Attitudes

Better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness.

Chinese Proverb

There isn’t a problem that couldn’t be rendered unsolvable by elevating it to a higher level of abstraction. I know. I have been guilty of doing this countless times. Unfortunately, a certain class of problems needs this approach as all more localized, specialized solutions are just patches, not fixes.

What I am talking about? I talk about problems rooted in attitudes. Like, all environmental issues on the table (pick here your favorite horror, from global warming to tar sands and mass extinction). And when I write attitudes, I mean all our opinions about the world, we didn’t know we have. There is for example this deeply rooted narrative in the jewish-christian tradition, that man is the crown jewel of creation with a calling to conquer nature. The view that man is a higher life form and everything else is hierarchically of lower value.

There has been a recent example for such an attitude in our local newspaper. A known virologist in earnest suggested that in order to get a grip on the spread of ticks in Finland we should kill all deer. All of them. They are anyhow just a pest (because cars drive into them). Her words. And we should kill, while we are at it, also all moles (good luck with that, though). Because ticks can spread diseases. So, kill all hosts and the problem is gone. There was no reflection on her part, what might happen to all the species (or ecosystems) depending on deer or moles. Like owls, wolves, bears and countless others animals. I think that was a masterly expression of the attitude I was describing above. The only answer to the deficiencies of nature are plastic chairs and oil tankers.

It seems to me that hardly any solution to fundamental environmental problems is possible – or can even be discussed in a meaningful way – without us very deeply challenging our attitudes towards nature.

But how would or could one change the attitudes of 7 billion people? I don’t know. Although, we have seen massive and rapid attitude changes in history. Privacy, which seemed always a pillar of western individualism and democracy has through 9/11 and social networks within 15 years turned into something suspect.  So, quick change is possible.

If I would have to summarize my photography work in one sentence, I would say it is a search for a new attitude towards nature. Now, I don’t think art is at its best when it has a propagandistic agenda. But if I want to change attitudes, there is an obvious starting point: myself. Therefore a lot of my works are meditation exercises; experiments in considering nature through and by itself, not through the filters humans usually use. Filters that consider usefulness (can I hike, ski, fish, be entertained here) or are judgmental. I think far too often we consider trees, rocks, plants (and to a lesser extent animals) as mere decoration in the landscape. But could we see a tree like this below sympathetically?

dtpHelsinki-0003.jpg

With sympathetically I mean: could we imagine how it feels and is to grow and die as a tree  on such a place on the bare rocks. And even if we cannot imagine, can we respect it as a living thing, which draws its dignity from the same source as ours, the fundamental fragility of individual life?

The goal of these experiments is not to change your or anyone’s attitude, but mine. If that should also light a candle, all the better.

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