Big Picture Story 07:
Scientific data and subjective responses are combined to relate climate change to lived experience.
Dr Mary E. White presents summaries of the sequential stages in the co-evolution of Life and the environment through geological time that have resulted in the creation of the BIOSPHERE (of which we are a part).
The Big Picture is also explained by Associate Professor Peter Ralph,John Cookand Dr Haydn Washington.
The arrival of Mankind on the scene had been orchestrated by the changing climatic conditions as the Pleisocene Age developed. The Ancestral Apes moved out of the forest remnants in Africa as the climate dried and started walking upright on the savannas, some spreading (as we now know) into Asia. These chimp-like ancestors had considerable manual skills and some tool-making ability. Evolution since then to Modern Man is well documented and was occurring while the more benign climatic conditions of this last interglacial (in which we are living) were being established and widespread re-vegetation was occurring globally.
While Mankind were hunter-gatherers they were effectively governed by the Natural Laws that control population numbers and individual environmental footprints. It was not until settlement for agriculture started in the Northern Hemisphere about 14,000 years ago that our activities started to affect the Natural Balancing mechanisms that had taken nearly 4 billion years to evolve. These mechanisms primarily require balance between volume of Green and Animal Life for the functioning of the networks and feed-back systems that keep GAIA healthy.
Dr Mary E. White 2012
These artworks relate to previous concepts I have explored which reference a tilt in our environmental balance. Here I have identified with the 'sea butterfly' as an icon of fragility. Acidity of the Southern Ocean, which is home to this mollusc, is rising. This causes its shell to become thin and brittle, which threatens its vital role in the 'carbon sink'; the sea butterfly plays a significant role in maintaining the chemical balance of the oceans by absorbing C02 that falls from the atmosphere into its shell. When the creature dies, its shell falls to the ocean floor and is buried beneath more shells and other sediments. The sea butterfly is also a vital part of the marine food chain.
Melissa Smith 2012