Down To Earth at Artworks Downtown Gallery, San Rafael, California

This participatory installation attempts to represent the complexity of our multi-crises or predicament: ecology, economy, equity, and energy, and the possible responses. It took me a lot of time to start understanding the connections. I wanted to share what I learned. The problem is that most people still do not get what is at stake. The installation does not hide words like greenwashing or hopium. Equity and questioning everything are part of the responses.

The participatory installation Down to Earth is part of the exhibition EcoArt: Envisioning Strategies and Solutions Curated by Deanna Pindell in collaboration with Women Eco Artists Dialog (WEAD)

Artworks Downtown Gallery
1325-1337 Fourth Street, San Rafael, CA 94901
February 3 – March 25, 2023

Here’s the timelapse of the installation

Here is the installation and the beginning of the public’s participation with the cardboard tags.

Climate change is not the problem. Climate change is the symptom of a system that puts profit before life and transforms nature into waste, killing life on Earth.
Humans are taking much more resources than Earth’s capacity can replenish. Human activities are powered primarily by cheap, accessible fossil fuels, especially oil. Oil is a great energy that combines concentration, easy transportation, and storage.
Because of the damage fossil fuels cause to the biosphere, we will have to stop using them. We must be prepared to use less or none, which means drastic changes in people’s lives. Oil is everywhere in our daily life, whether we see it or not. Anything we do and use has something to do with the use of oil.

I am trying to minimize the impact of my work. I use very little material, and everything will be reused for another installation iteration. Each item is precious, not in terms of money but because of the hidden process behind it. Think about a nail, for example, the extraction of raw materials, the transportation, production, manufacturing of boxes, retailing –and all the oil needed in the machines along the process.

The words and sentences I use in the installation come from scientific readings, podcasts I am listening to, and books. The people who inspired me to do this installation are many. They include Richard Heinberg from the Post Carbon Institute and Nate Hagens, whose podcast The Great Simplification addresses the inevitable simplification of our too complex not to fail system. There are also quotes from climate scientists like Peter Kalmus, who is exceptionally active in sharing the truth.

Down to Earth is a tribute to Limits To Growth, published in 1972. For at least 50 years, we have known that a finite planet has no infinite growth. And yet, Business as usual prevails. Despite all the COPs (conferences of the parties), and alarmed scientists screaming “there is no more time”. We are being gaslit in believing some miraculous solutions will allow us to continue what we do by simply transitioning to renewable energy. Renewable energies are good, but they will not replace the power of fossil fuels. Renewable energy infrastructure is possible because of fossil fuels (extraction of all the material, production of the parts, transportation).

It is difficult to hear that we live on a finite planet and must change our lifestyle. Let’s imagine that the transition to renewable is possible. We will still have growing inequalities, deforestation, loss of wild territories, overfishing, pollution from many chemicals, water scarcity, sea level rise, and ocean acidification. By now, the climate change horse is out of the barn. For example, we will not stop the ice from melting. There is inertia in the climate change process. The damage will not disappear.
But we could curb further damage. That is why I prefer the term responses rather solutions.

Visitors are invited to share thoughts, poems, ideas, or drawings on tags and place them on pieces of driftwood peppered throughout the installation.

An installation like Down To Earth could incentivize people to want to understand better what is at stake. In a finite world, continuing on the same trajectory is impossible. Either we decide to slow down and change our priorities (from profit to life), or nature will take care of the descent but not in a nice way for humans. Going back Down to Earth is an urgent necessity if we want a chance at keeping a livable planet.

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