Aftermath

June 29, 2012

I went to New Orleans twice in 2008 to assist with the continuing post-Katrina clean-up and to document the progress made in the recovery from that disaster.  I came back a changed person with regard to photography.

Juice bottle in the street

Copyright 2011 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Once back home, I thought about how I could use photography to raise awareness to the everyday disasters that mostly do not make headlines.  I finally settled on trash as the subject matter and so for the past few years have been making photographs of the remnants of modern society.  Readers of this blog will be familiar with some of that work as I have written about this several times-my recent posts, for example.  I have also used the photographs in the courses I teach.  Even after having done this for so long, however, I cannot shake the impact of seeing, and smelling, the result of our lifestyle.  As an aside, the assault on the olfactory sense is quite powerful and one not easily dismissed.  It is really something that photography can only hint at as we generally do not have access to John Waters’ “Smell-o-Vision” technology, and so…

Plastic bag laying in gutter

Copyright 2012 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

…the photographs will have to stand for themselves.

Soda can and plastic cup in gutter

Copyright 2012 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

There certainly is no limit to the subject matter.

Coke Zero bottle in street

Copyright 2010 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Of course, the problem is that all this debris starts by being dropped or thrown in the streets…

Styrofoam coffee cup in gutter

Copyright 2011 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

and winds up in our waterways…

Plastic products floating in water

Copyright 2011 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Plastic bottles in water

Copyright 2011 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Plastic debris floating in water

Copyright 2011 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Dead fish among debris in water

Copyright 2010 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

which is detrimental to humans and the other living organisms with whom we share our resources.

All of this plastic does not decompose-it continues to break into smaller and smaller pieces and ends up creating what Charles Moore refers to as the “plastic soup” that makes up the five gyres in the Earth’s oceans.

The point of this is not to not drink water.  In fact, with the temperature/heat index being around 108 degrees today, the advisories are recommending that folks drink plenty of water (and stay inside in air conditioning, which is another topic altogether.) Yes, consume the necessary amount of water-just do so from a re-usable container.  The money saved by not purchasing one week’s worth of bottled water would be enough to afford quite a nice aluminum bottle.

Take care.

Summer 2012

June 21, 2012

Neighborhood first day of summer 2012

Copyright 2012 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

It’s official-the transition from yesterday into today marks the start of Summer 2012.  It was 80 degrees at 6 a.m.

Which is a good thing because when I left to go to the grocery store yesterday afternoon, my car’s thermometer registered 107 degrees-sitting for hours on hot asphalt will have that effect.  Once rolling, the temperature reading dropped to 97 and stayed there.  Sure was tough to eat frozen yogurt that refused to stay frozen.  Yes, I am glad it is summer-that is way too hot for Spring.

Copyright 2012 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Today was supposed to be even hotter.  It is.

And yet the debate about climate change and our (humans) role in the warming of the planet appears to continue.  Yes, a couple of days a pattern does not make.  However, examining the climate data for the past bunch of years does a pattern make.  Mitt Romney has vacillated on his position regarding the topic (see here and here-scroll down this link to see how Pro/Con.org summarizes his position.  It is interesting to also read the next summary regarding Mr. Romney’s view about amending the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon dioxide emissions.)  President Obama’s positions on these same issues can be found here-as before, please scroll down to that content.  For the scientific view on climate change, please review the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change site here.  It is too bad for all that we cannot seem to get on the same page about climate change.

(Coincidentally, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (“Rio+ 20”) produced “The Future We Want“, a document addressing the human issues involved in the viability our species and the planet.  It, too,  is worth a read.  Be prepared, though, as it is long and rambling.  As with climate legislation, there is nothing definitive here as nations could not reach any agreements.  It is also quite a commentary that we continue to have to talk about these issues in the 21st century.)

Traffic on Beltway

Copyright 2011 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Given that the political will to address climate change in a meaningful way appears non-existent, it seems that it really is up to each one of us to do our part to fix the planet.  Of course, that means we have to recognize the danger, and therein lies the real problem.  We, as a species in general, are often more invested in other issues.  At this point in time, those economic concerns that continue to roil the global markets and individual pocketbooks appear to have our attention.  These are important issues not to be minimized.  And yet, without a sustainable planet, the artificially created commerce that is so paramount in our lives now is actually quite meaningless.  Arguably, many aspects of that commerce, transportation, for instance, are in fact responsible for this problem.  Fortunately, as both Mr. Beavan and Mr. Humes point out, this is one problem where each one of us can act unilaterally and responsibly without waiting for others.

However, it can take quite a while before people realize a problem exists, let alone figure out and implement the steps necessary for it to be resolved, as I can certainly attest.   This process is detailed by Prochaska and DiClemente’s Transtheoretical Model .  While I would consider myself to have been in the “Maintenance” stage for years regarding my impact on the environment in terms of recycling and eating (vegetarian), the recent epiphany about my own behaviour and the need to get out of the “it is okay to buy plastic because I am making sure to recycle it” mindset, absolutely indicated that I was in the Pre-Contemplation stage with regard to consumption.  Reading Beavan’s and Humes’ books, along with The Plastic Ocean, has had a tremendous impact on my psyche and moved me to think about, and implement, some new behaviours so as to reduce my stuff.

The bottom line is that I find it difficult to deal with such temperatures and humidity, especially when I can do something about it.

This is just the first day of the Summer of 2012.

Take care.

Reduction

June 9, 2012

Recycling bin with recycling materials for disposal

Copyright 2012 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

I have been recycling for decades.  I believe this to be extremely important given the amount of trash that is discarded by humans each year.  I also firmly believe that it is important for each of us to do our share to combat the tonnage of material we toss.

Floating trash in the Inner Harbour

Copyright 2011 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

There certainly is no shortage of books related to this subject.  As part of an assignment, I have begun to read No Impact Man:  The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet and the Discoveries He Makes about Himself and Our Way of Life in the Process by Colin Beavan.  I had already been reading Garbology:  Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash by Edward Humes (of which I have written about previously.)  Both of these works dovetail with the trash photographic project on which I have been working for the past 2+ years (as I have also blogged about previously.)  This post will not repeat the statistics regarding the amount of product that is trashed-please do read Garbology.  The numbers are astonishing.  More to the point, Humes details the techno-politico-socio-cultural processes in the United States that have created this mess.  Quite simply, this is our fault and we are the ones responsible for fixing it.

Dumped trash bags in inner city lot

Copyright 2012 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

To that end, I have used my photographs in several presentations and they do not fail to get people’s attention.  It is vitally important that we see what we have seen so frequently that it is overlooked.

Clamshell package atop parking kiosk

Copyright 2011 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Newspaper debris on city street

Copyright 2011 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Used Target plastic bag in street

Copyright 2012 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

And I recycle.  Pat myself on the back and keep going.  However, after having started to read Beavan’s book,  I was struck by my own hypocrisy.  Yes, I do recycle, and that is helpful.  However, once I stopped and seriously looked at the amount I am recycling, my failure at the first part of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle became readily apparent.  Shameful, actually.

"Danger" tape along highway

Copyright 2012 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

I can and need to do more about my own consumption so as to also reduce the need for recycling.  We all do.  The danger is greater than most think, as discussed here.

"Danger" tape along highway

Copyright 2012 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Yes, it really is.

Take care.