Thursday, October 15, 2009

How I Became an Artist and Environmentalist: Blog Action Day 2009


Into the Deep  
collage by Rosa Phoenix 

(click on image to see a larger version)

Is it just me, or have the times been tumultuous since 2000?

My own life seems to follow the ups and downs of the USA.  

Moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in 2000 at the height of the dot com boom. Bumped from one short term housing situation to another. Lost my job like so many others when the dot com bubble burst, shortly after 9/11/2001. 

9/11 was personal for me because I'd just moved from NYC a few months earlier. My friends and I had worked near the Twin Towers, and my brother lived in that area. No one I knew was killed. But I was devastated that New York was attacked, and that 2,752 New Yorkers simply vanished that way.

memorial tile for 9/11
unknown artist

War, paranoia, fascism, fear overtook the nation. 

Illness took over my body, disabling me. 

I went through a time of depression as my family experienced difficulties, then my grandfather and father died. 

2004 - 2005 was a time of the Tsunami, of Hurricane Katrina, of landslides, mudslides, earthquakes, death on a huge scale. Personal and global tragedy. 

Hurricane Katrina was personal for me because of the time I'd spent in New Orleans. I was haunted by the faces of the people I met there, as I watched this beloved city sink like Atlantis beneath the water.

pages from What's Next? altered collage book by Rosa Phoenix

That's when it hit home for me, Climate Change.

I felt powerless to do anything. I mourned for my lost loved ones, for the villages buried by earthquakes and mudslides, for those who were swept into the sea and for those who drowned in their own homes. I mourned for those I did not know, whose homes were being bombed in our war, and for those who were fighting overseas, sacrificing their own lives for those of us living in comfort at home.

interior views of Social Dress New Orleans - 730 Days After 
by Takashi Horisaki
Socrates Sculpture Park, NYC, 2007
(installation based on a New Orleans house abandoned after Hurricane Katrina) 


I donated money to the Red Cross to help the victims of disaster and the refugees of war, but I felt hopeless about our collective future. 

In the news were reports of the rapid destruction of ecosystems and habitats, species dying, polar ice caps melting, rivers and oceans poisoned, mutations in animals, drugs in our water supply and wars raging all around the world.

pages from What's Next? altered collage book by Rosa Phoenix

What was horrifying was feeling complicit in this chain of destruction. 

Just by living the life of a modern person in America, I feel that I am contributing to this. 

It is like being a cog in a machine.  

What can I do to reverse this? I asked myself in despair.

pages from What's Next? altered collage book by Rosa Phoenix

I made changes to my lifestyle. 

I donated my car to Habitat for Humanity. (Luckily I live in San Francisco, where I don't need to drive.) 

I limit the waste I create by not buying many new things, and recycling and composting whenever possible. 

Our household buys organic food from farmers' markets, and we buy in bulk to reduce packaging whenever possible. We limit our energy usage with compact fluorescent bulbs, and by not turning on the heat.

I feel lucky to be able to make these choices. Does it help? I think every little bit helps. I'm sure there is always room to improve. The first step is awareness.

In 2007, I learned about Trees for the Future. This organization helps people plant trees in deforested areas all over the world.

I also returned to making art.  Art helped me to recover from illness. Now my art and my life have a clear purpose. I base my art in symbols of the Earth, like the Tree of Life, and Gaia, Mother Earth.

I use my art to show that Life is sacred, and that we are part of something bigger.

In 2008 I organized "Love Our Mother" Earth Day Art Show + Benefit for Trees for the Future. I showed my painting "World Mother" at the art show.

We raised money for Trees for the Future's project in Senegal, Africa, to plant 1,000 trees.  

While I was researching Senegal, I learned that this country has experienced grave problems related to climate change. 

Like the U.S. Gulf Coast, Senegal has had severe flooding on its coast, in addition to a drought that has lasted decades. 

Decades of monoculture (peanut crop) have depleted the soil of nutrients.

This would seem like a hopeless situation, but trees are helping to change that.

Trees have so many benefits.  

They exchange carbon dioxide for oxygen. 

They filter pollutants and clean the air. 

They bring groundwater up to the surface level with their root systems. 

Their roots also hold the soil together, preventing soil erosion and landslides. 

Their wood, fruits, leaves and sap can be harvested for food, fuel and other uses. 

Their fallen leaves and twigs create compost, enriching the soil and making land fertile for farming and gardening. 

Trees provide habitat for animals and cooling shade in hot areas.  

Trees are a renewable resource. 

Too many forests have been destroyed. 

It's time to replenish the Earth with trees. 

A wonderful thing is happening in Africa. 

A green belt of trees is being planted across the continent.  

Nobel Prize Winner Dr. Wangari Maathai's Green Belt Movement, Trees for the Future, the United Nations, the Peace Corps, governments and other organizations are working with local people to plant trees across Africa.

I'm pleased that my art is connected to this great undertaking. 

My art is an affirmation of hope, expression of love, and act of peace.

The human family tree includes all people, all over the world. 

I use the symbol of the Tree of Life to show that all Life is interconnected.

Please take part in re-planting the Earth!

Learn more about how climate change has impacted Senegal:

I'm pleased to join thousands of bloggers around the world, 
by blogging about climate change for Blog Action Day 2009. 

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