This is not a literary reference.
This past weekend, I spent an enlightening day at TEDx Rainier (an independently organized TED Talk) at the University of Washington. The final speaker in the “culture/rethink” section was Chris Jordan, a photographic artist whose work left a deep mark on me. He showcased pieces from this Running the Numbers series and his Midway series.
In “Running the Numbers”, he expresses abstract numbers in real, visual terms:
The number of plastic bags used every ten seconds worldwide? 240,000 (look for the dinosaur image)
The number of tigers left in the world? 3200 (look for the black square with orange boarder)
In “Midway,” he documents the effects of our worldwide consumer (and disposable) culture has had on even the most remote locales in the world. Baby albatross are dying on the beaches of Midway Island, with stomachs filled with plastic garbage. Jordan stated that these young albatross are being fed plastic by their parents, who mistake floating garbage for food and bring it back to the nest. The plastic filled carcasses were surreal. (Even more so, having just seen my first live albatross on a trip to the Galapagos Islands–see the above photo.) Mr. Jordan’s video of a young albatross dying broke my heart. The bird lies there on the shoreline as the waves come in. It shakes a bit, the head slowly drops, curls under until it is resting awkwardly on the sands. Then it just stops moving at all.
Mr. Jordan said it very succinctly: “Earth’s alarm system is going off.” He equated this to the canary in the coal mine; the bird is already dead. It can’t be brought back to life, but the bird gave its life to warn you, so head that warning.
Midway–> View it here.
“A Dream of a Dying Albatross” is available to view here: http://vimeo.com/30915581
In addition, the trailer for the film that the “death scene” is a part of can be viewed at www.midwayfilm.com.
Please take a few moments to watch these. It is heartbreaking, but to quote Chris Jordan once more: “Don’t fear grief. Use it.”