Climate Change, System Change, Personal Change opened First Friday, March 4th from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the ¡Buen Vivir! Gallery for Contemporary Art, 148 Elmwood Avenue in Buffalo. It ran through April 29th.
The ¡Buen Vivir! Gallery for Contemporary Art and Global Justice Ecology Project dedicated this show, to the assassinated Honduran activist Berta Cáceres and to activist Gustavo Castro Soto injured during the 4 March 2016 attack in La Esperanza, department of Intibucá in southwestern Honduras.
This multi-faceted show, with two separate exhibits (by Critical Information Collective and by Ashley Powell) intends to explore the underlying systemic causes of the climate crisis, including its deep connections to racism, classism and environmental destruction – and the need to address them in the struggle for climate justice. [There is a complete Gallery Statement at the end of this entire post.]
Climate Change—Realities and Resistance, in its U.S. debut, documents the impacts of and resistance to climate change. It is told through the images of international climate justice photographers from Australia, Croatia, Romania, the UK and the US. This exhibition of over 50 photographs, organized by the Critical Information Collective, was first shown in Paris during the UN climate negotiations last December prior to its show here. And to see all of the photographs of the nine different themes, please click on the titles. All photographs below are copyrighted by the photographer. If interested in purchasing or using them for any reason, please contact CIC.
The other part of the show (with photos and commentary after the CIC exhibit below), Black on the Ground, White in the Air, features new two dimensional work which artist Ashley Powell states “explores and confronts the destruction of the environment–including climate change as well as air, water and food pollution– through the lenses of racism and classism. It also addresses the grave consequences of inaction, which can prove to be just as harmful as oppression itself.”
Powell made national headlines last fall with an exhibit at the University of Buffalo, which included placement of ”black only” and “white only” signs around campus. This provoked heated conversation at the university about racism and the boundaries of art.
Climate Change—Realities and Resistance
Images of protest at UNFCCC COPs—in Cancun, Copenhagen, Durban and Lima—show the breadth and depth of civil society’s concerns about climate change and the need for climate justice. Demands from the streets are an essential element of climate change negotiations, they must not be forbidden in Paris.
The industrial revolution may have brought technological advances, but its reliance on fossil fuels also means that dirty technologies have proliferated, with consequences for our environment and our climate. These images of industrial pollution and personal alienation remind us that new and clean energy technologies will be good for the planet—and good for us!
The impacts of climate change are now a daily reality for people around the world, especially people who are immediately dependent upon their environment for food and for their livelihoods. This panel delves into the details of individuals’ lives and experiences, telling the story of climate change from the perspective of farmers and fishers in El Salvador.
Orin is a concerned photographer, whose goal is not just to document and expose the harsh realities of injustice—much of which is linked to the struggle for land—but to inspire viewers to participate in changing the world. These images help to empower those striving for justice because they know that photographs of their struggle are revealed to a wider audience. These photographs were mostly shot inside and outside UNFCCC COPs.
Notre-Dame-des-Landes is a commune near Nantes in Western France that has been built on a site that has been proposed for a new airport. There has been vocal opposition to the proposal for environmental and social reasons, and the commune is described as Europe’s largest post-capitalist protest camp and anti-airport occupation. This staunch resistance has turned into a titanic and emblematic struggle, prompting President Hollande to call a referendum.
The forests of Brown Mountain in East Gippsland, Victoria, Australia, are being spared further devastation, following the concerted efforts of local activists. The forest industry has moved out and moved on, but is also significantly weakened. As well as documenting illegal rainforest destruction and educating people about the plight of Brown Mountain, Goongerah Environment Centre (GECO) has organised practical resistance including tree sit-its, lock-ons and blockades. It just shows what a small group of determined people can really do!
Lake George in New South Wales, Australia, used to be a 25km-long lake but drought has dried it out, with only a small amount of shallow water remaining (and that depending on the year, sometimes there is none). But these wind turbines, on the shores of Lake George, represent an optimistic and determined response to climate change. The iconic shape of the wind turbine represents hope for the future.
2014 was the year that people across the world united on the streets to shout their demand for action on climate change as loudly as possible! Some 400,000 people participated in the People’s Climate March in New York in 2014, the largest climate change demonstration in history. This was just one of many though: there were also 2,646 solidarity events in 162 countries.
Communities in Europe and many other countries around the world are rising up against the threat of fracking. Fracking is short for ‘hydraulic fracturing’ of rock to release natural gas, and has been widely used in the USA. It has been linked to contamination of water supplies, increased air pollution and even small earthquakes. These images look at resistance in the UK (in Balcombe) and France.
Black on the Ground, White in the Air
Artist Statement by Ashley Powell
Once again, we find ourselves attacked, and this attack isn’t physically immediate or verbally abusive, but it certainly is sinister, covert, and ongoing. Its onset is slow but the damage is long lasting. We are being attacked with environmental racism and classism. This type of racism doesn’t thrive off of foul words and violence, and this classism doesn’t inspire juxtapositions of economic disparity and grotesque frivolity. Instead, it is a type of racism and classism that perpetuates a system that lawfully allows for low-income and non-white peoples to be deliberately subjected to debilitating pollution, toxicity, and degradation, all for economic benefit and convenience.
I can briefly elucidate horrific instances of environmental racism and classism. If the nation-wide recognition of the Flint, Michigan water crisis isn’t enough for you to acknowledge that certain people’s health and environments are treated with awesome disregard in the name of economics and convenience, then maybe I should acknowledge and voice other instances of environmental racism and classism. There is Chester, PA, home of a population that is predominantly black, and also home of one of the largest groupings of waste collection and burning facilities in the United States of America. And we must never ignore the electronic waste that flows from many western countries, like Italy, Canada, and the US, and into now depleted, toxic, and sickening lands like Agbogbloshie (Ghana), Lagos (Nigeria), and Guiyu (China.) There is also Cancer Alley which stretches between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, Louisiana and is is home to predominantly black populations, and is also home to 17 refineries and over 100 petrochemical companies. In many cases of overt pollution, concern is often met with non-solutions, dishonest reassurance, and neglect. This monumentally small sprinkling of cases where environmental racism and classism is evident doesn’t come close to fully explaining the true breadth and impact of the issue, but it is not my responsibility provide you with this exhaustive list of atrocities. You have the agency and the research ability to learn this easily found information on your own. What I aim to do is to welcome the acknowledgement of the often fatal and always debilitating tactics and effects of environmental racism and classism, so that we can began to induce change.
Much like actual purifiers, detoxifiers, and filters, non-white and poor peoples are ironically often used in the same way these objects are used. Our unhealthiness is induced and callously disregarded. We are suffocated, congealed, buried, and sickened by the nauseous and toxic residue that permeates from the burdens of racism and classism. We blend into our degraded environments as if we belong there and as if the pollution was not brought to us, but as if we were corporealized from within the pollution. We become one with our environments, to the point where conditions like asthma become synonymous with the poor and with non-whites. We are the solution to all of the dominant culture’s problems. Not only do we serve as excellent substrates to accumulate and congeal the undesirable qualities, particulates, and components of white supremacy but we serve as excellent filters. Our bodies are purposefully subjected to the most undesirable aspects of society and pollution and are used to effectively absorb and contain all of the unwanted remnants formed and cast away from white and economic supremacy. We exist to attract the intoxicants and to purify the terrain, so unwanted toxicities do not end up where they do not belong, much like a water filter. But unfortunately, we are not filters, we are not purifiers, we are not worthless beings, and we do deserve equality. Please, imagine how much more difficult the battle for equality and humanity becomes when most of us have been used to absorb society’s physical and oppressive toxic waste since birth. This must change, but first, we must change.
In order to garner collectively and to lead to actual social change, we must first change ourselves and become non-compliant. We must recognize and acknowledge this world that not only attacks the economic, social, mental, spiritual, and emotional health of certain groups of people, but also penetrates our physiological well-being and debilitates us from the inside out. We are certainly being attacked. We are being brutalized, shut out, crushed and drowned. I need us to recognize this, to acknowledge this, and
to empathize with this, so that we can all help to change this. Our immobility, inaction, and compliance is destroying us in ways that we will never be able to undo, and at this point, we do not need to be active perpetuators of injustice and atrocity to be a part of this dire problem.
Perfect Detoxifying Particulate Collectors 2016 Pollutants and paper, 4” x 6”
The Solution (to all of Our Problems) Purifying Water Filter 2016 Clean drinkable water, purifying body, and mason jar
The ¡Buen Vivir! Gallery for Contemporary Art and Global Justice Ecology Project dedicate this show to the assassinated Honduran activist Berta Cáceres and to activist Gustavo Castro Soto, who was injured during the 4 March 2016 attack on Cáceres in La Esperanza, department of Intibucá in southwestern Honduras.
• Climate Change, System Change, Personal Change
This multi-faceted show, with two separate exhibits (by Critical Information Collective, and Ashley Powell) intends to explore the underlying systemic causes of the climate crisis, including its deep connections to racism, classism and environmental destruction – and the need to address them in the struggle for climate justice.
Climate Change—Realities and Resistance, in its U.S. debut, documents the impacts of and resistance to climate change. It is told through the images of international climate justice photographers from Australia, Croatia, Romania, the UK and the US. This exhibition of over 50 photographs from Critical Information Collective, was first shown in Paris during the UN climate negotiations last December. While on display it was viewed by more than 2,000 people.
The other part of the show, Black on the Ground, White in the Air, features new work which artist Ashley Powell states “explores and confronts the destruction of the environment–including climate change as well as air, water and food pollution– through the lenses of racism and classism. It also addresses the grave consequences of inaction, which can prove to be just as harmful as oppression itself.”
We envisioned this show focusing on the impacts and root causes of climate change–both as seen through the lens of climate justice photographers and their subjects around the world; as well as through the experience of institutional and systemic racism. Climate change exposes this injustice at the macro level, which is disproportionately impacting the poorest and most marginalized among us—especially people of color.
We have seen these impacts directly. Some of us right in our own communities and homes, and some of us in the communities we have visited. Communities not only resisting the impacts of climate change, but also resisting the systemic drivers of the climate crisis and fighting destructive false solutions—like large-scale biofuel production.
Then all of this very much hit home when our friend and ally Berta Cáceres of the Honduran organization COPINH was brutally murdered in her home yesterday in the early morning.
Berta was a staunch defender of Indigenous land rights and an opponent of the rapid and devastating spread of palm oil plantations on indigenous and peasant land in Honduras for biofuel production.
And so the theme of our newest show became devastatingly real, more tangible than we ever anticipated. Racism, environmental destruction, and classism driven by profits from so-called “green energy,” resulting in the horrific murder of a powerful indigenous activist.
Orin Langelle, Gallery Director, 4 March 2016