Contemporary artist Steve Miller sent me the work he created out of my 2008 book, Almost Green: How I Saved 1/6th a Billionth of the Planet. It’s called “Library Branch.” Here’s a look between the covers.
The other day, I received an email that blew my mind. It was from New York contemporary artist Steve Miller, and it concerned my 2008 book Almost Green: How I Saved 1/6th of a Billionth of the Planet.
“Part of my practice is silk-screening into other books,” Miller wrote. “I recently completed a transformation of Almost Green. There are some sample pages below. I can assure you that in this effort you are in good company such as the Nobel Laureates Al Gore and James Watson.”
And then this, with these captions:
Amazing, right? It gets better: “When I make these books I silk screen print on every page of the book, and this can take a year to do. In your case two years.”
Wait. Two years?
As it turns out, for the past 24 months, while I’ve been going about my life, on the other side of the continent, Steve has been quietly transforming my work into something truly spectacular. His email explained that he’s done similar treatments with Al Gore’s Earth in the Balance and James Watson’s The Double Helix.
I called Steve up to thank him for the tremendous honor, and ask a few questions, starting with, why me? Why this?
“You know The Strand bookshop? I came across your book there one day,” Miller said. “Your book caught my attention because I liked the premise, this idea of how its not easy being green, it takes a conscious effort, and its a dialogue that we aspire to, but getting down to it is another thing. I knew I had a lot of the imagery that could go with that, and so I said, ‘this works for me.’”
Miller called the transformations “absurdist exercises that I do, that are completely financially futile.”
This also describes the Eco-Shed I built in my front yard, the writing studio that became an obsession and a curse—the building that is at the heart of Almost Green.
My book “embodies the dialogue we are all a part of , the contractions, the impossibility of it, the need to do it,” said Miller. “I hope that is implied in this object.”
“It is about doing something that doesn’t make any sense, it embodies all the absurdity of everyday reality.”
Miller is an accomplished artist. He has held 35 solo shows, all over the world. Currently, he is showing in a traveling museum show in Mexico and his next solo show opens January 9th in Bern, Switzerland. In August 2013, he will have a solo museum show at the National Academy Of Sciences in Washington, DC. That work is about a collaboration with the 2003 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, Rod McKinnon.
Miller does not yet have a name for this new work, but he is shipping it to me to check out first-hand, and sign, before sending back.
I can’t wait to see it.
Postscript, January 24 2013:
I don’t have the book yet, but Steve has sent along two additional images, including the dust jacket.
Watch “Climate of Doubt,” a fascinating PBS Frontline documentary.
I just sent the following letter to my local government leaders. Please feel free to copy and adapt it for your own muncipality.
Dear Mayor and Council,
Within the coming months, B.C. Hydro will be installing smart meters on homes and businesses across Bowen Island. I understand that, as in other communities in British Columbia, a number of residents are concerned with what they believe to be potential health risks associated with the meters.
I am writing to urge you to not to fall prey to the fear and alarmism that can spread quickly in the absence of strong leadership backed by factual and objective information. To be clear: There is no scientific evidence that the very low levels of radio frequency (RF) electromagnetic fields emitted at infrequent intervals by smart meters pose any risk to human health.
Smart meters are a very promising tool in the drive to modernize our electrical infrastructure. They could well help reduce the province’s overall energy demand and help British Columbians use our existing energy resources more efficiently. Ultimately, smart meters will help the province meet a greater portion of its energy needs through conservation—lessening the need to build new generating facilities.
Instead of being drawn into misinformation and hearsay, I urge you to instead show leadership. Please consider making a clear statement or resolution that Bowen Island Municipality supports the installation of smart meters as a promising new technology that will help members of the community better understand their energy consumption and ultimately reduce their overall energy use, saving money and conserving our shared resources.
That is a grassroots movement I would be proud to see my local government become a part of.
I’m looking forward to catching the Vancouver premier of Powerful: Energy for Everyone, a new documentary about our dysfunctional global energy system, and how we might fix it. Filmmaker David Chernushenko promises to “tackle the spin of the big energy lobby and dispel the myths of a ‘green utopia’ envisioned by many.” The film is billed as a candid examination of what a sustainable future may actually look like. It’s Friday afternoon at SFU Woodwards, part of the Projecting Change Film Festival. A clip from the film appears below.
I’ve been mulling over in my head potential replacements for the word “environmentalist,” a term that in the minds of many needs to be retired, then sent home with a pension and a gold watch.
Why? Maybe it’s that it’s just not a very inspiring word. Maybe it’s that the term suggests that there is this “thing” out there called “the environment” that we need to buckle down and fix. To me, “the environment” feels more like an obligation than something to get excited about fixing. It’s a catch-all collection of planetary ills: Deforestation? Overfishing? Whales? Particulates? Mercury? E-waste?
Can we please turn down the earnestat a few degrees?
Look, you’re all smart people out there. Maybe we can put our heads together and come up with some more upbeat words to describe those of us who know everything is ridiculously out of whack, and are working on the solutions, at home, at work, around the neighborhood, or across the country. Something a little more, er, marketable….
Let me throw one out to start. For me, it’s still all about climate. Attentive readers of this blog will note that I’m a big supporter of the atmosphere. It’s in rough shape, and pretty much everything down here depends upon us getting it back into balance, asap.
So call me an atmosphan. There.
Okay, now you. Go.
Blue Planet Green Living, a greener-living site based over in Iowa, is presently running the transcript of a long-ish two-part interview conducted with me a couple weeks ago. The discussion covers the recession, President Obama, green building, Canada’s tar sands, transformational change, the challenges of living both rural and responsibly, and yes, everyone’s favorite topic, the mixed blessing of artificial turf soccer fields. Check it out.
Bowen Queen ferry photo by Chris Corrigan.
British Columbia is about to lose 975 green collar jobs for the next eight weeks— and potentially longer. That’s because the only two industrial-scale Forest Stewardship Council sawmills in British Columbia—the same mills that sliced up the framing lumber for my Eco-Shed (see below)—are about to fall silent.
Tembec, the company in question, is shutting down its Elko and Canal Flats sawmills for two months as of early next week. When you factor in a third plant that will also spool down for the duration, 975 employees will be out of work.
The fact is, you don’t have to be a solar-panel installer to have a green-collar job. These mill workers were processing lumber from just about the only industrial forestlands in all of British Columbia that are truly managed sustainably. The vast majority of the rest are clear-cuts—the standard-issue take-no-prisoners logging strategy that has, over decades, devastated thousands of square miles of ecosystem in this province.
Here’s a snippet from Almost Green that explains why FSC lumber is so important:
In a nutshell, the FSC tree logo does for lumber what the Energy Star label does for appliances and windows—it lets you know you’ve made the greener choice. An FSC stamp guarantees that the wood adheres to a set of ten principles of forest stewardship, including a set of kinder, gentler harvesting practices. FSC-certified foresters work selectively—leaving tracts of trees intact—and pay close attention to issues such as erosion, wildlife habitat, streams, and lakes. The program was set up to protect biodiversity long before greenhouse gas emissions really hit the radar screen, but it certainly advances carbon-conservative practices along the way.
The shutdowns shouldn’t surprise anyone, really: As I note in my book, I only managed to get my hands on the ultra-rare Tembec eco-studs by pure fluke. (It pretty much fell off the back of a truck.) Tembec has shipped almost every stick of the dimensional lumber produced at Elko and Canal flats exclusively into the States—in railcar quantities, and likely to big-box home-improvement chains—and people just aren’t building much of anything down that way these days.
The company has failed spectacularly to market its responsibly harvested lumber here in B.C.—the place where Tembec’s sustainably managed forests grow, the place where the logs are cut up, and the place where the green-collar workers have been punching the clock and making it all work. As I document in the book, none of the local Home Depots and lumber yards I called had even heard of the stuff. Consumers can’t ask for FSC lumber if they don’t even know it’s an option.
Now, it isn’t just the company’s product that is heading south this week, it’s their business, too. A damn shame. Does anyone else see a lesson here?
Coming soon – the latest Tweets from James on Twitter – watch this space.
A few things I want to do, and do more of, in 2009:
- Get more involved in helping my community prepare for the coming ground shifts. I’m hoping to work with the municipality to develop an active-transportation plan for the island, which is a prerequisite for implementation — going after public funds to build the stuff. Going to try and use social-media tools to get as much input as possible.
- Working with my wife, Elle, to launch several Bowfeast farmer’s markets over the summer. We are eyeing the North Dock as a location for this year’s market — a little- used space over the water next to the Island’s ferry dock that has huge potential — see below to get your bearings. Hope to bring back all the farmers, apiarists, and food gardeners from last year, and add a few more.
- I’m going to work to more closely align my work with my values; I’m hoping to keep writing, but also develop an impresario role, using Web 2.0 tools such as mapping, tagging, and wikis to help people of common purpose connect with each other.
- Buy more second-hand, everything. Value Village, yeah.
- Ramp up the food garden. Last year was a great disappointment but we have been working on improving the soil over the fall and winter, and we have great hopes for a bumper crop this year. We’ve been hoarding mason jars for at least a year, and hope to do some canning and preserving.
- Camping, kayaking, and canoeing. The kids are big enough to appreciate all of it now.
And how about you? What do you want to accomplish?