Lessons in Humility: An Earth Day Photo-Essay

Happy Earth Day. I left off the exclamation point for a reason: I feel distinctly ambivalent about this day. I am not happy about its increasing commercialism. But today seems to be a good opportunity to reflect on the ambivalent relationship between humans and the planet we inhabit.

I am not a photographer and do not experience the world in a primarily visual way. But Kevin is, and does. His photos tend to center around mankind’s failure in his environment: the things we made and then abandoned to (or were taken over by) nature. The following images are photos of slime, peeling paint, broken things, lost things. I find them rather beautiful, and wonder what the world will look like post-humans.

All images are copyright and used with permission. (And more can be seen here.)  I offer them to you without any further comment.

And finally, a video that says everything I need to say about why this planet is worth cherishing. The music is by an Italian composer whom I have long admired, Ludovico Einaudi.



11 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Lane' on 04/21/2011 at 23:22

    I have to admit I was excited for Earth Day… months ago… when I first started planning an event I’ve been working on that will take place this weekend (geared around Earth Day). But, like you, my eyes have become so glossed over with all the commercialism of “buy this” and “buy that”. It kind of peeves me, actually, and I feel we’re getting further and further away from what the true meaning is supposed to be. *shrug*


    • Hi Lane’,
      I finally had to get off Twitter today because I was getting so pissed off at the advertisements. The last straw was the ‘Earth Day gift guide’ put out by EcoFabulous. What happened to the whole walking more lightly, giving back (or at least taking less from) to the Earth thing? Gone. It’s about buying stuff now. I know, on some level, that it’s still about awareness, reflection, and appreciation, but I’m sure not seeing much of that. Breathe…


      • Posted by Lane' on 04/22/2011 at 13:44

        I’m pretty much done – I read my morning “paper”, sipped on my tea, responded to emails but I do admit, I didn’t read much of the tweets (any actually). I knew it would be full of things society is telling me I need, when I know I don’t. I’m working a big swap/recycle/reuse event this weekend so it will be nice to unplug for a day!


  2. Hi Jennifer,

    A lovely and sobering tribute to Earth Day. Definitely share your sentiment. Mixed feelings that the day itself is so commercialized and fraught with problems. But it’s nice to have these visual reminders of what’s at stake. The video was lovely. Thanks for sharing!

    Jen Henderson


    • Hi Jen,
      I think the amount of excitement I feel for Earth Day has an inverse relationship with how invested I am in sustainability. The more I learn, the more I realize that changing a light bulb, using a reusable bag — these small, easy green actions are about as effective against the massive issues we face as…as…trying to stake a vampire with a bobby pin. Or something like that. I read Alan Weisman’s The World Without Us some time ago and was surprised by how much I liked his scenario of a world reclaiming itself from human changes. Of course, it’s not the answer, and it certainly is our responsibility to clean up the mess we’ve made, but sometimes that possibility just seems very, very remote.


  3. The pictures are wonderful. We need to cherish our earth as there is only one.


  4. Posted by Emily on 04/23/2011 at 15:02

    Wow, Kevin is very talented. I LOVE these photos!


    • Hi Emily,
      Glad you liked them! He’s actually putting together a book of his photographs right now. The ones that I picked here were just a couple of my favorites; I like the landscape ones best, but some of his photos are more industrial looking. There’s a link to his Flickr in the post if you want to see more of his photos.


  5. You and me both. I feel ambivalent about Earth Day, too. Enough said.

    Thanks for posting these images. Kevin has a very keen eye.


  6. Posted by david on 05/01/2011 at 18:39

    Hi Jen,

    OMG! Love the pics. I have a hard drive full of similar pics. I thought i was the only one who liked that kind of stuff. Whoda thunk, huh?

    Right there w/u regarding the commercial aspect of “earth day”. Actually it seems any cause (worthy or not) is tied to somebody trying to make a buck off of it. But it is truly sad in this case, because creating trinkets and trash to celebrate simplicity is counter productive.

    BTW, have you seen this video? Pruitt Igoe: http://youtu.be/CRmrxYvm7iY

    It is an excerpt from a 90min. moviefrom ’83 i think. Philip Glass was the composer. Not a single word is spoken, but the message is inescapable.

    Here is a link to the website: http://www.koyaanisqatsi.org/films/koyaanisqatsi.php

    and a quote from the “Hopi Prophesies”

    “If we dig precious things from the land, we will invite disaster.”
    “Near the Day of Purification, there will be cobwebs spun back and forth in the sky.”
    “A container of ashes might one day be thrown from the sky which could burn the land and boil the oceans.”


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