every thing you own was made by human hands

Or at least parts of it were and then they were assembled, packaged, transported, and sold by humans. And every thing you (and I) have in your possession required energy – extracted and refined fossil fuels which require energy – to extract, manufacture, and transport it. Likely, part if not all of these things were made in China. And likely, part if not all of these things will end up back in China in the form of waste to be taken apart by human hands. And the ships that transported them to and from their new home and eventual grave were made in China by humans. And those ships go to die in Bangladesh where they are disassembled by human hands (and often by barefoot men between the ages of 18 and twenty something).

This monotonously unfolding chain of events is the subject of the documentary Manufactured Landscapes, which I finally just watched (it had been on my list for a couple of years). It may sound boring, but it is visually stunning and truly eye-opening. With minimal dialogue, the film shows us the work of Edward Burtynsky who has been photographing landscapes since the 80s. In a sense, the film is a culmination of his work as he delved deeper from extraction of earth materials all the way to the end of the line for the products and ships created with them. Of course, through this culmination we see the real impact of these activities.

The film sure got the wheels in my brain turning about this world we’ve manufactured. We’ve not only physically changed the way the landscape looks, we’ve changed the quality of the air, water, and soil. It’s the type of film that motivates me to reconnect with nature, to stop supporting a destructive economy, and to keep talking about what we need to do to move humankind in a more positive direction. I hope you’ll get a chance to check it out.

In the meantime, here is Edward Burtynsky’s TED talk about the film and the trailer.

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