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Art and the Environment

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Life has an impact on the planets. The composition of the very air we breathe is controlled by the action of microorganisms. Trees and plants bind topsoil and can modify the climate in particular regions. Tiny animals like corals create structures such as Australia's Great Barrier Reef so large that they can be seen from space.

Human beings, along with all life, modify the environments in which they live. Some cultures have lived in careful harmony with their surroundings for countless generations. Others, like the Neolithic farmers of England's Pennines and Lake District denuded whole forests and changed their environments in irreversible ways.

There is a great deal of environmental concern today because, unlike in the past, our systems of chemical and environmental monitoring are so incredibly sensitive as to detect almost infinitesimal amounts of pollutants in the environment. High-speed computers also allow us to model trends and changes in complex systems like weather.

It is often said that the environmental problems that face us today are the results of science and technology - our new ability to magnify the effects of our actions. But our attitude to the environment also arises out of the culture in which we live. Indigenous cultures, for example, pride themselves upon having a living relationship with the land and an ability to live in harmony with the world around it. (Although this claim is disputed by others.)

It is for these reasons that artists, who explore and experiment with the values of society also have a role to play in the environmental movement.

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