Monday, April 21, 2008

Running the Numbers with Chris Jordan

Once in conversation a few years ago, a friend of mine stated that recycling wasn't economically beneficial. Whether or not that's true, I think he's missing the point.
I've never been as environmentally conscious as I'd like to be. I recycle, I read folks like Wendell Berry and Barbara Kingsolver, I've taught units on environmental issues, I've seen Inconvenient Truth. But my accumulated knowledge still doesn't affect my day to day decisions as much as I'd like. I've hardly ever acknowledged, much less remembered Earth Day.
I think it was about a year ago that someone introduced me to the works of Chris Jordan. So in honor of Earth Day this year, I introduce him to you. He was once a corporate attorney, and now he's a photographic artist whose subject has become American consumerism. Through his work he tries to make unfathomable statistics tangible, and I think the effect is astounding.

Here he is depicting two million plastic bottles, the number used in the US every five minutes:
Here we zoom in a bit:

and a bit more:

And here he recreates Seurat's painting, "Sunday Afternoon on La Grande Jatte" with 106,000 aluminum cans, the amount used in the US every 30 seconds:
zoom again:

Unbelievable, right? Check out more pictures and explanations on Chris Jordan's website.
And Happy Earth Day.