A Long Rehersal
the branch of biology that deals with the relations of organisms to one another and to their physical surroundings.
The complex questions of how society can produce more sustainable measures all the while minimizing its undesirable effects have been studied in various disciplines. Yet such responses and concerns are often recalibrated reaffirmations of the status quo. Here lies the disconnect between technology and planet earth, where the former relies upon an even greater mastery of environments and ecosystems. The current political and social conservatism of ecological models of change restrains humanity’s potential as sentient beings to see beyond physical bodies. Thus, this inability to see humanity’s reliance on other forms, ranging from microorganisms to rivers to even ourselves, puts citizens of the earth at a grave disadvantage when contemplating alternate forms of existence.
Figure 1: Green New Deal and ecology.
The Green New Deal (Figure 1) is a small piece of broad legislation that encompasses the natural milieu for the age, hoping for a better future than the present. Currently in its infancy, the GND has decided to deal with the climate emergency within the framework of capitalism, which, in a globalized existence, assumes infinite growth with infinite resources. The relationship to these resources and other species, thus, become a relation without consequence. If something is not directly useful, it will be driven to extinction, at times through deliberate assassination, stating that it a necessary evil for our own existence (Figure 2).
Figure 2: Virgin (Old-Growth) forests in America from 1620 to 1920.
However, if the other is deemed to be valuable, they are manipulated and disfigured, so it can fit into preconstructed anthropocentric norms (Figure 3).
Figure 3: Federally controlled land in the United States.
And at the microscale, if a condition is convenient and beneficial for one individual or group of humans, such as grazing lands for the Bundys, the condition must be a right guaranteed, since an individual’s right to freedom and private property includes ownership of much more beyond themselves (Figure 4).
Figure 4: Bundy Standoff.
Some other examples of this self-important ideology are in food production and globalization where not only animals, but harvesters and collectors live in squalid conditions to enhance surplus production that promises to bring nutrition to nations that need it least and human rights violations to those heretofore scarred.
In order to get an all-encompassing perspective, the flood plain of Miami and South Florida was studied as a physical, liminal space that connects our present abuses of land, people, and power, with the climate emergency. Here, the rich ecosystem of the coastal wetlands and forests provides not just a perspective, but rather, a rare step back in time. As the biggest carbon sinks on the planet, oceans and specifically coastal ecosystems, allow humans the physical connection to the brackish floors of the peatlands, engulfed by centuries and millennia of biodiversity represented through growth and decay.
Figure 5: Florida Coasts, surrounded on the left by the Caribbean Sea, and the right by the Atlantic Ocean.
Figure 6: Protected lands in Florida.
To keep the diverse ecosystem, local, state, and federal organizations have created numerous parks, seashores, preserves, heritage corridors, and monuments. However, these protective efforts are little in comparison with the rapid rate of urban and agricultural expansion, where the natural landscape and its inhabitants are in imminent danger of extinction. On top of the harm done to the ecosystem, the direct disruption of the fragile fauna, sediment, and geology by development will not only decrease access to pure drinkable aquafers, but also release millennia of stored carbon.
In carving an alternate future for this space, the landscape section (Figure 7), attempts to unite the ecosystems of South Florida and its various residents, with people, as represented in the urban grid and sprinkled throughout, in the managed fire that rages in the middle to the canoe and its drifting participant in the lower left corner.
Figure 7: Landscape section today and future 2063 alternate possibility.
The section narrates the opportunity to unite preservation and development, showing that growth and progress should not always exists in additive terms. Advancement, therefore, should also be seen through enhanced protection of what is or has been known to work for all (humans and nonhumans), not for few.
The abundance of information available for such portrayals also shows the ripples made by human encroachment and its enormous impact to the biosphere at large. With the stores of research organizations such as Project Drawdown have provided, there is a clearer surface on the murky paths of these alternate possibilities.
According to these projections, reducing food waste (~$0), educating girls and providing family planning (~$0), plant-rich diets (~$0), restoring and preserving carbon sinks (~$0), and refrigerant management ($629.25 billion) are the five main efforts in climate mitigation whose initial costs are nothing or miniscule compared to massive infrastructural change.
Especially after the pandemic, the power of such alternative, plural narratives is essential for deeper interpretation of what a Green New Deal should and could look like. In the above example, three of the five measures require environmental education and social campaigns that can combine anthropocentric reasoning with hard science data and research. But as history has shown, numbers and data may often not work to convince a single mother of three to start an urban garden or use no plastics. Thus, the crucial forward step is adding a necessary land and sea ethic that weaves a philosophical or even spiritual perspective framed within current intrinsic values situated against vital needs. This social and collective movement, attempts to direct future possibilities towards a focal point of a collective “living” planet, rather than an insular environment focused on individual interests and profits.
As seen in the Project Drawdown chart mitigation scenarios, it is crucial that the first change starts with each one of us working together, acting locally, corporately, and globally in a way that is nondetrimental to the breathing people, soils, and waters of Earth.
The exploration weaves film, images, and narratives together in an attempt to recreate the human condition through stories sifted through time and washed with art. This offers an ontological approach to a “planetary” scale, in that it uncovers the past and reimagines the future for people of all ages. Extending these unconventional narratives of climate change to younger audiences and those outside of academia ensures communication beyond the depths of words and graphics. By acting and producing for all, storytelling, art, and imagination can navigate society towards a realm alternate possibilities (Artifact 1).