Art for the Sixth Extinction Show at WomanKraft Gallery

Tucson, Arizona

Feb. 5- Mar 5 2005



Artist Statement for the “Art for the Sixth Extinction” Show

Environmental scientists don’t really know how many species exist on Planet Earth. Estimates range from 5 million to 100 million species. Out of that number, only 1.5 million have been identified and named. Mammals, the group to which humans belong, make up 0.3% of all species.

But counting species in isolation of their natural habitat, the web of interdependence in which they are firmly woven into, is an exercise in futility since species co-exist in their environments, forming complex interconnected communities of local ecosystems. These ecosystems work as integrated wholes composed of microorganisms, higher plants, invertebrates, and vertebrates. They work in partnership with each other, creating and renewing the air, water, and soil necessary to sustain life. The health of individual ecosystems depends on the interactions of species that composed them. The environmental health of the planet’s biota, the totality of individual ecosystems, depends on the interaction of all its ecosystems. Since species are dependent on other species for such survival needs as shelter and food, Homo sapiens, then, “are a unit in a pattern of interdependence. When one species is removed from an ecosystem, it affects many others and can set off a chain reaction.”

Habitats with the greatest biodiversity are more stable ecosystems. They are better able to cope and recover from environmental disturbances than habitats with less diversity because entire networks of interactions may collapse when one species in a less diverse environment is disturbed. No biologist or ecologist knows how many species are necessary to sustain the balance of life on Earth and there is no way to find out.

In the last 600 million years, there have been five known mass extinctions. After these mass extinctions, drastic changes in the composition of the Earth’s floral (plants) and faunal (animals) have occurred. We now are in the midst of another mass extinction. Scientists estimate as many as 137 species disappear from the Earth each day adding up to 50,000 species a year. At this rate, by early in the next century, half the world’s species will become extinct. The five mass extinction periods in the Earth’s past were caused by some catastrophic agent like when the giant asteroid collided with the Earth sixty-five million years ago, which likely caused the extinction of dinosaurs. But the sixth extinction is mad-made.

As human population grows and the exploitation of natural resources destroy more natural habitat and more pollution causes even more toxic wastes and greenhouse gases into the atmosphere more “species of floral and fauna may disappear in one human lifetime than were lost in the mass extinction that wiped out the dinosaurs.” Since American consumers use up more of the natural resources than any other citizenry in the world, they have the greatest impact on the environment. The current model of economic development could push us beyond the point of nature being able to sustain us. Not only are Homo sapiens the cause of the sixth extinction, but could cause of their own extinction.

In Endangered Species: Must They Disappear? Jennifer Yeh writes, “Habitat destruction is probably the single most important factor leading to the endangerment of species. It plays a role in the decline of 95% of federally listed threatened and endangered species, affecting nearly every type of habitat and all ecosystems.” The leading cause of damaged forests, prairies, and wetland habitats is corporate farming. Drainage from agriculture causes 90% of wetland destruction. The expansion of urban sprawl causes the loss of more and more wildlife areas and is the primary reason for the endangerment of plant species.

Yeh writes that a major factor for the destruction of the tropical rainforest—an ecosystem where 50 percent of all life on the planet live, is due to unemployment and poverty among a growing population. Governments unable to enforce regulations, “farmers clear forests to create meager cropland that is often useless three years after its conversion—this is because tropical forest soils are poor, because almost all available nutrients are locked up in the trees and other biomatter.”

So, what can be done? How can we end urban sprawl and stop corporate farming so that we can save ourselves? Is there a new way to think about living in harmony with nature that we need to try out? I think there is. Architect Paolo Soleri calls it arcology or ecological architecture. Arcology is a pedestrian city. Whereas current cities are two-dimensional, based on a horizontal model, arcology is three-dimensional creating a compact, high density, vertical city. Built on marginal farmland, arcology uses about 5% of the land whereas our car-ridden cities use 50% of land for vehicles. Arcologies would be energy efficient utilizing the best designs in renewable energy technologies that our fossil fuel based cities don’t use. Pollution is low in arcologies whereas in post-modern cities of today, pollution is high. Many cancers are the result of living in cities with toxic water and air.

Arcologies would allow citizens to have the best of both worlds, easy access to wilderness and rural areas as well as access to high cultural activities of urban centers. Whereas our current cities retards cultural evolution by isolating people in suburbs and cities without centers, arcologies would liberate cultural evolution by bringing the human species together in radically beautiful designs that would allow us to have a healthy, holistic relationship with the bioregion. Since arcologies would be planned by human intelligence, they would be placed in areas less vulnerable to natural disasters.

In this whole-systems approach to civilization creation, a social architecture could be created to allow each citizen equal opportunity to be a full member of the global democracy. Classism, racialism, and sexism could be eliminated as well as the institution of war because the key to being able to come together in a new way, a way that bonds us together rather than divides us into housing subdivisions, are virtues such as love, patience, and tolerance. A move into arcologies is a move to recognize our interdependence of everything around us. It is a move to further realize our humanity.

Albert Einstein said that imagination is more important than knowledge. Why is imagination more important than knowledge? Could it be that in order to understand the healing power of arcologies, we have to use our imaginations? We have to visualize joining our genius potentials with the genius of others to create a “fusion of genius” focused on transforming our unsustainable cities into solar powered arcologies. Don’t we have to be able to visualize the necessary steps it takes to arrive at this new paradigm through our imagination? How else will we be able to put together our knowledge in a novel way that is healthy for us as well as the planet? The key to saving endangered species is saving our selves. We will find the love needed to “love thy species as thyself?”


Check out the Sacred Arcology Workshop



Human Extinction or Lovolution?