By Brendon Bosworth
The human relationship with the natural world is overly strained, close to breaking point. This is an age of ‘unforeseen landscapes,’ where the human impact on the planet, and its delicate but incredibly designed ecosystems, is entering unchartered and dangerous territory.
An upcoming group show (‘Unforeseen Landscapes’) at the PH Centre, in Cape Town, explores humanity’s complex relationship with the natural world. The show opens June 13 and includes 24 local photographers. I’m pleased to be taking part.
The exhibition theme resonates with me. A lot of my work involves writing about climate change, and I’m particularly interested in ways humans have disconnected from their original relationship with the natural world, and the other lifeforms that inhabit the planet.
Our relationship with the natural world is certainly fractured. Up to 1 million species are at risk of extinction, many within decades, due to human pressures such as deforestation, overfishing, climate change, and pollution, according to a recent United Nations report.
Over the past few decades, we have been throwing mounds of waste into our ecosystems. Plastic pollution has increased tenfold since 1980 and “300-400 million tons of heavy metals, solvents, toxic sludge and other wastes from industrial facilities are dumped annually into the world’s waters,” the report notes.
This destructive behaviour is having huge impacts on land and water systems. The following paragraph from a National Geographic article about the UN report puts it in perspective:
“In parts of the ocean, little life remains but green slime. Some remote tropical forests are nearly silent as insects have vanished, and grasslands are increasingly becoming deserts. Human activity has resulted in the severe alteration of more than 75 percent of Earth’s land areas, the Global Assessment found. And 66 percent of the oceans, which cover most of our blue planet, have suffered significant human impacts. This includes more than 400 dead zones—where scant life can survive—that collectively would cover the state of Oregon or Wyoming.”
We live in an interesting, distressing time. We are seemingly at a point of unparalleled innovation and technological advancement. We have the ability to solve many problems with the tools at our disposal. But we’re also caught in an anxious state of always being online, and spending less and less time connecting with the natural world.
All the warning signs are there: imminent extinction of species, destruction of natural habitat, the climate crisis. What remains to be seen is whether we’ll choose to act in time, and work to remedy our fractured relationship with the natural world, or continue with current lifestyle, political, and economic choices that are altering life on earth as we know it.
‘Unforeseen Landscapes’ opens at the PH Centre in Cape Town, June 13, 18:00.
Main photo: ‘I see you differently.’ Brendon Bosworth. 2017. (Framed print on display at PH Centre from June 13 as part of the ‘Unforeseen Landscapes’ exhibition).