Most of the art I’ve been making lately relates to extinction. It’s not the most uplifting of subjects, but it’s become something of an obsession for me. I know that if I just keep making art that pertains to extinctions, I will never, ever run out of material.
My study of extinction has caused a large scale reshuffling of my political priorities. Things that used to seem important to me now have faded into a distant, sepia-tinted past and are gathering dust. Extinction looms before me like Uluru rising from the Australian desert, a monolith which dwarfs all other aspects of being alive on Earth at this particular moment in time.
There have been many episodes of extinction in the history of this planet, but three stand out. The first occurred 245 million years ago at the end of the Permian era, and the second brought an end to the age of the Dinosaurs 65 million years ago. The third, we inhabit. Although there is still a degree of debate as to the ultimate causes of these previous episodes of mass death, the cause of the third has become, for me, overwhelmingly obvious. We are the cause. The human species, the greatest killing machine that life has ever produced.
The spike in human-generated extinctions began as humans and proto-humans fanned out from Africa to cover the globe with blood and bones. The island continents of Australia and North and South America suffered the greatest overall losses of species, and islands in general have suffered massive losses in more recent times due to their isolation and the subsequent inability of their inhabitant species to adapt to invaders.
At this point in time the levels of extinction on a planetary scale have shot off into the stratosphere on an exponential curve that closely matches human expansion, development and population growth. Every living thing is feeling the pressure of the human hand on its throat, even plants, which don’t have throats. Even microorganisms and fungi. Humans have the planet strapped down to a chair and are torturing it to death.
It’s not an issue of class, or race or gender or sexuality. It is the raw truth of what we are as a species. People say that humanity is a form of cancer. I think its more like leprosy, and there is no sanitarium large enough to control the spread of the infection. The grace and beauty of life on Earth are rotting away to stumps as the tide of humans pours forth across the world. The only species that are doing well at this time are ones like us, opportunistic, hardy, weedy, adaptable. Rats. Cheatgrass. Pigs. Etcetera.
I plan to write more on this subject, but for now I’d like to direct your attention towards this website: http://www.massextinction.net It’s not a happy place, but then again, where is?
Cover image stolen from the Dismaland promo video. Sorry!