Several years ago, I received an email with a PowerPoint presentation called Running the Numbers on the photographic works of Chris Jordan; a US artist and former corporate lawyer. I was quite taken aback by it. Not only did the photographs use an innovative technique, but they spoke loud and clear to the tragic unintended consequences, that our individual and collective behavior is causing to the planet.
Jordan believes that when we look at raw statistical numbers, our minds are simply not able to grasp them, comprehend them and/or truly internalize the magnitude of those huge problems that these numbers represent; particularly when related to our environment. He thinks that if we could somehow see those figures in photos that we could relate to, that this would at the very least cause an awareness, an emotional response and perhaps empathy so that we modify our personal behavior; thus, trying to ameliorate and perhaps even fix these alarming problems.
Currently, he is working on a project called Midway (click for video). He flew to this Pacific island to document the effects of the huge Great Pacific Garbage Patch. I believe that in addition to his customary photographs there will be a movie released so that we can see, firsthand, what we are doing to our oceans.
I put together a video based entirely on his work, called “Running the Numbers.” However, I must warn you that two of the photos from his series called “Constitution” are not suitable for children! Some viewer’s sensibilities may be offended as well, even though that is not the intent. The two photos in question are based on the now infamous photos from the human rights violations at Baghdad’s Abu Ghraib prison. The photos in and of themselves are not gory, but the sheer starkness of abuses, deprivation, desolation and death can cause an adverse emotional response in some people. You have been warned!
Running the Numbers is solely based on the environmental effects that the United States, as a country, is causing to the planet. But let me restate what Mr. Jordan said in a video. His intent is not to bash the United States. Instead, it is to bring major awareness to its citizenry. In a not so unusual manner, by raising awareness, the US takes a leadership role once again.
Although the United States, with a population of 300+ million people, is a significant contributor to overall environmental degradation, it is by far not the only one nor is it the culprit. An in there lies the real problem.
You see, China alone has four times as many people. And although the per capita pollution levels may be much smaller than those in the US, by having four times its population, when we aggregate all their citizens this has a huge negative environmental impact, as well. But let’s not stop there. India is also four times as large. Europe is twice as large as is Latin America too. Africa is three times as large and I haven’t counted the Asia/Pacific countries with the exception of China and India, nor have I included Russia and neighboring countries.
The tricky part is that the sheer enormity of the problem as it is eloquently portrayed on his photos, may paralyze many people into apathy and that too, is not the intent.
When watching the video you may want to turn up the volume and click on the control on the lower right corner in order to maximize the size of the video, so you can see the photos in greater detail. Thank you for watching.
Running the Numbers
Haciendo los Números