All posts tagged: Progress

Content exploring the nature or definitions of progress.

Deep Space Nine Station Artwork

The Cost of Change: Star Trek Deep Space Nine’s Progress

“This may be the last time we’re all together. But no matter what the future holds, no matter how far we travel, a part of us – a very important part – will always remain here, on Deep Space Nine.” – DS9’s finale, What You Leave Behind  Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s finale aired 17 years ago, and as much as the new films have brought the public back to the classic science fiction franchise, Star Trek always worked best for me on the small screen, telling human stories through actors with rubber prostheses attached to their faces. I miss that type of Trek, the tales it told. Deep Space Nine is my favourite Trek. While other shows in the franchise featured starships flying around the galaxy in search of new life and civilizations, DS9 stayed put, concerning itself with the day-to-day happenings of its sprawling cast living within its constructed universe. Onboard this ramshackle space station situated near Bajor, an alien world emerging from decades of brutal occupation, actions have weight, carry short and long-term consequences. …

Burtynsky's Manufactured Landscapes Orange River Plate 14

Manufactured Landscapes: A meditation on man-made spaces

I don’t recall where I first came across the work of Edward Burtynsky; it could have been at the library, the bookstore, or one of those coffee shops with actual coffee table books. All I remember was being drawn to the front cover image of his collection of photographs, to the intense fluorescent shock of orange lava snaking through charred lands: A beautiful and awesome volcanic landscape. Only when I read the title, half immersed in the river’s glow, did I realize something was amiss. Manufactured Landscapes. As I flipped through the book, the beauty that I saw and the awe that I held for the landscape fell away, replaced by a swell of alarm and disbelief. The river wasn’t lava, the setting wasn’t volcanic, and nature had nothing to do with the creation of this particular landscape. One of the most powerful things art can do is challenge us to examine the assumptions we hold about the world. Burtynsky’s photographic forays into industrial shadows pushed me to confront my own notions on beauty and ugliness, the value …

George Orwell’s Some Thoughts on the Common Toad

As an aspiring essayist, it shames me to admit that I have only recently become familiar with the narrative and critical essays of George Orwell. While I have read his manifesto on clear writing, Politics and the English Language, I remained ignorant on the bulk of his work until a chance meeting with a shelf in a very comfortable section of the library. It was a joy to discover for the first time, Orwell’s quietly devastating account of time spent at a London workhouse in The Spike, his reflections on the ugly facets of colonialism in Shooting an Elephant, and his comment on the futility of vengeance, distilled into one waxy yellow face, in Revenge is Sour. Whatever the subject matter, Orwell had a knack for getting to its root with a concrete metaphor or an unforgettable statement. As an essayist, there is no greater skill than to be able to convey exactly what one intends, vividly and without doubt. For this is the writer’s truth, and Orwell spoke it as well as anyone. Nature appreciation …

Jim Henson's Dinosaurs Word Cloud

A 90’s Flashback: Dinosaurs’ Changing Nature

Television sitcoms are unlikely sources for meaningful stories about the environment. But there are exceptions. I found one of them in Jim Henson’s Dinosaurs, a puppet show that ran for four seasons from 1991 to 1994. Dinosaurs takes place in 60 million years BC and follows the lives of a typical dinosaur family: Earl Sinclair, father; Fran Sinclair, mother (voiced by Jessica Walters, for all you Arrested Development fans out there); Robbie Sinclair, son; Charlene Sinclair, daughter; Junior Sinclair, aka The Baby; and Grandmother Phillips. The show is a satirized portrayal of the American household; each episode typically features the family dealing with topical issues of the day. The LA Times described the show as a “consistently funny comedy to chew on, the only spot on television where the Mesozoic Era intersects with witty social commentary.” Many regarded the show as a unique blend of The Honeymooners, The Flintstones, and All in the Family. The series finale titled “Changing Nature” revolves around Earl’s irresponsible actions towards the environment, and provided an emotional and lasting experience …

Jörg-Müller The Changing Countryside - May 1953

Narrative in Art: The Changing Countryside

Over the years, I’ve come to recognize and appreciate the power of art, especially in its ability to deeply resonate with people.  Several years ago, a colleague of mine put together a fascinating presentation about the environmental themes of art commissioned during the Industrial Revolution. During this period of immense change and upheaval, several artists sought to contrast industrialization and urbanization with romantic pastoral images of sky, rural life, and nature. Each of the paintings in her presentation were affective and provocative, each conveying a richly detailed but wordless story. Recently, I came across a series of pictures that reminded me of that presentation. They originate from a book called The Changing Countryside by Jörg Müller. In it there are seven murals which detail a steady progression of natural and human induced changes of a landscape over time. To me, they worked together to tell a story rich in environmental themes, ideas, and connections. Click on the pictures if you want a more detailed look: Image from Jörg Müller’s Facebook page at the time of this …