Culture Shock: A Very Special Earth Day Column

John Bear
3 min read
Erf Day
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To paraphrase Jimmy, the drunken misanthrope from the film Art School Confidential, I’ve been postponing suicide on the off chance I’ll witness some glorious plague inflict unfathomable suffering on my hateful species.

In the meantime, I try to recycle my cans.

We are stuck on this miniscule rock, floating in a vast sea of dust and nothingness. Some say our race of hairless bipedal apes was put here by aliens. Others say that aliens would never come here, as Earth is regarded by many as the Arkansas of the galaxy.

Whatever the reason we’re here may be, we celebrate Earth Day every April: one lousy day for the blue rock that sustains us.

And there’s plenty to do. The city of Albuquerque has a plethora of cool stuff going on down at the BioPark on Saturday, April 23, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Check out for more details. If you come out on Earth Day, bring your old cell phones for recycling, cell phones being chock-full of environmentally nasty items like metallic lithium. They also make humans far more annoying than they were to begin with.

For the artsy tree huggers among us, the
New Mexico Museum of Art (107 West Palace) in Santa Fe has an exhibition, Earth Now: American Photographers and the Environment , that features photographs by the likes of Ansel Adams and Eliot Porter. The museum’s Curator of Photography Katherine Ware assured me that all the other artists in the show are alive. I feel it would be hard to celebrate the life-giving boulder we’re trapped on if everyone in the show was dead.

Many of the images featured in the companion book—same title, authored by Ware and available from Museum of New Mexico Press—are disturbing. There are dead roadrunners, bomb craters, rusty machinery, gravel pits and other environmental degradation. A solitary tree is lonely against a backdrop of skyscrapers. Of course there are some lovely landscape shots. My favorite is the one of Port-a-Johns in front of a plateau. The overarching theme is the collision of nature and man. Most of the photos also appear in the exhibition and they are all beautiful, even when they’re terrifying.

So climb into your internal combustion vehicle and drive to Santa Fe, or better yet, take the train. The show is up until October, in case you can’t make it on Earth Day. And while you’re celebrating, pick up a piece of litter. We will one day be consumed by the event horizon of the all seeing, all knowing supermassive black hole. Until that day comes, this is our home and we have been terrible tenants.
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