Monday, October 30, 2006

Your rates at work

If you have a passing interest in sustainable development issues, The Earth from Above photographic exhibition, featuring the work of French photographer Yann Arthus Bertrand, is well worth checking out. It's on at Federation Square until December 12, 2006. Bertrand's photographs reveal the natural beauty of our world, but also the devastation our poor stewardship of its resources has caused.

Bertrand is a strong advocate of sustainable development. This is a way of achieving economic growth in a more environmentally sensitive way. He believes it would allow us to improve the living conditions of the world's citizens and to satisfy the needs of generations to come. This development would be based on an economic growth respectful of both man and the natural resources of our world, with a conscious effort made to ensure that all people around the world share equally in its benefits and achieve a decent standard of living, which isn't happening at the moment. Since all people are made in the image of God, helping this to come about affirms their human dignity.

Some Christians, myself included, feel a little uncomfortable trying to reconcile our faith with environmental issues. We must be careful that this is done in submission and reference to this Scriptural mandate. In Genesis, God appointed humanity as stewards to manage His creation so that His Name would be honoured. Christian thinkers have argued that Christians have a valid part to play in the environmental movement. They have allowed themselves to be excluded from this movement, and other spiritual ideologies have filled the void. To some extent, environmentalism has become synonymous with earth worship or pantheism. In pantheist thought, everything bears the imprint of God, so creation can be worshipped in the same way as the God who made it. This way of thinking is idolatry and must be rejected.

Under now outmoded economic theories, governments benevolently provided their citizens with what were termed as public goods. These had almost no economic value, but were thought to enhance quality of life in some intangible way. Presumably public artwork falls under this category. In order to improve the visual amenity of the city, Melbourne City Council has invested heavily in public artworks in recent years. I never studied art appreciation when I was in school, or if I did, I wasn't paying attention. Apparently it's supposed to make symbolic statements about contemporary society, the human condition, and other philosophical concerns.
This symbolism is lost on me.

While I don't go out of my way to look at it, when I see public artwork, most of the time, I'm left scratching my head and thinking, "What's all that about?" I've no idea what these two artworks, situated in Birrarung Marr are meant to represent. As you can see, one looks like giant metal rods in a basket, and the other is a symbolic representation of some sort of animal. There was probably some sort of explanatory plaque nearby, but I didn't bother to look at it. Others I see as eyesores. One could mention the giant wooden dog near Fairfield Railway Station, erected at a cost of $5000. Evidently someone thought it was a good idea to install a set of large concrete eggs in a roundabout in Eltham, simulating a bird's nest. Maybe they were inspired by the Rocs, which are mythical bird-like monsters in the Sinbad stories. You may also have encountered an abstract giant green apple peel sculpture on a roundabout in Fitzsimon's Lane, Templestowe. This was to commemorate the apple orchards that once operated in the area until it was urbanised. Until it was explained to me what it was, I thought this piece looked like a thoughtlessly discarded piece of stretched chewing gum.

1 comment:

Kitty Cheng said...

Ross very nice post, with great photos! I have similar ones too :)