HUMANITY as 'POWER TOOL'
To build, plow, pave, dam, mine, dig, pump, smooth, separate, lift, sort, rotate, slice, adhere, mix, reach, crumble, measure, align, stack, stir, and probe are just some of humanity's tooling capacities that have been treated to perpetual upgrades of precision and power. In the 12,000 years since ‘tool’ referred to a stick used for prying roots, humanity’s brawn and brain powers have extended the reach of its operations far into the lithosphere, atmosphere, biosphere, and hydrosphere. Today, few Earth contours, textures, colors, sounds, smells, or tempos escape the virtuoso skills and extraordinary acumen of the human species.
The ingenious devices we devised for performing feats of manipulation have earned renown for their inventors, fortunes for their distributors, and gratitude from their beneficiaries. Nonetheless, evidence is emerging that all three groups may ultimately be found 'guility' because so many of our proud achievements are accompanied by disruptions, depletions, squandering, and polluting.
The debris of our lavish lifestyles, for example, does not merely clutter the litterer's back yard. Migrating on air and ocean currents, it settles far from its place of origin. Even remote Northwestern Hawaiian Islands are not immune to such intrusions. Divers from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently collected 114,000 pounds of trash on these islands in just one month. This is a staggering figure because these islands are uninhabited!
The drive to command the substances and forces of the planet, has elevated humanity's status far beyond that of other life forms. Our stockpile of 'power' tools has propelled us beyond our biological niche. We seem to have lost lose sight of our interdependence with non-human species. On the one hand, soaring human populations provide evidence of our ecological 'success' as a species. These capacities are also materialized in revered artworks, architecture, technologies, and scientific breakthroughs. But that is not the end of the story of civilization. Human accomplishments are also registered in oil spills, decimated forests, smog, and toxic waste dumps.
Will future generations judge humanity’s current occupation as a a triumphant make-over or a hostile take-over? Eco Material artists are diverting the old definitions of 'success' by pursuing strategies that benefit all species.