Oil, 18" x 36"
©2020 Thomas Anderson
Much like “Until the I Becomes We,” I fully envisioned “Anthropocene” while driving from Charleston, South Carolina to Hilton Head one evening in October of 2019. I saw the painting in my head. I did not know how I would execute it – oils, ink, mixed media, large, small, etc. – but the design was complete. And in April of 2020, shortly after the stay-at-home orders were issued, I went for a walk and not 50 feet from my house I found a recently deceased ridgway’s rail that had been hit by a car. I photographed it and added it to the collage and sketch that was becoming the painting. As I say repeatedly to anyone who will listen, I do not have confidence that homo sapiens will exist 100 years from now. Our collective shortsightedness, our unsustainable lifestyles and overpopulation combined with our collective self-absorption, violence, racism, delusions of grandeur and denial of basic facts is a recipe for the extinction of humanity. Can we truly be the pinnacle of evolution? As if this is not unfortunate enough, we will be taking most of the Earth’s current life with us as we go.
I will be the first to admit that Anthropocene is on the nose, but intentionally so. The massive thunderhead and lightning are exactly as I witnessed on the road in South Carolina. This is climate change, the warming atmosphere producing increasingly violent weather. The electric lights in the landscape are houses. Suburbia where wilderness had once been, further fragmenting precious habitat. The road and road building accomplish the same destruction of habitat. Intact, healthy habitat holds Earth’s biodiversity and this biodiversity is why Earth is a home for life like nothing else we know. Human beings cannot recreate biodiversity in a lab, and we are arrogant to assume we can. Why are we choosing to destroy it in the first place? We do not know if anything like Earth exists anywhere else in the universe. Yet we plunder away, confident our inconsequential little lives are the most important things in the universe, that we’ll find another planet to move to and trash. The ridgway’s rail, an endangered species, hit by a car, tossed to the side of the road, could not be more symbolic of how little we know, how little we care. When the biodiversity goes, we will go with it.
Will all our achievements end up as layer of gray goo in the strata of sediment some millions of years from now? Will intelligent life from some far off world find this layer, and the bones of billions and billions of homo sapiens, and pity us for squandering our life support system? Earth will eventually recover without us. I only hope it retains some genetic knowledge to prevent evolution from repeating the same mistake again.
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