a little girl was born in a small town, situated at the very heart of Brazil. Surrounded by nature’s wonders, she grew up believing in a magic that encircles and embraces us. A magic unraveling each day, wonder after wonder, all bestowed upon us by our mother— some call her Gaia, others Terra but we call her Earth. To us she gave the gift of Life and the gift of Sight– great, grand, glittering eyes charmed with the ability of seeing things, not as they are, but their potential of becoming. Blinded by her love, she bestowed a third gift to humankind, the gift of Choice, and that’s when things started going downhill. Using the gift of Sight, the wrong pair of eyes will see– and choose– all the wrong things. They will see not with a loving, caring or nurturing glance, but with exploitation instead. For ages, man relied on muscle power and nature’s goodwill. But it wasn’t long before the tool makers in their pilgrimage found a way to ease their day to day life by tapping into the Sun’s energy, captured by plants and buried deep in the Earth millions of years ago– oil, coal, gas. And so, here we are today in an ever growing incandescent trouble.
Since childhood, I have been drawn to fauna and flora, and I’m privileged to live just beside a natural reserve. Although I enjoy being able to take long walks with my dogs while listening to the whispers of the trees and the songs of all living things there, this privilege comes with a cost. Before it became a residential condominium, it was a farm; and before it became a farm, it was a forest. Each time something natural and pure is touched by human hands, we lose a little piece of the life of the forest.
In our story here, as all stories, we have a winning side and a losing one. By looking at the patterns of our past, one doesn’t take long to figure out which is which. Nature may be fearless but right now, we are at an advantage with our great machines killing everything, clearing our path, providing us with luxuries and richness we don’t need and costing generations ahead their futures.
The problem begins with the location of the community itself. It divided a natural reserve with gates– part being a municipal area and part an urban area– so animals get stuck trying to get from one side to another and die electrocuted on the fence. We also have a lot of snakes, and every year people set fire to the woods outside the gates to kill them and every year it pains me. We have endangered animals here, and I can’t even imagine how many of them die trying to escape and how many birds have to leave their nests behind to survive.
The way the woods are cared for also lack an environmental science perspective. Everyday, they come into the woods making devilish sounds with their machines, clearing away the path. “The forest is dirty,” they say. “Leaves keep falling from the trees to the ground.” …Who knew?! Day after day, they come, disturbing the peace of the woods and the lives of the animals within it. They come with gasoline-powered leaf blowers which are responsible for fuel and exhaust emissions including hydrocarbons, oxides of nitrogen, carbon monoxide, and fine particulate matter.
Preoccupied with this issue, I brought it up with a working man, an operator of the gas blower. He complained about the noise which gives me terrible migraines and I later found out that may cause hearing loss with time. He mentioned that he could clear the path with banana leaves and that it would be easier and more comfortable for him! And I know for certain that we don’t lack banana trees in Brazil. Nowadays, there’s also the option of using electric versions which tend to be cheaper than the traditional gas/oil four-stroke blowers. These green versions are either mains- or battery-powered and though they do require electricity (which usually results in emissions somewhere), they do not have the local emissions output of their gasoline equivalents.
In our garden, we have lots of variety for the pollinators but this is something we are really worried about. Every other day, they drive trucks of “fogging” application in the fight against dengue— an acute febrile disease transmitted by the mosquito Aedes aegypti. The “fogging” effectiveness has not been proven. There needs to be an application by m2 dose control and constant adjustment of pumps. The “fogging” only kills adult mosquitoes by direct contact like when they fly through the dense smoke. There are many cases of contamination of people, domestic animals and pollinators, particularly bees. The next day following the fogging application, you can see a tapestry of death in the woods.
The saddest thing to me is that it’s supposed to be a luxury gated community filled with educated people. It’s supposed to be a reserve and a place where the gifts we were given are being cared for– as a thanks for us being here, so out of place. In my walks, I’ve witnessed an incredible decrease of fauna and an increase in pollution. Everyday, I pick up a lot of trash left behind by none other than the supposedly educated people. I’ve lived here for 4 years now and in my time here, I have witnessed only non-sustainable practices. In my house, my mother taught me to respect all living things– from the smallest ant to the giant armadillo and the fearless Guara wolf. After all, we are the ones in their home, not the other way around. Who gave us the right of owning land anyway? Chief Seattle, one of the last spokesmen of the Paleolithic moral order, wrote in a letter to the US Government in 1982 about how strange it was to him and his people to sell their land if the land wasn’t his to begin with it. If we don’t own the freshness of either the air of the water, how can we sell the land? So by that premise, if we are the ones in their home, we should be obliged to live under their rules. Yet, we somehow claim ourselves masters of the land, and we enslave it and suck it dry. A time will come when we reach an irreversible point, and then there shall be nothing left but memories of days long gone. But right now, there’s still time. The view of humankind being the main cause of climate change has the potential of becoming an optimistic view; for if humans are the agents of cause, we may also provide the solutions and become agents of change.
One day, I was following this black and yellow butterfly, spellbound by her beauty. She was fluttering and dancing in the air to the symphony of the forest. Suddenly, she stopped, frozen in the air. Slowly, I came closer and noticed her delicate body trapped in a single thread of an abandoned spider’s web. I took her in my hand and carefully removed the remaining thread from her wings. Her body was so stiff that I thought she died but when I opened up my hand, she flew away gloriously towards the skies— free. I felt such hope.
The root of the issue for me, in this day and age, is that mankind has lost its connection to the Earth and as each day passes, the ancient indigenous wisdom of the harmony of being becomes lost ever more so. As each skyscraper rises, nature becomes ever more out of sight and therefore, out of mind. So, as Joseph Campbell put it, it’s the function of the artist to interpret these unseen things, interpret the divinity inherent in nature, understand the power of myth and communicate visually. Therefore, as an artist, I feel it’s my duty to throw light on whatever injustices and problems I see and make sure that it never again stays out of sight nor out of mind. If I show you what I see, will you care like I care? Will you help me protect it?
Artivism creates the possibility for us to stand in a well balanced place, between the injustices we face and this miracle of life. By sharing our point of view, telling stories and bringing beauty, we allow people to emotionally engage, gain a better understanding of the issue, ignite curiosity and, in that way, inspire change through the lens of creative expression. This is how we metamorphose, by evolving beyond the once primal image of life wherein living by killing is transformed into living by loving. All that exists loves its life and just wants to be. And so, The Starling Revolution was born– an artist-led collective where we direct our passions and skills to generate change. Will you join us? Let’s make the world our canvas and paint a better one together.
Alice is a visual artist, illustrator, and designer who uses her work as a vehicle to fight for wildlife conservation, animal rights, and against climate change. She is also a writer, poet, and Youth Climate Leader Fellow.