Many remember the American citizens who chained themselves to trees in front of commercially owned bulldozers as part of a symbolic effort to sacrifice their own wellbeing in exchange for the survival of the planet. Some called them environmentalists. Others called them tree-huggers. Based on semantics alone, it was an unfair fight. This act of resistance, while popular in the United States and Europe in the in the 1960s and 70s, traces at least back to 1731, when a group of 363 women from what is now called northeast India wrapped themselves around Khejri trees, braving the axes of Indian loggers on a mission to deforest the minority-inhabited land.
Now, nearly three centuries later, an AP-Stanford poll cited that only ¾ of Americans believe that global warming is happening. With job loss at the forefront of voters’ minds, it could mean political suicide to propose limits to corporate behavior or to suggest aggressive government funding for clean energy research. It is a dangerous time when the fear of political suicide trumps the fear of an otherwise inevitable global catastrophe. While the term “tree-hugger” is rarely if ever used to describe a new generation of environmentalists, I wonder if other words have simply taken its place: accusations such as “liberal” or “socialist”. Also, what does it say about a culture when it relies so heavily on legislating responsibility, one in which “legal” and “illegal” become synonyms for “right” and “wrong”?
The drawings in this series are a tribute to the scientists and environmentally concerned citizens around the globe who maintain enough courage to resist cowardly ridicule for their ongoing fight to “save the planet” (another term that has been disarmed in its cliché). In the drawings, the aggressors are purposefully absent from the scenes as they have already moved onto more profitable resources without taking responsibility for the damage they have done.
The series was exhibited first at the International Gallery of Contemporary Art in Anchorage, Alaska, and second at the PortIzmir3 Contemporary Art Triennial in Izmir, Turkey.