March 13, 2012

How far into the future do you imagine?

When you think about the future, what is the furthest into the future that you envision? – the next 50 years? – the next 100 years? – the next forever? What does it look like? What natural resources do we still have available to us? Let us know in the comments!

Need some inspiration? Well we also asked participants in our Skype Video Interview Series this same question, so check out their answers in videos HERE! And for an interesting project specifically focused on our perception of time, check out The Long Now Foundation‘s 10,000 year clock, which is engineered to keep time for the next 10,000 years…

December 6, 2011


We are so pleased to have Edward Morris, co-founder of The Canary Project, as the next interviewee in our Skype Interview Series. The Canary Project is an organization dedicated to producing art and media that deepen public understanding of human-induced climate change and energizing commitment to solutions. Originally founded in 2006 as a project to photograph landscapes throughout the world where scientists are studying the impacts of climate change, The Canary Project has since supported diverse projects involving more than 30 artists, designers, writers, educators and scientists. Their focus is on cultivating research-intensive projects that contribute to knowledge building and are able to communicate that knowledge in a way that both respects complexity and inspires respect for life.

They do a wide variety of work from gallery shows to installations in science centers. Green Patriot Posters is a messaging campaign centered on posters that encourage all U.S. citizens to take part in building a sustainable economy. They have commissioned posters from design leaders, and developed an on-line community for sharing and voting on original designs. In the interview, Edward Morris has some incredible insights into time, the importance of art that addresses these issues, and the necessity of science in informing this art. Plus, hear about how he came to start The Canary Project after working as a private investigator!

Click the link below to read more about their many amazing projects, to see some of the posters and art, and to see how you can get involved!





Interview conducted by Alix Lambert. Alix Lambert is an artist, author and filmmaker. She is an Associate Artist of The Civilians and is conducting this ongoing series of interviews for The Great Immensity. Please click HERE for more of her interviews in this series!

November 27, 2011

DAS RAD (“The Wheel”)

A while ago I watched a short film by three Germans called “DAS RAD (The Wheel).”  Now, before you say “German films?  Nein, danke” and run into a cave, let me tell you, my friends, that it is quite entertaining and was even nominated for an Academy Award.

The stars are two rock piles, observing life on a hillside from ancient times through the present, and into the future.  The little film moves through time at high speed, like a time-lapse version of geological eras. When the modern world comes into view, the buildings appear and disappear in an instant, and was my favorite section.  And sometimes it switchesto real time and shows the inhabitants and objects in motion in their day-to-day existence.

If you have about nine minutes, check it out.  It is — how do you say? — “my cup of tea.”

November 9, 2011

Land use over time

Hola my friends,

I recently saw a fascinating animation on Youtube.  No, it was not a cat playing a piano… I know, you cannot believe it!  But what I saw is far more intriguing.  It shows the change in global land use from 8,000 BP (BP = before the present) to 50 years from now (-50 BP, a figure I find amusing). I love to think about great spans of time, so this was like paleontological “catnip” to me.

Eight thousand years ago is when the human population began expanding following the dawn of agriculture.  Like so many simulations of this kind, it’s difficult to really see all the detail in the last couple of seconds, since so much happens so quickly once the Industrial Revolution happens…

The animation was made by ARVE, which stands for Atmosphere Regolith Vegetation, a group of scientists at a polytechnic university in Lausanne, Switzerland.  Research at ARVE focuses on how changes in the terrestrial biosphere amplify changes in the climate system by examining the interaction between soils, vegetation and the atmosphere.

By combining maps of potential vegetation and land use intensity, we create high resolution maps of vegetation and human impact covering the entire Holocene [*] for the Mediterranean. This allows us to address a number research questions, including the time history of human impact in relation to conservation, biodiversity, and land degradation; and the impact of land cover change on terrestrial hydrology and carbon and nutrient cycling.

*The Holocene is the geological epoch we on earth have been in for the last 10,000 years.

We think we on Earth right now are the first people to create areas drastic deforestation.  Far from it.  Of particular interest to me is the re-vegetation of South America:

Following the first contact with Europeans around 1500, nearly 90% of the indigenous people of the Americas were killed, mainly by disease. This collapse in populations led to massive regrowth of natural vegetation, especially forests in the Amazon, Andes, and Mesoamerica. As we race towards modern times we see the settlement of the Americas and Australia by Europeans spreading across the continents, and the development of the human-dominated world we have today.

Indeed, my friends…

October 16, 2011

Container ships, we hardly knew ye


Just threw a couple more logs into the wood stove.  Mighty chilly here today.

One of my online pals sent me a link to some pictures by a fellow name of Edward Burtynsky.  He’s a photographer who says his theme is “nature transformed through industry.”

One of the sections on his website is called “Shipbreaking.”  A whole bunch of photos of industrial container ships — or really, their skeletons  — in their final resting places, rusted out on the shore of Bangladesh.  Sort of like a graveyard of hulls.  Sad but majestic too.

"Shipbreaking #4," 2000. Photo by Ed Burtynsky.

They’re hard for me to look at, because I hate to see these great old vessels looking like husks of their former selves.  But Burtynsky explains a little bit about why he does what he does:

We are drawn by desire – a chance at good living, yet we are consciously or unconsciously aware that the world is suffering for our success.

The people wandering around in the shadow of the ships give me pause.  I love spotting ships.  To see folks scavenging around these “ship graveyards” for spare metal and the like…

These ships bring everything to everybody in the world.

Seems like the distribution’s off, though.

Off to reheat my Sanka.

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    "The Next Forever" is a song from The Great Immensity. The footage was taken on Barro Colorado Island in the Panama Canal by videographer David Ford. Music and lyrics by Michael Friedman.
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