The Messengers
September 12, 2015 1:35 PM   Subscribe

The Messengers Discussing grief and guilt and hope for the environment with a photographer who takes pictures of albatrosses that have died from ingesting plastic.
posted by primalux (7 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
This is a great article - I came in expecting just a sad story but appreciated the deeper discussion. I think about that garbage gyre pretty frequently and the details about the albatrosses are so sad. Thanks for posting primalux.
posted by bendy at 1:15 AM on September 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Jordan remembers how he got the death footage, his camera just inches away from young birds struggling for their last breaths, his glasses almost too full of tears for him to see. “They couldn’t know why they were dying,” he says. “But I did.” His world had inadvertently ended theirs.

Bearing witness isn't easy. I'm glad that he has been able to go back and see the full circle of the birds' lives, the good as well as the bad, so that he can bring it back to the rest of us. The environmental message doesn't change--nor should our sense of responsibility--but I do think the impact will.
posted by librarylis at 5:00 PM on September 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

People get so entrenched in environmental politics that we lose sight of the emotions that it brings up. All those emotions end up having a big impact on how we relate to these issues. Thanks for posting this thoughtful article.
posted by salvia at 7:53 PM on September 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm very glad that I wasn't the only one who got something out of this. I've worked primarily in state and national parks for most of the last decade, and I've gone back to school to study ecology recently. I get emotional about so much relating to the environment these days and this article made me tear up. Yesterday, after reading this, I went to the beach and saw several dead Common Murres and several that were obviously sick and headed toward death. They're experiencing a huge die off right now (not sure if the reason behind it has been figured out). Wildlife die offs are something I've always had to deal with in parks I've worked in, and until recently I've dealt with them without getting worked up at all about it. But yesterday I just really wanted to sit down and cry. I don't know if it's just a build up of all these emotional responses like the grief and guilt talked about in the article, but I feel like it could be, and learning about those concepts was a huge eye-opener. I talked with my boyfriend about this article while we were having drinks after the beach and he basically said that feeling so overwhelmed by those feelings is why he doesn't feel like he can do anything and doesn't ever want to think about it at all. I really wish people talked about these things more, both in my field and in general.
posted by primalux at 8:49 PM on September 13, 2015

Personally, having gone too far into the hopelessness that this essay talks about, I stay a little bit emotionally detached these days. The article talks about splitting mind from emotion in climate change discussions today, and that ... kinda makes sense to me. I'm not saying it's right; it's just what I do, having discovered that allowing myself to get overwhelmed by emotions on these issues doesn't actually help.

But there have been some interesting articles on climate scientists' thoughts and emotions recently. A few other projects that this essay reminds me of:

A book I've recommended on Metafilter a few times is The Love of Nature and the End of the World, something like an extended meditation or poem on the topic. It touches on some of the same themes (grief as an extension of love, muteness in the face of tragedy).

And his job wasn’t to be transformed by fire or to find a hidden door to hope: “We have this cultural obsession with hope. I’m not sure how useful hope really is.”

Along similar lines is "Beyond Hope" by Derrick Jensen (although Jensen believes that the next step beyond hope is fighting, which isn't where my personal views end up).

If you want more essays that "show not tell" some of the emotions around losses of the natural world (which -- I don't know if you do), a few that get at this are The Streams Were Full of Fish by Derrick Jensen and Green World by Sherman Alexie. Both of those have a stronger element of anger than I heard in this article. I'd be curious to ask the artist featured here about that.

All this talk also reminds me of the What Is Missing? project, created by Maya Lin, the architect behind the Vietnam Memorial.
posted by salvia at 10:34 PM on September 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

Thank you salvia. I will definitely be checking out those links.
posted by primalux at 10:49 PM on September 13, 2015

I just re-read some of the links and noticed some aspects that are problematic. I'm not claiming that all of this is perfect -- but it is stuff that I remember years after I was doing a lot of reading on these topics. So while I'm not on board with Jensen's call to "bring civilization down," that image of streams full of fish really stuck with me. I do some similar sifting (things I like, things I don't) with Alexie's story. Hopefully people can take whatever they find useful and overlook or reject the rest.
posted by salvia at 1:17 AM on September 14, 2015

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