I’m a big fan of radical ecological artwork. Pittsburgh’s artist collective Justseeds has a great variety for those interested. One of my favorite works is Roger Peet’s intricate web showing some of the dynamics at play causing the Sixth Mass Extinction, which is rapidly unfolding before our very eyes. Some causes are obvious and well-known, like deforestation and industrialization, and others exist in a more shadowy underworld, like the pet trade and “superstitious” medicine. Some of the victims of the Sixth Mass Extinction are depicted as well, like pangolins and menhadens*.
From Peet’s description of the piece:
This is a time of great and sustained dying; the web of life facing assaults previously impossible in its 3.8 billion year history. Many mass extinctions have winnowed the species of the earth, but this one is different: it’s not an asteroid, or a series of enormous volcanoes, or a drastic shift in ocean chemistry that’s causing it. This time it’s a species. It’s us.
This print is a diagram that visually illustrates the ways that this 6th mass extinction works. Inside the circles are the various mechanisms at the heart of Earth’s biodiversity crisis, coupled with some of the lesser-known creatures affected.
The mechanisms illustrated include deforestation, hunting and trapping, the pet trade, industrial fishing, global trade mechanisms and invading species, traditional medicines and superstition, and at the heart of everything, the human appetite.
Species depicted are: Mountain Gorilla, Spix’s Macaw, Whooping Crane, Pangolin, Horned Frog, Menhaden, Ganges Shark, Silky Sifaka. The three circles depicting trade mechanisms are accompanied by images of the Green Crab, the Brown Tree Snake, and the Redback Spider. There’s also a Mobula Manta in that fishing net at bottom right.
* – Editor’s Note: I prefer to pluralize all animal species (like Pangolins and Menhadens) so as to reinforce the fact that each animal is a unique, thinking, feeling individual.