These images are part of the exhibit, “Nature v Building” which is showing at the Green Olive Cafe for the month of August. They are part of a larger project titled “Changing Squamish” which documents the gentrification and “high modernist ideology” working itself through Sḵwx̱wú7mesh. By looking beyond the economic benefits of gentrification, this project hopes to draw attention to the forces of our time, opening dialogue on difficult issues and challenging our own understanding of progress and so-called sustainability. These series of images bring to the forefront the environmental damage of the consumer driven and extractivism industry and hope to inspire critical thinking and a more just path forward for people and the environment. Globally, is it just that one side of the world is plundered for its resources, so that the other can maintain western, high-consumptive lifestyles? Specifically, my thoughts fall on beautiful and pristine environments, cities and towns that retained their culture and diversity and conversely, to areas like Squamish that are being commodified and developed without consideration of the aesthetic and well-being of the place, diversity, and inclusion of all. Moreover, I hope these images remind viewers of the finite and fragile planet that we all share.
The problems that come with capitalism and its sole objective to make the most money in the shortest amount of time can’t be ignored: expansion results in urban sprawl expanding into green areas while consumption-orientated environments increase pollution in other forms, there is rising inequality and unaffordability, displacement of people, loss of character and connection to place. Will working through the same system that brought us here, save us? Viewers of these photographers are asked to consider the following questions:
What happens if we question the idea that unconscious growth is the solution to our ecological and social crises of our time? What if we realize that the words “sustainability” and “mutually beneficial” are played in such a way to lure support for developers’ projects and shape human behavior? What if we question “greenwashing” and the technological advancements that fail to look beyond climate change? Such “solutions” don’t address the root causes of our problems and leave us with the false impression that we have viable solutions when the reality is opposite. What could our world look like if developments considered existing residents, including Indigenous voices, natural landscapes, critical view corridors, public space and seven generations ahead? If our societies were built around values of inclusion, diversity and environmental, social and economic justice?
We could reorganize economic activity from extraction and domination toward cooperation and caring, where quality of life is the focus, rather than material wealth. Such a just transition entails moving from gentrification to community land rights and rent control, from incinerators and landfills to zero waste, from dirty energy to clean power owned by the community, not corporations. It means moving from the profit-driven, growth-dependent economy to giving up some now so future generations can have more later. A deeply democratic economic system that is reasonably egalitarian and highly regulated would allow citizens to have a real say in their community. We must remain vigilant to the political forces around us. It takes but a moment for the power to shift from the people to the few elites. We all play a crucial part in shaping our world, including influencing government decisions. We must remember that complacency and silence is perceived as consent.
This project is made possible by the Squamish’s Art Council Community Enhancement Grant. www.squamishartscouncil.com
For more information:
To see this series in person, please visit the Green Olive Cafe located at 38161 Cleveland Avenue, Squamish, BC.