The eight objects in this exhibition belong to a series of head gear entitled “Sustainability on My Mind.” This series is a metaphor for my relationship with issues associated with the sustainability of our civilization – these issues and their representations literally and figuratively weigh on my mind.
The series is not intended to advocate for a position, rather, it documents a personal journey to process and understand information. My process involved documenting reports of issues, choosing one at a time to research and creating objects to represent the issues “being on my mind.” It has motivated me to pay more attention to the way information is presented and to take the time to dig a little deeper into some of the issues and implications.
Seed Ark - Ode to Svalbard Global Seed Vault
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault lies deep inside an island in the Svalbard archipelago, far above the arctic circle. It is an ideal location for long term storage of seeds. More than 1700 seed banks exist around the world, but these can be vulnerable due to natural disasters, political unrest etc. The vault in Svalbard serves as a back-up storage facility – a “Seed Ark” for ensuring food security by conserving crop diversity for a changing future.
Melting Glacier Shawl
Glaciers naturally grow in winter as snow accumulates and shrink in summer as they melt in warmer temperatures. As the earth has warmed in recent years they are growing less and shrinking more. Western Canada is one of the regions where glaciers are shrinking the fastest. While we are mostly removed from seeing the changes in glaciers, the impact will become more evident to human populations as it results in rising sea levels and changes to water supply in downstream rivers fed by glacial melt.
Melting Polar Ice Cap
When I was a child, I thought of polar regions as remote, wonderous places where the forces of nature ruled and only the most robust of beings could survive. They were a reminder of the imbalance of power between our vulnerable species and natural environments. And yet, here we are, some decades later when melting polar ice caps have become a symbol of the vulnerability of natural environments in the face of human development.
Forest Fire Beret
Living in the Rocky Mountain foothills, forest fires weigh very heavily on my mind. In 2019, my family was put on alert to evacuate as a fire burned out of control close by. We were not alone - fires have threatened many communities in greater numbers in recent years. There are several factors at play. Wild fires serve a natural and essential function in mountain forests as debris accumulates. Decades of fire suppression have resulted in large stores of fuel waiting to burn. Residential and recreational development continues to spread into forested regions. To try to make this situation sustainable, controlled burns are undertaken and Fire-smart programs are being developed, but the risk of forest fire is a reality of where we live.
Covid Hat and Mask
Pandemics are not new, but the Covid 19 pandemic has set our civilization on its head. Historically, as civilizations developed connections and international trade, transmission of disease on a grand scale was an unintended consequence. In the 14th century the Black Plague killed between 75 to 200 million people. It spread via the silk road and trade routes of the time. Given the current extent of globalization and the transmission characteristics of Covid 19, rapid, widespread transmission was inevitable once it emerged in humans. Despite national and international efforts to prepare for such an event, the death toll and social and economic impacts have been catastrophic.
Many places along ocean coast lines are vulnerable to rising sea levels that are expected to result from climate change - Venice is one of the first places that comes to mind. Venice cyclically experiences flooding when naturally occurring environmental conditions such as high tides, low atmospheric pressure and high winds align to create high water levels. However, climate change is believed to be increasing the frequency and severity of flooding. In November 2019, water levels reached their highest in fifty years. A recently implemented barrier system called MOSE shows signs of providing a medium term solution, but will not last indefinitely.
In recent years, during extreme weather events such as hurricanes and tornadoes, it has been common to hear speculations about these becoming more problematic because of climate change. Tornados were certainly on my mind last summer when we experienced many more tornado warnings that I can recall in the past. After researching these events, I’ve learned that the linkage between them and climate change is not clear – climate change is thought to potentially impact the intensity but not necessarily the frequency of such events.
Coral Reef Mask
When looking for sea-glass a few years ago on a beach in Kauai, I came across an abundance of beautiful, blue, sparkling fragments. As I bent to collect them, I was dismayed to learn that they were pieces of plastic. It was far too easy to fill a bag which came home with me – I knew they would inspire some sort of project. I am a scuba diver and I’ve seen evidence of human impacts on coral reefs: unhealthy ecosystems and man-made debris. This mask represents the bitter-sweet duality of our existence: when we experience the beauty and wonders of the ocean, we leave our mark – and it is not always a good one. Our challenge is to be aware of the footprints that we leave in the sand and to strive for a sustainable lifestyle balance.