The Human Imprint

The Human Imprint
Amos Eno Gallery
February 3-27, 2022

Our influence has reached every niche of the natural world.  Trash and human related radioactivity have been found at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, the most remote and deepest abyss on the planet.  Plastic microfibers are found in the bodies of Antarctic seals and in our own bodies; plastics now pollute every ocean.  Our imprint upon the planet is everywhere.

Early on, our imprint on the Earth’s ecosystem was miniscule, our presence recorded in drawings on cave walls and in prehistoric construction projects which seem benign to us now.  Amplified by technology, the human transformation of the landscape has assumed astounding dimensions.  Current agricultural and forestry practices fail to understand, to respect, or to utilize the complexity of natural systems, resulting in the destruction of broad swathes of our planet’s ecosystems.  In order to provide food to sustain our ever growing numbers, we are destroying ever more of the pre-existing complex and resilient natural world and replacing it with cultivated mono crops, a mode of production that is on the verge of failure due to impoverishment of the living soil and industrial chemical fertilization resulting in ever increasing oceanic dead zones.     

The imprint of this work is the subject of my show and is made possible by public domain, satellite imaging data and image processing developed by National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and The U.S. Geological Survey

We have evolved the ability to overcome an astonishing array of adverse circumstances, to build great projects or collect in ever greater numbers, but that is about to become much more difficult.  Climate instability is our new wild card, the direct result of our industrial, extractive practices.  Agricultural patterns are shifting due to declining soil productivity and shrinking availability of water.  Cities and towns that have existed for hundreds of years are now threatened by catastrophic and unpredictable temperature fluctuations, floods, landslides and/or wildfires.  Lacking enough water to grow food is already a reality in some previously viable locations.

The view from space seen in 1972 by NASA astronauts depicting the placid Blue Marble is now a quaint artifact of history. A closer examination of our planet’s surface reveals some seemingly undisturbed islands of peace and natural abundance, but more and more, wholesale destruction of the natural world is occurring, along with signs of human conflict. The scale of wholesale destruction is apparent in the Managed Forest Series Clear Cuts 1 and 2 . The concept of indigeneity applies not only to native peoples but also to all other life forms which have evolved over millennia in concert with each other and with their specific environments.  The industrial destruction of indigenous ecosystems leaves a clean slate for human projects at the price of losing millions of years of accumulated evolution.  This evolution has formed a type of knowledge–ways and means of survival and cooperation encoded throughout the DNA of plants, animals, fungi, microbes, all integrated with their physical environments.. This indigenous knowledge has proved invaluable in the production of medicine, and is the best example we have of environmental design and species coexistence, in symbiosis for millennia.   

The sheer scale of the projects undertaken by humans now produce images that seem incredible and fantastic.  Beautiful and Mondrian-like are the segmented irrigation canals and paddies of the California rice industry and cultivated crop lands crowding ever narrowing water courses, reducing the habitat and migration corridors for wildlife.  Surreal and foreign are the circular forms of Burning Man 2013 and the Crescent Dunes Solar Array, which seem to indicate an alien, unnatural presence in the naturally evolved landscape.  The Extractive Industry has completely re-contoured Utah topography to create the, mile deep, Bingham Canyon Copper Mine.  The U.S. Government owns 84% of the State of Nevada to be used for various activities, mostly military, including the underground detonation of 921 nuclear devices, shown as circular depressions in Yucca Flats NTS.

Our best hope is for a speedy end to the Anthropocene and for the dawning an a new epoch in which we understand ourselves as integral parts of the natural world, in respect and partnership, not apart from it.

Grant Johnson  

For More Information:

Chemical Pollution Has Passed Safe Limit for Humanity, Say Scientists
Humans Have ‘Stressed Out’ Earth Far Longer, and More Dramatically, Than Realized

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