November 14, 2017: Warnings
15,000+ scientists from 184 countries (and counting) have issued a warning to the world population. This is the second time the scientific community has issued such a warning. The first, according to a CBC report, was in 1992. That was 25 years ago. Since then,”carbon emissions have increased 62 per cent”, says William Ripple of Oregon State University’s College of Forestry: the scientist who started the campaign.
Since then, of course, global temperatures have risen, and correspondingly so have the number of dramatic climate events: floods, fires, drought, etc.
Species are dying at increasing rates. My brilliant friends Ackroyd & Harvey made this artwork: Seeing Red — Overdrawn. This piece represents the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources’s (IUCN) Red List of critically endangered species, as of October 22nd, 2015. At that time, the 4734 species. Today, November 14th, 2017, which I check the list, the total has risen to 5101 in two years. That is a 92% increase in 2 years.But, of course, these are only the species that we know about. We’ve almost double what we know about extinction, but that might be an infinitesimal amount of the actual total. And if global warming has taught us anything, it is that our understanding of the planet is certainly not all encompassing.
Seeing Red — Overdrawn, stuck with me, from the moment I became aware of it. I’ve pointed many people to it and thought of it often. And that is the point of great art. It makes visible an event that is unspectacular. One that remains quite invisible to the majority of humans as we busily go about our daily lives. The extinction of species is happening on such a scale that we cannot even quite understand it — much like climate change itself. But once we’ve see this monument, after we’ve been made aware of the IUCN Red List, we can’t un-know it. Nor can we credibly pretend we don’t know. We become witnesses to the sixth major extinction event in the history of the world.
How many warnings will it take for us to really see what is going on in front of us? Or rather, what will it take to make us bear witness to what is disappearing? To lay bare the ways that we are complicit in the death of millions of species of flora and fauna, and their ecosystems.
(“Seeing Red — Overdrawn” by Ackroyd & Harvey, courtesy of Emma McIntosh@EmmaJMcIntosh 30 March 2016)