Since human beings harnessed the secret of fire the natural world has been seen by many
only in terms of how best it can be exploited of its abundant riches. It’s amazing now to
look upon the desert sands of the Arab lands and know that this place, the cradle of earliest
civilization, was once known as “The Fertile Crescent.” All Europe was once one great forest –
until all those trees were needed to create the naval armadas of dueling empires. Only the
Earth’s natural forces, like earthquakes, have been more destructive and wasteful than humanity.
“The Romantics” were a movement of poets, painters, philosophers and others who launched
the first Great Dissent against the idea of our Earth as being only a resource to be used up.
They sensed the destruction of the natural environment would mean humanity’s own decline. They
sought preservation, understanding and, especially, the actual experiencing of nature’s terror,
awe, and sublime essence as the key to discovering one’s own humanity.
Humphry Davy, a Romantic philosopher, wrote that the natural world demanded “an attitude of
admiration, love and worship… a personal response.”
In 1849 Henry David Thoreau published his enduring classic, Walden, about his withdrawal
from society to free his mind and live for a while by a pond in the woods. The dissenting
current calling for connection with rather than dominion and exploitation of Earth has remained
a steady force since the time of the Romantics, especially in the arts community.
The first Earth Day was in 1970, another time of political upheaval and radical dissent.
Concerned scientists and environmental activists took the lead in warning of the dangers of
destroying our planet, focusing on air and water pollution and the chemical poisoning of food
and the soil. Laws finally began to get passed and a general consensus was finally established
that wrecking and using up the planet was probably a really bad thing. A cleaner future seemed
in the making.
Now the world is about to celebrate Earth Day 2012. And while the “green is good” consensus
still holds, it appears the headway that was made in the 1970s has now stalled out and even
gone into reverse.
Once again, it may be the artists who have to step up to make the world aware of the problem,
and with communities like DeviantArt, it might just be possible to really fire up intense discussion,
launch artistic environmental crusades and spur genuine change. The new “Romantic” artist response
to the environmental crisis may have already begun with James Cameron’s “Avatar.” Has any recent
movie or other work of art inspired such a resurgence of reverence for natural wonders (and contempt
for corporate environmental misdeeds)?
Now more than ever, as fears that human agency may be fueling global climate change, it is time
to take inspiration in the natural wonder and beauty and rhythms of our Earth. Perhaps artists and
others, once again embracing a “romantic awe” for life on this planet, can create the art and stoke
the passions necessary to swing hearts and minds back to the cause of Earth’s rescue and recovery.
Photos courtesy of kyle-culver
"On April 15, 2012, a group of 20 deviants met in Los Angeles, CA to aid in street tree care. Partnering with
TreePeople.org, our deviants weeded, watered, and re-staked trees in order to create a more beautiful and green
neighborhood. DeviantART definitely represented, as deviants comprised the majority of the attendees at the event!
After a hard day's work, we ate lunch, drew, and talked all things DeviantArt. Thank you to everyone who came
out for such a fun and rewarding day!"
Did You Know?
Founded by Gaylord Nelson, a former U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, Earth Day began on April 22nd, 1970. Nelson took action after witnessing the extensive damage caused by the 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California.
In 1990, Earth Day went global, with 200 million people in over 140 nations participating, according to the Earth Day Network (EDN), a nonprofit organization that coordinates Earth Day activities.
In 2010, the Earth Day Network launched “A Billion Acts of Green” -- a service that allows individuals to register the actions they’re taking to protect the environment -- making it the largest environmental service campaign in the world.
Earth Day focused on clean energy in 2000 and involved hundreds of millions of people in 184 countries and 5,000 environmental groups. Activities ranged from a traveling, talking drum chain in Gabon, Africa, to a gathering of hundreds of thousands of people at the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
Shafts of Light
Nature's beauty is a blueprint on how to live a full life. It's her operating instructions that govern our behavior by engaging our sense of smell, touch, taste, and the visual splendors of color, texture, composition, and symmetry. By opening our hearts, nature uses beauty as a tool of survival, because we will protect what we fall in love with.
Questions for the Reader
1How often do you actually stop to contemplate the beauty of nature – in a sunset, a walk in a park, a moment in a garden?
2Do you feel that the sheer amount of amazing technology now filling your life (iPad, XBox, etc) has dulled your sense of appreciating your time in the Great Outdoors? Do you think you need a better balance of the technological and the natural in your life?
3How much inspiration, as an artist, do you draw from Earth’s natural beauty? Do you have a special place to take a trip to, to experience for a while, to re-charge your inspirational and motivational reserves?
4Do you have any ideas on how to celebrate Earth Day that might be genuinely inspirational for an artist (or a simply environmentally aware and concerned person)?
5Where is the one place on the Earth you hope to go one day to experience, and why?
6Is there one law you wished could be passed, what would it be? Or if there is a single simple message you’d like repeated like a mantra in our schools like the Pledge of Allegiance, what would that be?
7What is the most naturally beautiful place on Earth you’ve ever been in? And what is the most horribly devastated by modern man?