09 Nov, 2020
We can’t help constantly consuming news about the harmful impacts of human development on nature. With this massive amount of alarming information, we find ourselves thinking: what is it that we, as a society, need to finally develop environmental awareness?
Often, this lack of mobilization occurs because rational conclusions are not always enough to engage people in a cause. It is here that art, with its ability to appeal to our emotions, becomes an essential tool to bring people closer to the ecological debate.
Throughout the 20th century, artists worldwide have inspired us to take a new look and reevaluate our relationship with nature. This proposal started in the 1960s, with some artistic movements that became known as Environmental Art, and today it is even more necessary.
In today's article, we have prepared a list of remarkable moments that show how art has contributed to raising environmental awareness. Until then, we will also understand the main environmental challenges that we have been facing and some innovative initiatives that have already been taken. Let's go?
Environmental issues around the world
It is possible to follow different paths when understanding the human impact on the environment. Our actions have severely compromised the health of all types of ecosystems and species on the planet. But more specific cases or new researches frequently catch our attention.
In 2020, for example, some of the most severe environmental disasters were forest fires in Brazil and the United States. Studies show that in Brazil, the Amazon recorded 28% growth in fires, and the Pantanal region had more than 10% of its territory consumed by fire. In the United States, California recorded three of the five most massive forest fires in simultaneously the state's history.
Events like this show the different consequences that an environmental crisis generates on the health of ecosystems, the extinction of species, the well-being of the population, the economy, and, specifically in 2020, on the Coronavirus pandemic’s control.
Experts estimate that the fires generated a loss of about $ 20 billion in the United States alone. In common, the two countries recorded a significant loss of environmental territories, local species, and air quality in cities affected by smoke from the fires. There was also an increase in cases of Covid-19 due to the number of homeless people who needed to share temporary shelters or sent to hospitals.
These are just snippets of alarming episodes that we watched recently. We could list several other problems such as flooding, inappropriate waste disposal, or species extinction, but you have certainly understood the seriousness of the situation. Instead, how about checking some innovative initiatives that have already been taken?
Innovative initiatives for the environment
Given the alarming environmental crisis scenario, a series of innovative initiatives are already being taken worldwide to restore and preserve affected areas or make society aware of the importance of participating in the ecological debate.
A project that stands out on environmental preservation is The Great Green Wall in Africa. It aims to reverse the effects of climate change in the Sahel region, located on the Sahara Desert’s south bank. There, more than 100 million inhabitants already face drought, lack of food, conflicts generated by the scarcity of natural resources, and an intense migratory flow.
The project intends to plant a giant tree barrier from Senegal to Djibouti, reaching 8.000 km long and 15 km wide, to contain the Sahara Desert expansion. With the international community’s support, the countries involved aim to restore 500 thousand kilometers of land and create 350 thousand jobs.
When it comes to environmental awareness, an inspiring initiative is Jon Morris' Reflecting the Stars project. As stars are generally not visible in the skies of large cities like New York, the project reminds us of the air pollution problem seriousness through an artistic installation that re-created constellations on the surface of Hudson River in Manhattan in 2011.
The installation consisted of a network of over 200 wireless sensors scattered throughout the river, connecting wirelessly with one master control panel on land. A set of 201 LED lights twinkle in various patterns at night as the tides concealed and revealed the lights. Visitors on shore could press buttons, highlighting constellations within the lights that are no longer seen in urban centers because of air and light pollution.
Can you see the importance of innovative initiatives for sustainable development and environmental awareness? When combined with art, like in the last example, these initiatives become even more powerful - and the possibilities are limitless. So let's check more results of this combination!
Using art to raise environmental awareness
Here are examples of artworks that impacted our perception of the environmental crisis’ seriousness and contributed to the construction of sustainable and ecological awareness. Pay attention to how each element of these works conveys the artist's intentions and is connected to the context in which it was created.
The artist Frans krajcberg was vital in the Brazilian art panorama for developing a robust body of work of activism with his paintings, sculptures, and photography. Frans built his works from logs and roots calcined by fires to draw attention to the destruction of the Amazonian flower.
Through his work, he also denounced the burning in Paraná, the mining of minerals in Minas Gerais, and defended the turtles of Nova Viçosa. The artist sparked reflections and dialogues with his protests and left the message that we need to interrupt the cycle of destruction and prevent scandalous crimes against nature and humanity.
Anne-Katrin Spiess is a Swiss artist who makes conceptual installations with reflections on the environment and the importance of men’s reconnection with the environment. One of her essential productions was the series of photographs Elements, from 2000.
At first she documented various natural elements of a remote area in the Canyonlands of Utah by photographing plants and rocks inside clear containers that functioned as framing devices. Surprisingly, besides the “natural” materials, she encountered many discarded industrially manufactured objects such as beer bottles and cans.
She felt it was necessary to document the dichotomy of man and nature and, in doing so, began what would become a series of “Trash Collection Projects.”
Hungarian artist Adnes Denes is recognized as one of the precursors of Land Art. Wheatfield - A Confrontation (1982), her best-known work, is a powerful symbol of public art and environmental activism of her time. She planted two acres of wheat in Manhattan, close to three major trade and globalization symbols: Wall Street, World Trade Center, and the Statue of Liberty.
The intervention came from a project commissioned by the Public Art Fund, in which Denes was to produce a sculpture for a square. Then, she decided to use this opportunity to criticize the impact of technological advances on the destruction of the environment, reinforcing arts’ educational role.
Although art has traditionally been exposed and consumed in galleries, its power to transform society is mostly felt when it transcends these walls and merges with nature and cities. The examples we’ve presented show how Environmental and Urban Art are fundamental pieces of environmental activism.
These artists have collaborated immensely through different movements and artistic techniques to increase widespread engagement in environmental debates by making this conversation more accessible and understandable. They capture our time’s spirit and transform it into art that can be easily distributed to inspire even more people.
An exciting way to notice this connection between artworks and their historical context is on the timelines available here on Timeliefy. Take some time to study your favorite subjects about art, culture, and history and share them with your friends. Let’s start now?