- humankind’s failings in it’s role as steward of the planet. With this narrative, Gail gives voice to the voiceless cohabitants of our environment that find themselves at our mercy (or victims to the lack thereof).

The purpose of the blog you are reading is to give you easy access to more information regarding the environmental science behind the themes in Gail’s work. We’ll touch on habitat destruction, toxins in the food chain, over-predation and climate change. They are all strongly connected.

frog Eve, Pandora and Environmental Science

Accompanying De Soleil at the Huffington Post is Gail’s description of hearing more frequently about frog malformations. Increased exposure to ultraviolet radiation through the depletion of the ozone layer and use of pesticides including methoprene and atrazine are a couple of the factors shown as contributing to the malformations. Learn more at Hamlin University’s Center for Global Environmental Education.

Indeed, frogs are more sensitive to environmental factors than humans but I, personally, don’t think it absurd that any epidemiological studies required before commercial use of potential environmental contaminants is approved take many years or even decades.

apples Eve, Pandora and Environmental Science

The Hawaiian Mamo bird (Drepanis pacifica) depicted in Opened Apples is now extinct. The linked Wikipedia article gives habitat loss and over-collecting as factors in its extinction. The habitat loss was largely a result of introduced livestock (cattle and pigs) and the over-collecting, well, the “famous yellow cloak of Kamehameha I is estimated to have taken the reigns of eight monarchs and the golden feathers of 80,000 birds to complete.” Predation by foreign mongooses and rats was also a factor.

colors Eve, Pandora and Environmental Science

The coral bleaching damage depicted in Dying Colors is a direct result of environmental factors including ocean temperature, causing stress-induced expulsion or death of their symbiotic protozoa zooxanthillae or the loss of pigmentation within the protozoa.

It’s no mystery that entire ecosystems of marine life revolve around reefs and that many groups of humans rely on these marine ecosystems for our own sustenance  (including those who fish around them and those who rely on tourism around reefs for their livelihood).

Depressingly, once bleaching begins it tends to continue even without continuing stress and if the colonies survive, zooxanthillae often require weeks or months to return to normal density. The new residents may be of a different species. You can’t go home again.

mother Eve, Pandora and Environmental Science

The environmental narrative in Corrupted Mother is dense. For the purposes of this writing, I’ll limit myself to the plight of the polar bear. Forced through increasingly larger flaming hoops in this painting, the warming of the planet is rapidly shrinking the habitat of these and (perhaps millions of ) other creatures.

For those of you who don’t ‘believe’ in climate change as an extant phenomenon or that it doesn’t necessarily portend grave negative consequences, I respectfully submit that the preponderance of evidence is against you and ask that you graciously refrain from such comments.

shipwrecked iisl Eve, Pandora and Environmental Science

Shipwrecked II presents us with the shocking and seemingly mysterious loss of huge numbers of honeybees in the United States since 2006 due to what is called Colony Collapse Disorder.

Many commercial beekeepers (those that rent their colonies to farmers in order to pollinate food crops) found one or even two thirds of their colonies suddenly wiped out. The causes, still being investigated, are multivariate. However, the possible natural factors -including parasites- appear to be outnumbered by human-influenced causes such as poor husbandry techniques (inbreeding and improper diet) along with commercial neonicotinoid pesticides.

In case you are thinking that honeybee health is not important, consider that honeybees add about $15 billion to U. S. agricultural output each year. If we lose them, our dinner becomes much more humble.

tiara Eve, Pandora and Environmental Science

The deforestation we see in Tiara in the interest of land for livestock and commercial agriculture or timber comes at the extreme costs of habitat loss for countless species and the entrenchment of greenhouse gases (and thus climate change).

I am beginning to get too depressed and irritable to continue describing in detail the impact of human shortsightedness.

vortex Eve, Pandora and Environmental Science

In Plastic Vortex we see a symbolic representation of the effect of cast-off plastic on ocean life. The currents of the Pacific Ocean are such that there is a huge conglomeration of plastic -some estimate that the area of it is twice the size of Texas- floating in what amounts to an eddy northeast of Hawaii.

The plastic breaks down eventually into small bits but doesn’t biodegrade. It is introduced into the food chain by animals that mistake the small bits for plankton and ingest it. Other, larger animals often mistake larger pieces of plastic for animals such as krill and ingest them. The animals that ingest the plastic become full of it, can’t eliminate it, are prevented from taking in nutritious food and die.

The plastic that makes it up to the levels of humans in the food chain, according to the NIH, is of some concern. Granted that exposure to these plastics is usually through food packaging and not ingestion of animals that ingested animals that ingested plastic.

It’s true that the term ‘environment’ describes a vast, seemingly infinite entity and that the time frames we experience as humans suggest that our impact on the environment has been to cause at worst the extinction of individual species. However, the environment (let’s limit it to Earth for the purposes of this blog) is finite and our impact upon it is largely cumulative. With the interconnectedness of climate change, environmental toxins, habitat loss and over-predation damage to the environment has become exponential and entire genera and families of plants and animals are vulnerable in the short term.

Is there any group of folk around that doesn’t believe the only remaining threat to continued human existence on this planet is, in fact, humans?

In relation to technological ‘advances’, I am not suggesting that we all need be Luddites but that when researching such advances as means of increased food production or easier application of hygiene products, it would behoove us to explore negative impacts to our environment to the fullest possible extent. It should be our practice to determine the environmental rules beforehand rather than making them up during the game.

With the exploration of environmental science and my personal ranting out of the way, I’d like to again thank Gail for guiding me, through her use of beautiful imagery coupled with the heinous truth of the symbolist narrative on the environment, to more thoroughly examine this deepest threat to my existence… which is me (and you).

Hippie Vision

March 29th, 2009

All of the world

Is there for the taking

But a fool you are making

 Of yourself if you live

 Taking more than you give

While all the good Earth

You’re forsaking

A lot of us my age watched Lost In Space on TV when we were kids. It was the 60s. There was racy stuff going on here on Earth at the time: race riots; the arms race; the rat race with the Joneses next door; the space race.

Individuals and nations raced to be first feeling that to move beyond a problem was to be rid of it. We learned to believe in technology as a means of moving beyond. We (especially those growing up in the Detroit area) drove in our new cars over bumps in the consumerist road such as disposability, planned obsolescence and other environmental issues and as long as the road ahead was clear, so was our conscience. Since we were all destined to be spacemen, the road ahead was always clear.

There were folks around that time, a lot of them labeled ‘hippies’, that raised concerns about all the racing and its impact on our lives and on the Earth. True capitalist industrialists denounced them as tree huggers and without vision.

In fourth grade, my classmates and I were assigned with putting together scrapbooks about what life would be like in the year 2000. I still have mine somewhere and it contains visions of moving sidewalks everywhere (a la The Jetsons), domed cities on the moon and (I think) personal hovercrafts –if not spacecrafts– for everyone.

I lived in an industrial center and it was thoroughly ingrained in me that someone would invent and Detroit could build a machine that could move humans past any obstacle to their ultimately blissful technological existence. I think at the time I envisioned a blissfully peaceful technological coexistence. I was too young at the time to realize that besides our pursuit of the consumerist economic dream the other big driver of technology was warfare.

We were in the midst of the Vietnam war. Those labeled hippies were prescient enough to oppose that as well. They were denounced as communists.

Some hippies were proponents of hemp cultivation. It was put forth as a sustainable source of food, energy and fiber. Some even consumed it in order to get ‘high’. Many hippies were denounced as lazy or irresponsible.

When the 70s rolled through, there was an energy crunch. The cars we made relied solely on oil, most of it imported. Many in industrial centers lost their jobs as a change in epochs was introducing a new paradigm: the credit economy and the rise of finance as the major player therein through usury.

National banks grew enormous as laws against unfair interest rates were dismantled everywhere. You wondered why as a youngster in college or fresh out without much income you were able to get credt. It was because they didn’t necessarily want you to pay it back. Banks would get their money one way or another, even if they had to sell their bad debt to another bank.

The money that Ma and Pa average investor used to put into the local paper mill or parts factory saw double and triple the returns if put into the financial market. The consumerist debt economy took root as industry faded.

Average consumers drove speedily past financial obstacles with credit and debt ostensibly leaving the road ahead clear but that’s just a trick that credit and debt can play with one’s mind. In the end, someone’s got to pay.

Well… it’s now the 21st century and look where we are. I don’t live in a domed moon colony (neither do you). Economies everywhere are in crisis and that’s not the biggest problem we have.

The Earth has been plundered for a century and a half. The changes in the environment during the industrial age were slow enough not to scare the hell out of everyone. Many still believed in technology as the answer to all our problems. During the credit/finance/debt age, many still ignored environmental issues in blind consumerist pursuit of an elusive happiness through wealth.

What age is it that we’re living in now? It would be nice if it were the age of responsibility. It’s the only thing of which we can take more than we give and not in the end be destructive.

What’s tallied at the finish line of this race it turns out is not how much you’ve gotten for yourself but how much you’ve given of yourself. Being responsible is giving of yourself; giving thought.

As Earth day approaches, I’m finally ready to don a hemp shirt and a peace sign necklace and wander over to the commune to join the hippies. They were obviously right all along (and always had the best music).

Let’s be responsible. Love one another. Love the Earth. Peace.

GYP008 Hippie Vision

Cool Day With Spring Coming

March 20th, 2009

ForecastFox in the bottom of my browser tells me it’s going to go below freezing tonight. A little break on Saturday when it will get into the mid-50s.

I was up sort of late after setting up this Wordpress thingy on my hosted site and writing my first blog. Since the blogging craze began, I haven’t understood why it’s been so popuiar. I mean, why do I care what your cousin thinks of green technology? On the other hand, I’ve always considered myself a decent writer with some important things to say so, I suppose many others feel the same.

At this point, it doesn’t matter if anything I have to say is important just that I begin saying it (writing). I’ve long thought that on my deathbed I wouldn’t have any regrets for things that I’ve done… only for those that I wanted to and haven’t. So it begins.

My first chore of the day: Carolynn charged me with finding out the name of a particular recording from the 1970s. It was a 45 rpm in the format of an interview from a political convention. The faux reporter would pose a question that the faux interviewee would supposedly answer but the answer would be a snippet from a song popular at the time.

I went straight to the expert: Gail Potocki (renowned artist and 70s music aficionado). There are three or four hundred 45s in her collection and I recall that we’ve talked about these faux interview recordings before. I left her a voicemail that she quickly responded to with the correct answer. The recording was called Convention ‘72.

Nixon Cool Day With Spring Coming

If anyone knows the name of any other faux interview 45s from the ’70s, please leave a comment.

OK, so that’s two blog posts down and so far nothing important said. I’ll talk to you later.

Yeah, I’m A Blogger

March 19th, 2009

That’s right… I blog. I just went to the control panel for my hosted site and installed Wordpress (about 6 times as I could not access the admin page for the blog until I added ‘index.php’ to my list of index page types). I installed a couple of plugins through the admin page and voila!

I tried to install a couple of themes but they threw a couple of errors. I’ll try again after this sentence.

No go on the new theme. I’ll try again later after I decide what widgets I might like to see and where.

Bedtime (or rather Hulu time for The Daily Show and The Colbert Report). Out.

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