Jack Brezina: Resolutions
|By Jack Brezina - Contributing Writer | Jan. 24, 2019|
It is just another flip of a page and a number on the calendar, but somehow when we start a new year, there is a sense of optimism and promise in the air. This positive attitude is reflected in the resolutions we make and the vows to turn over a new leaf, begin afresh. All undertaken with the best of intentions, these promises are, more often than not, quickly left behind.
My thoughts for a better year ahead took a beating shortly after January 1, when we visited the Edward Burtynsky exhibit, called Anthropocene, at the Art Gallery of Ontario. The title is a term used to describe the imprint the human population has made on the planet. Burtynsky is a Canadian photographer who, along with videographers Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier, travelled the world to document the changes man has made to this green and blue ball we call home.
The display was sobering indeed. Large, wall size prints, most taken from above with a drone, showed the havoc industrial exploitation, rampant consumerism and urbanization have wrought upon our world - giant swaths of polluted landscapes, fetid rivers pouring into the ocean, ponds of poison, like ticking time bombs waiting to leach into the soil or surrounding watersheds. In an odd way, many of the photos have, at first glance, a beauty - a beauty that is quickly dispelled. Upon reading the captions, one realizes the scenes depict evidence of the degradation of the planet.
Many of the photographs and videos were taken in Third World countries where regulations are few and bribes can circumvent what little regulations there are. That is not to say the developed world wasn’t represented in the exhibition. In all cases, the destruction was driven by a world economy that values profit ahead of sustaining the nest we share.
When I compared the photos and videos to what I know is happening in the Highlands and beyond, I was somewhat buoyed by the comparisons. Efforts to protect wetlands, preserve unique and interesting pieces of the ecological wonder around us and the educational efforts of lake associations and other groups are encouraging. We seem to have awakened to the impact our mere presence here is having on our natural surroundings and are willing to take measures to reduce it. It has been said that saving the world starts with each of us doing our part to mitigate against environmental degradation.
So, perhaps the best and most meaningful resolution we can all make heading into a new year is to change our lifestyles to generate a positive impact on the world in which we live. We can encourage others to do so as well, take up causes that hold to account those who would despoil the only home we have, before it is too late. It may seem overwhelming, but small acts add up and, if we don’t do it for ourselves, we should take action for our children and the generations to come. We need to leave a better world for those who follow.
(While the Burtynsky exhibition at the AGO is now closed, the photos and videos from the show are available on line at edwardburtynsky.com/projects/photographs)
Jack Brezina is a contributing writer for The Highlander.