Footprint in Montevallo

For our final project, Alyssa and I wanted to shed light on the amount of pollution and litter that accumulates along hiking trails. Pollution is a huge issue in our society today, but even in the middle of nature where we hope to enjoy its beauty, you can find stray trash and random items. We created a SlideRocket to present the bulk of the facts and an iMovie to show the more interesting aspect of our project.

Here’s the link to our SlideRocket:

http://portal.sliderocket.com/COVLG/0B094393-32CC-45F8-9E9B-C4ACAF65E760

The Plastic Floor

It’s not unknown knowledge that pollution is a problem in our world today. But the extent to which this poses is threat may be surprising. New research shows that natural ocean processes such as wind, drag, turbulence and wave height can push the plastic deep down where it remains unnoticed by scientists examining the ocean’s surface. “Plastic bags strangling sea sponges. Beer bottles colonized by sea lilies. Such images of ocean pollution aren’t usually associated with the remote, icy waters of the Arctic, but snapshots of the seafloor suggest the northern region is becoming increasingly littered with plastic.” (Megan Gannon, LiveScience).

Underwater cameras are regularly used to capture deep sea activities in order to analyze the presence of different inhabitants. Scientists constantly study the biodiversity throughout the oceans. But what seems to be a reoccurring appearance is the unwelcome sight of trash and pollution on the ocean floor. These appearances are not only reoccurring, but they are increasing in amount. “Bergmann, a biologist with the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, found waste in 1 percent of the pictures from 2002 and 2 percent in the 2011 images, marking a twofold increase over the decade. The sharpest rise in garbage occurred between 2007 and 2011, according to the study of more than 2,000 images.” (Gannon). This two percent figure is extremely high, especially when this region was thought of as the most secluded region on the planet.

This plastic and litter is not just an ugly sight, it does actual harm to deep-sea organisms.
The study showed that nearly 70 percent of the pollution came in direct contact with the organisms. This can injure all kinds of creatures. Take for example the sea sponges, their ability to breathe can be compromised as well as their ability to absorb food. Furthermore, the chemicals released can have a toxic effect and alter the gas exchanges on the sea floor. These plastic materials can pose threats even after they seem to disappear. Microscopic particles can absorb many kinds of pollutants that can be later eaten and further contaminate the food chain.

Here’s a take on Caspar David Friedrich’s “Wanderer Above the Mists.” Think about the implications of this image and what we can do to change it.

Art Vs. Propaganda

In class this last week, I started thinking about the effect art has on people. When someone sees a photograph or painting of a breathtaking natural landscape, they are left in awe. But what action does that provoke? Do they want to investigate further? Maybe even visit the landscape itself to see the beauty first hand? Does the artwork call for action and want the viewer to make a stand for the cause? Or do they feel like they’ve seen it once, they’ve seen it all? Or they simply cannot make a difference? This really perplexed me and provoked my interest so I decided to look into it deeper.

Art has an enormous amount of power and this can extend to an extraordinary amount of people. There are many organizations with the sole purpose of inspiring change. Art Works for Change is one of these organizations. Their sole mission is to “create contemporary art exhibitions around the world [that] address critical social and environmental issues. [They] harness the power of art to promote awareness, provoke dialogue, and inspire action.” They rely on many forms of art to portray these pressing issues and engage the audience on multiple levels. One of my favorite images promoted by Art Works for Change is Christopher Lamarca’s “Forest Defenders.” It is taken in Oregon and calls attention to the logging that is tearing down the forests there. We see this happening in countless places and our forests are being rapidly diminished. Yet nothing and no one seems to be stopping it from happening. By brilliantly capturing this image, it provokes thought and brings awareness to this issue; therefore potentially bringing about a change.

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Call for Action

Being an environmental minor, I am more interested in environmental aspects rather than interpreting art. Because of this I always find it difficult to form complete analysis of different paintings. But one concept we discussed in class that truly caught my interest was contrasting the progress in industrialization and the destruction of environment. One particular example is George Inness’ The Lackawanna Valley (1855). At first glance this painting may appear uplifting and as an example of advancement in our society. But the more I look at it, the more I become appalled and frustrated. Between the smoke towers that cover the land in pollution and the dozens of tree remains, this painting is clearly portraying the destruction of the environment for the sake of technological advances. In the background you can see the trains passing through the once lush greenery. The land has been completely taken over and the homes of countless animals has been destroyed. So this implies the question: at what point do the costs outweigh the benefits? There is no black and white answer for that question. Even the man portrayed in the painting seems complexed by his emotions. Does he favor the progress or does he detest the destruction of the once peaceful landscape? It is up to the individual viewer to form their own interpretation.

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Sublime in All Forms

When I hear the word “sublime,” my mind instantly thinks of the 90s punk band. Obviously, this is not the “sublime” Edmund Burke was talking about in his interpretation. Sublime is a complex idea which takes on many different meanings in different times and places. The one Burke speaks of is almost a state of nirvana; a combination of amazement, terror, and bliss. These moments do not come by every day and they are different for each individual. It may happen looking out over the Grand Canyon or being in the middle of wilderness hearing the sounds of coyote calls or witnessing a shooting star in the dead of night. These occurrences are a rare sight and resound so deeply in a person’s memories; they are to be appreciated, feared, and awed at.

For me, this moment of sublime came at my favorite place in the entire world: Camp Seale Harris. After attending this camp for over ten years, I was being trained to become a counselor, referred to as “CIT’s” (counselor-in-training). One night the group of CIT’s took a walk around the camp for a time of reflection and appreciation. We were scattered along the walkway next to Lake Martin. We were instructed to be quiet and stay seated until our counselor came back for us. You could hear random shrieks as girls became terrified of a spider crawling on or towards them. After a minute or two, everyone became comfortable and situated themselves along the lake. I laid my head back in effort to take in the full effect of the scenery. The stars were unreal, something you never see in the city lights. They filled the entire sky and I could begin to pick out different shapes. The lake water created a gorgeous reflection of the stars as they came up and then receded off the shore line. After a moment, the background noise started to become more apparent; the constant grasshopper chirps, the occasional bird call, and what seemed to be a coyote calling…whether it was my imagination or not, I’ll never know. But the moment seemed so surreal. I felt so small in a world that held so much. It’s moments like this when I realize I hardly take the time to appreciate the natural beauty of Mother Nature. I began to think of my role in the world and the kind of impact I have on it. I realized I am a mere speck amongst everything, but I can make a difference and help preserve moments like this for generations to come.

Here’s a picture showing Lake Martin from one view at camp. This photograph was taken by my friend Edward Fieder.  Continue reading