Four billion more people are alive today than when I was born. This means that four billion more of us are affecting the environment by exhaling carbon dioxide, casting shadows, generating warmth, consuming food, taking up space, urinating, sweating, defecating, seeking comfort, and shedding hair, cells, and nails. How many will also waste, squander, pollute, and spoil? How many will recycle, compost, and conserve? How many more people will be born within your lifetime?
Environmentalists examine human lifestyles and their impacts upon current and future populations of all the planet's life-forms. They differ from ecologists, who utilize the scientific method and rely upon verifiable data. Ecologists exceed the vagaries of individual interpretation, while environmentalists pursue "right" just as actively as they attempt to thwart "wrong." Yet there is no tablet etched with a definitive environmental moral code to unite the environmental movement. Instead, the opinions of environmentalists often can be traced to personal childhood memories, recreational preferences, neighborhood concerns, educational opportunities, romantic encounters, individual aptitudes, and/or personal allegiances. These individual experiences give rise to a wide range of positions. Environmentalists may behave like shepherds of the planet's lifeforms, technical designers of the planet's systems of production, managers of the planet's habitats, healers of the planet's infirmities, emissaries of the planet's wonders, avengers of the planet's spoilers, curators of the planet's resources, and many other positions.
Despite these discrepancies, disagreements of perception are more likely to involve strategies than ethics. Environmentalists are wellmeaning individuals who share a desire for the long-term health of the earth's living systems. Their diverse opinions are supported by the same source of expertise: the developing science of ecology. The all-embracing nature of ecological study enables the objective data it generates to serve multiple subjective agendas. Ecology examines short-term and long-term interactions, active and inert substances, origins and consequences, processes and formations, entities and forces, microhabitats and global geographies. It examines phenomena that are visible and invisible, apparent and latent, evolving and dissolving. Because these phenomena can be selected, edited, and combined in innumerable ways, ecological data can fuel both sides of most debates.
Multiple "EnvironMentalities" already exist; they await adoption, definition, application, and promotion by artists. Art contains a built-in power source, because works of art attract notice and stimulate serious critique. In the past, artists have applied their influence to advance religion, glorify empires, expose political corruption, reveal the human spirit, and serve many other functions. In contemporary society, many artists are molding the principles of ecology into popular thought and cultural practice. Eco-artists invest ecological data with political, spiritual, social, and personal meaning. They propel evolution toward desired outcomes.
This textlet is designed to guide your process of formulating ethical and functional environmental strategies and conveying them through the practice of art. Whether your environmental totem is a watchdog, workhorse, scaredy-cat, scapegoat, or busy beaver, a seat awaits you in the counsel of diverse EnvironMentalities.