Today’s Guest Post is by Shiralee Hudson Hill, Lead Interpretive Planner at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada.
Scientists around the world are debating that we have entered a new geological epoch – Anthropocene – one defined by human impact on the Earth. This fall the Art Gallery of Ontario and National Gallery of Canada are hosting simultaneous exhibitions, both entitled Anthropocene, that reveal the enormity of human changes on the planet. Featuring the work of photographer Edward Burtynsky and filmmakers Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier, the exhibitions include film, photography and augmented reality.
To complement the exhibitions, the AGO recently launched Into the Anthropocene, a podcast series that dives deep into the issues orbiting the Anthropocene, highlighting Indigenous, Canadian, and international perspectives on climate change, decolonization, biodiversity, and urbanization.
The podcast was produced by AGO interpretive planners, including myself and Nadia Abraham; Matthew Scott in the AGO’s media team was our production producer. During our initial planning meetings with the exhibitions’ curators – the AGO’s Sophie Hackett and the NGC’s Andrea Cunard – our minds immediately leapt to the idea of creating a podcast. The issues surrounding the Anthropocene were so vast and complex; we knew we wouldn’t be able to explore the depth and breadth of the issues within a traditional exhibition context. A podcast would enable us to explore issues sparked by the exhibition and create a dynamic space for a diversity of perspectives.
Including Indigenous voices was paramount.
We were thrilled when Anishinaabekwe dancer, activist and storyteller Sarain Fox agreed to be our podcast host. Her dedication, generosity and creativity throughout the entire process continue to inspire us. We couldn’t have someone as amazing as Sarain host the podcast without also inviting her to share her story. In the series’ bonus episode, Sarain speaks about growing up in Barrie, Ontario, leaving New York City to join the Idle No More protests, and taking Prime Minister Justin Trudeau through Shoal Lake 40 – an isolated First Nations community under a boil water advisory for nearly 20 years.
Many facets to the story
After interviewing the artists in Episode 1, and then exploring the top 10 things you need to know about science of the Anthropocene in Episode 2, Episode 3 features four women working to decolonize the Anthropocene and brings issues of environmental racism to the forefront. The episode begins with Sarain interviewing scholars Zoe Todd and Heather Davis.
“We can’t talk about a common humanity when the dominant structures governing the planet operate on white supremacy, extraction, exploitation and oppression. You can’t say we’re all in this together when we aren’t,” Zoe says.
The episode then discusses the effects of climate change in the Arctic with Inuit rights advocate, Nobel Prize nominee and author of The Right to be Cold, Sheila Watt-Cloutier.
“This history of this violence in our communities is now mirroring the violence that we’re inflicting upon our planet. Human trauma and planet trauma are one of the same,” Sheila says.
Sociologist and author of There’s Something in the Water Dr. Ingrid Waldron discusses environmental racism: “When we think about environmental racism, we have to look at the intersection of race, and class, and income, and poverty, because those things together make a community less powerful.”
Episode 4 tackles the urban Anthropocene with Sarain interviewing Julia Langer, CEO of the Toronto Atmospheric Fund and Susan Blight, a Toronto-based Anishinaabe, Couchiching First Nation artist and activist, who discusses urban indigeneity and reclaiming space in cities through art and language.
Episode 5 asks what do we do we lose when species are gone? Currently, thousands of species are endangered and on the brink of extinction. In this episode, wildlife biologist Dr. Winnie Kiiru speaks about the endangered African elephant and Kenya’s symbolic 2016 ivory tusk burn. (Artworks in the AGO and NGC exhibitions speak to this powerful event.)
Elizabeth Kolbert, New Yorker staff writer and author of the Pulitzer prize-winning book The Sixth Extinction, reveals how species loss impacts the planet. And poet Adam Dickinson, who embarked on a personal journey into his own body for his latest book Anatomic, speaks about the ways we’ve changed our own biological chemistry.
Episode 6 – Connecting to the exhibitions’ Canadian content, our sixth and penultimate episode takes listeners into the woods, exploring the beauty and industry in British Columbia’s old-growth forests. Author Harley Rustad and activist Ken Wu transport us into these majestic woodlands and tell us about trees wider than a truck. Tla-o-qui-at carver and activist Joe Martin shares what these old-growth forests mean to him and tells listeners
“Mother Nature will provide for our needs but not our greed.”
What the heck is the Anthropocene and how does it affect your life, your world?
The Anthropocene exhibitions are on now at the Art Gallery of Ontario and at the National Gallery of Canada until early 2019.
Shiralee Hudson Hill is Lead Interpretive Planner at the Art Gallery of Ontario.