Tag: daily life

Art & Climate Change

Tropical Diversity
‘Tropical Diversity’ ink collage on paper © J.Hart 2019 4″ x 10″

As some of my readers may know, I’m an artist (www.jhart-artist.com), and I write a blog from my website as well as from www.realmofcolor.wordpress.com. Ever since my graduation from Rhode Island School of Design, a lifetime ago, I have been haunted by the question of how art, and I as an artist, could respond authentically and adequately to what I witness both in every day life and read in books about the unfolding catastrophe that is climate change (the most recent book I read is David Quammen’s The Song of the Dodo, which is a great read on how extinction works and the scientists who study and theorize about it).

The question has a number of facets: firstly, there is the issue of content. Do I use figurative imagery to express my moral ideas as someone like Kara Walker or Banksey does? Or do I avoid the whole dilemma by making abstract art like Thomas Nozkowski     or Howard Hodgkin, both of whom I admire.

Then there is the relationship of art to the environment. Ever since I was trained as a painter, the understanding within the art world is that a serious, professional artist would, of course, make large pieces of art, and lots and lots of them (even Hodgkin, at the end of his life, succumbed to this pressure!). The issues of use of the Earth’s resources, storage, and pollution are ignored within the same rationale that is used to justify abstraction: art is essentially good and operates outside real world norms.

And finally there is the most difficult of problems: the way art is and has been my whole life tied to runaway capitalism and the superwealthy. I went to a Saatchi Other Art Fair recently here in Dallas, and I was appalled by the banality of the work and the sheer commercialism of it all. The works, mainly paintings, were of the Zombie Formalism or Zombie Abstraction variety (https://news.artnet.com/opinion/history-zombie-formalism-1318352). The work was overwhelmingly decorative, which is to say without content at all (and especially nothing, God forbid, of a political nature). I found the only paintings with a heart or soul were those of Jammie Holmes (www.jammieholmes.com); his were also one of the few booths showing figurative art.

So, presently, I have decided certain things about how I will make art in this fraught time. First, and foremost, I am working small. My most recent pieces are 4 inches by 10 inches!

Secondly, I am working with inexpensive materials:  collage using paint chips from paint stores; ink on paper; and whatever art supplies I have on hand. This latter category is rarely talked about, but, in a consumer society, we artists are encouraged to buy a lot of art supplies, and to spend a lot of money framing our art as an expression of its value and our professionalism.

Thirdly, I am offering my work in multiples online and in book formats which are more accessible. Any large work I do will be ‘in situ’; murals are a good way to display art publicly and live with it privately without framing or storage.

And, finally, I am continuing to alternate between figurative and abstract work. This is a conscious political choice to avoid that recent most pernicious expectation that we are all in the business of working on our ‘brand.’  My work does not represent a brand! And, as a thinking, feeling artist, if my need for different formal means for different projects messes up the marketing of my art, well, I think I can live with that!

Perhaps all of these seem like small choices, but they are, for me, better choices, and more in keeping with the Earth first values that I am attempting to live. I would love to hear how you have resolved the dilemmas between your work and your life in the time of climate change…please drop me a comment!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

12 Tips for Healthy Sleep

Charlotte asleep for Better Choices copy
Baby deep asleep! watercolor pencils & gouache on paper copyright J.Hart

Living with a newborn in the house, I have been thinking about sleep a lot lately! I follow Dr. Peter Attia, https://peterattiamd.com/ a doctor who focuses on longevity and health. In his toolkit for longevity, https://peterattiamd.com/the-5-tactics-in-the-longevity-toolkit/, sleep is up there with nutrition and exercise!

So I went to the library to get a book he suggested: Matthew Walker’s Why We Sleep. Dr. Walker (whom you can hear in this podcast too https://peterattiamd.com/matthewwalker1/) gives a deep dive into what good sleep is and why it is essential for good health, as well as explaining all sorts of interesting sleep mysteries: why my grandchild won’t sleep through the night: why my elderly friend has insomnia: and whether sleeping pills are really as benign as they are promoted to be (they are not!).

The easiest take aways from his book are the NIH tips (Appendix pages 341-342) for a healthy sleep:

  1. Stick to the same sleep schedule, every day of the week & weekend. Set an alarm for bedtime! Create a very stable sleep pattern of eight (8) hours a night.
  2. Exercise every day but no later than two (2) hours before bedtime.
  3. Avoid caffeine (coffee, colas, teas, & chocolate), which can take as long as eight hours to wear off, and, of course, nicotine.
  4. Avoid alcoholic drinks before bed.
  5. Avoid large meals & drinks late at night.
  6. Avoid medicines that delay or disrupt your sleep (check with your doctor or pharmacist about these).
  7. Don’t take naps after 3 p.m. (but do take a nap earlier/ page 70 on biphasic sleep).
  8. Relax before bed (read or listen to music in a low lit room).
  9. Take a hot bath before bed.
  10. Dark bedroom, cool bedroom, gadget-free bedroom (avoid blue lights from TVs, computers, iPads, Kindle, etc.).
  11. Natural sunlight exposure, thirty minutes every day.
  12. Don’t lie in bed awake getting anxious about not sleeping; get up and do some relaxing activity until you feel sleepy.

Sleep is a health topic that is never dealt with in the media, in spite of sleep deprivation being responsible for more car crashes than alcohol and drugs combined! So we are forced, once again, to resist the ideas and habits of the dominant culture and to create for ourselves and our families healthier routines of sleeping, eating, and living.

Sleep well and deeply!

 

 

News vs. Noise (Parts 1 & 2)

blue shadow selfie web copy
‘Blue Shadow Selfie’ Oil on canvas © J.Hart

In October of 2017, I posted a blog about the difficulty of separating news from noise. I was reminded of it this morning (March 18, 2019) when I read the following in the Guardian (a left leaning newspaper out of the UK). It had, under the rubric of  ‘Around the World’ the following leads: Meteor blast over Bering Sea was 10 times size of Hiroshima https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/mar/18/meteor-blast-over-bering-sea-was-10-times-size-of-hiroshima; Cyclone Idai devastates Mozambique port city https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/mar/18/cyclone-idai-death-toll-climbs-over-120-in-mozambique-and-zimbabwe; Northern Ireland/Three dead after ‘crush’ at St. Patrick’s Day party https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/mar/18/two-people-die-at-st-patricks-day-party-in-northern-ireland; and Hong Kong faces commuter chaos after rare train collision, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/mar/18/hong-kong-faces-commuter-chaos-after-rare-train-collision.

In the first incident, almost no one even noticed the meteor as it happened in a very remote part of the world. (It was unexpected though Nasa is supposed to be tracking large space objects heading our way.) The cyclone* in Mozambique left 1.5 million people affected, wiping out the town of Beira and killing 215. Three young people were died at the St. Patrick’s day party; and in Hong Kong, 6 million commuters were stranded for the day.

For me, the interesting but difficult part of reading the news is how to prioritize the information; how to sift out the noise; and how to take note of the information that is most important and/or useful. It is a very mixed blessing to get the “news” from all around the globe. But we live now in a globalized economy and how we live impacts people all over the world!

There are a couple of filters I use presently. First there is the idea of scale. Three people killed in a party in Northern Ireland shouldn’t make my radar; one and a half million people suffering after an extremely large cyclone should.

Second, the depth of suffering is a filter for me. Six million Chinese being inconvenienced for a day is noise; over a million and a half Africans (cyclone hit Malawi and Zimbabwe too) whose homes and towns were destroyed is news.

And finally, really global news, that is, news about Earth, interests me. The cyclone in Africa could be connected to the large hurricanes we are experiencing in the Americas due to climate change (the article did not say!); and the meteor is a constant and good reminder how random our safety on this planet actually is!

*A cyclone is the same as a hurricane or typhoon. The name differs depending on where the weather phenomena occurs geographically.

For other ideas about how to negotiate what passes for news today, I am reposting the 2017 ‘News vs. Noise’:

After a break of almost ten years, with the election of Trump I began once again to watch “the news.”  I read two newspapers (The Guardian & The New York Times), check out the headlines of one other (The Washington Post) and visit a couple of online sources: The Rachel Maddow Show (for her historical slant on the news); some online magazines (Treehugger ; Orion; and Facebook (in order to follow Bernie Sanders, Rep. Guiterrez from Chicago, & March for Science).

In the U.S., my news choices are considered left of center politically, but to most of the rest of the industrialized world, they are very much centrist. What becomes apparent after a few weeks of following the news, is how little actual information in presented, and how repetitious the stories and commentaries are. After a news story has peaked, it often disappears even if the event itself is still in play.:

https://chicago.suntimes.com/chicago-politics/puerto-rico-hurricane-relief-brown/

The news is also very generalized and homogenized, much like our food, housing, and clothing. During this past horrific hurricane season, all the news outlets carried the same story describing the storms themselves with barely a mention of the global warming that was responsible for their ferocity and size:

http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-climate-change-natural-disasters-20170907-htmlstory.html

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-09-04/cyclone-and-extreme-weather-events-intensifying-bom-says/8869042

The other thing about the news is that almost all of it is “noise” not really news. My daughter the other day asked me how to differentiate between news and noise; in other words, with the limited time we have, what subjects should we pay attention to and what should we dismiss?

My answer to this is in the present climate is the following:

1. If the news is about an existential threat, it should be followed and understood.

So the recent information about the demise of flying insects is newsworthy:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/oct/21/insects-giant-ecosystem-collapsing-human-activity-catastrophe

while Trump’s tweets or speeches  (for instance, his inability to make empathetic condolence calls or his dislike of football players’ civil disobedience) are not.

Existential threats include problems with our food supply:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/oct/05/vast-animal-feed-crops-meat-needs-destroying-planet

And science-based articles on extreme climate change that will in the near future make the earth much less habitable than presently:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/aug/02/climate-change-to-cause-humid-heatwaves-that-will-kill-even-healthy-people

2. If the news is about action taken, it is worth knowing. This is more difficult to find out about as the government becomes less transparent and more secretive. Rachel Maddow is good about following underreported stories. With the foxes in charge of the henhouse in the present Administration, these stories become more important:

https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/03/how-trump-is-changing-science-environment/

3. And finally, and most difficult to find (hence this blog!) news about what to do under these difficult circumstances both politically as the federal government is dysfunctional and dangerous:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/20/climate/epa-climate-change.html?mtrref=www.facebook.com)

and the state governments are very uneven:

https://www.fastcompany.com/3053928/these-states-are-the-most-and-least-at-risk-from-climate-change

In California where the state is helpful:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/brand-connect/ucdavis/protecting-californias-farmworkers-as-temperatures-climb/?hpid=hp_no-name_national-rightrail-brandconnect%3Ahomepage%2Fbrandconnect-sidebar

compared to Texas where it is not:

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/oct/23/post-hurricane-cleanup-work-health-safety

And what to do personally:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/14/smarter-living/how-to-clean-up-after-a-hurricane-or-flood.html?mabReward=ACTM3&recid=61bc0d1a-fc3d-4d34-7023-2695078b3d52&recp=7&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&region=CColumn&module=Recommendation&src=rechp&WT.nav=RecEngine&mtrref=undefined&auth=login-email

Better choices, for me, begin with the actions I take including resistance to information, much of which comes under the heading “news,” that is distracting, anxiety-provoking, and/or unhelpful. In this blog, I want to show you how I am deciding on the best actions to take in these hard times, and hopefully it will help you in your planning too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When is Profit not profitable?

Apples on green place web
‘Apples on Green Plate’ oil on canvas © J.Hart

The choices we make as individuals, to grow our own food; to curtail our shopping; to live a zero waste life, might seem beside the point, especially when seen against the horrific worldwide rise of abusive authoritarian governments. For me, the question becomes: what is the engine that is driving these disastrous governments; and where is the point at which we can effect the most pressure? As I understand the system, most of the necessities we buy (one of the most basic is food) are provided by giant corporations whose sole reason for being is profit. It is the money from these corporate entities and owners that supports our present politicians.

Once profit becomes the only goal of every action taken, the more humane and real needs of people such as health, safety, and peace are ignored or even actively destroyed! But conversely, if we, as individual consumers, also make our individual profit and comfort the end all and be all of our lives, we collude with the corporations in our own destruction and support our own impoverishment!  The corporations and the billionaires who own them can only exist if we buy what they are selling! (For a concise repeat of this message: http://realfarmacy.com/the-woody-harrelson-video-message-the-mainstream-media-does-not-want-you-to-watch/

Surprisingly, we are not captives to the status quo, especially here in North America; (some other occupied and exploited parts of the world are not so lucky). We can disengage from the corporate stranglehold by refusing to buy what we don’t honestly need, and by creating ourselves what we do need. I feel that the most basic way to disengage from an unhealthy economic system is in the foods we chose to buy, and the foods we take the time to grow.

Our industrial profit-driven economic system views resources (soil, fossil fuel, and, yes, people) as unlimited. ( This link by a car engineer who now “builds” forests, gives a very clear description of the difference between industrial and natural uses of resources: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mjUsobGWhs8&t=17s) It sees soil*, our most important strategic resource, as merely another material to be used and used up (without any thought being given to replenishing the soil!) to grow massive amounts foods that we can buy very cheaply at home and export abroad.

Because we are all habituated to look for the “biggest bang for our buck” we happily buy the inexpensive wheat, soy, and corn which make up most fast foods and commercial food products. The actual costs of these foods-pollution, government subsidies, and the ruination of the soil- are hidden from us, but their health costs have been directly linked to the obesity and diabetes epidemics in the States!

But how do I convince you that what seems profitable is not; that buying food which saves you a couple of bucks will, in the long run, ruin your health? How do I show you that by buying food that is fast and convenient-ready made, widely advertised, and easily accessible- you are profiting large corporations, wealthy stockholders, and billionaire owners that have neither your health nor your well-being at heart? How do I encourage you to learn to grow your own food and not assume that large farms will do it for you? (The methods that agroecology are utilizing to grow food on farms are the same ones that will allow you to grow food in your backyard! )

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/26/opinion/farming-organic-nature-movement.html

How do we, who are eating better, choosing organically raised produce, raising our own foods (even if only on windowsills and balconies), convince friends and family that taking the time and money to support local organic farms or grow food themselves will profit us all in ways that cannot be expressed simply as the bottom line? Or perhaps health should be the real bottom line!

*(An important book that explains how soil depletion can destroy whole societies is Dirt by David Montgomery https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sQACN-XiqHU).

https://www.matthieuricard.org/fr/blog/posts/justice-sociale-societe-de-consommation-et-simplicite-volontaire?fbclid=IwAR0qs2GhqhZCkp2eJy6DJTdpcads93n2LbeDEE-Cc5IBictZVuc1zPRUWr8