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A more realistic display of nature

2009/06/27

An art installation at the Schonbrunn Zoo in Vienna is just that (although still probably cleaner than reality). Zoos and aquariums are artificial all the way—it’s an idealized (if it’s a really good zoo) view of the natural world and one that contributes to this notion that nature is untouched by humans (like national parks are these pristine places unaffected by man or something). So we go to these places and see these habitats and come away thinking “wow, the ocean is really beautiful. bright and clean.” when the reality is that a) nature just isn’t that perfect and b) there are really very few, if any, places that are unaffected by us.

The question, then, is whether presenting these environments in a more realistic way, with representations of pollution, can be an effective way to engage people about the environment. Especially those people that don’t have easy access or a desire to go out to a ‘real’ piece of nature. That juxtaposition between the ideal and the reality could be a powerful tool if done well. Or maybe it would be better to present both? Have a sort of before and after set-up where you can see the ideal, the goal of conservationists, next to the reality? I’d think that just showing the polluted state, while powerful, might be too close to the fear-mongering that makes people turn away from direct action, assuming that the world is too far gone, just look at it!, and the problems so overwhelming that they do nothing. But the ideal only sets what might be unrealistic goals for a lot of the world now and the failure or perceived failure when trying to attain that ideal might also cause some damage—the sort of feeling that it’s either way too difficult to achieve that goal so why even try or to focus so much on achieving the pristine that we overlook meaningful solutions to achieve a more realistic man-nature relationship.

art imitates life

art imitates life

My last thought is that instead of saying things like “untouched by civilization” or using “civilization” as a proxy term, we should make the message more personal and more immediate. Like “untouched by us” or something. Using civilization seems very distant and very different from the way I know I think of my immediate surroundings (even though I live in what is charitably called an urban area but is in reality some of the first suburbs in the town). When I see “civilization” I start to associate the solutions and the onus of providing those solutions on The Man; that it’s somehow something that I can’t really affect. So we’re back to framing the conversation.

via Coastal Voices.

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