Human waste, driven by consumerism is destroying our planet. This blatant environmental destruction is more abundant in some places over others. Detroit; for example, is overflowing with confronting visual evidence of decay, so much so that photographers often find inspiration from the post-apocalyptic style streets and derelict homes .“We all live in some form of Detroit” declares (Mirzoeff 294). Detroit has become a disturbing testament to the wastelands that humans have created in Western societies, via mass consumerism. The National Building Museum in Washington D.C holds an exhibition called ‘Detroit is no dry bones’ where Sociologist and Photographer, Camilo Jose Vergara, travels annually to document the city’s decline.
(Jose Vergara Camilo)
It is not simply the final products we sell which are causing such an immense environmental downfall, it is the entire production, the harmful materials, scraps and the whole process, with the assumption that this is normal or the best way to meet demands. Mirzoeff talks of Grace Lee Boggs, a director, activist and philosopher who blames the negligence and consumer attitude for the backwards thinking and careless behaviour causing environmental harm to worsen. “We have to now engage in visionary organising to think about how life after industrial, fossil-fuel based culture might be possible” (Mirzoeff 294). Whilst pondering these issues I did a quick sketch of the famous Uncle Sam poster – a piece of propaganda which flooded America during the preparation of troops for World War II. The irony and relevance of this sketch is that we blindly follow what generations before us have done and told us is the right thing to do. American Soldiers are some of the most patriotic in the world as it is heavily ingrained in their culture that serving their country is the highest form of honor. Questioning this practice would not be wise, perhaps because the truth is entirely subjective, war like consumerism is an economy and hugely relies on money, leading to detrimental effects on the environment (nuclear damage vs human waste).
The sketch replaces the original inscription with the confronting message of “we want waste” to provoke thought around the demand we create for the supply of unethical products and waste. Sadly this behaviour isn’t entirely conscious – from a young age we are told that we need things to keep up with the Joneses basically. The consumer will “buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like” (David fincher). Most of these once loved objects end up collecting dust in a closet. Alike the original poster, my drawing encapsulates its persuasive and intimidating Uncle Sam who comes across as a character one wouldnt dare to question. Overall, the link between the two posters plays on the fact that the original war propaganda poster persuades naive individuals to follow through with something seriously life threatening without all the facts, much like mass-consumerism.. Consumers want waste! or at least they have prioritised instant gratification and neglected the bigger picture. Perhaps the similarity between the word detroit and the word deteriorate is no coincidence.
Fight club David Fincher, 20th century fox, 1999
Jose Vergara Camilo, 3497 Mack Avenue, 2007, photograph, Detroit is no dry bones,https://www.nbm.org/exhibition/detroit-no-dry-bones/
Mirzoeff Nicholas,HOW TO SEE THE WORLD, penguin, 2015