This is one of four summaries I wrote for four pieces which may be selected for publication. I share these with you though the pieces have been available for viewing on my website http://www.greenchicano.com
José González, Día De La Tierra, two-color screenprint, 2009.
Earth Day events have been a tradition within the environmental community since the first celebration in 1970. But while Earth Day has become an important focal point for environmental issues, it does not always bring to mind images of ethnic diversity—especially within the American environmental movement.
Dia de la Tierra was produced to present a contrast to “typical” Earth Day celebration and messaging. It was meant to evoke a Chicano art aesthetic while using imagery and language connected to, and empowering, frames of reference not always present in standard Earth Day imagery.
The contrast comes in four forms. Three of those forms are visually evident and the fourth is evident in the process. The first contrast is the color. The orange and yellow present a vibrant contrast to colors usually associated with Earth Day imagery—particularly blues and greens. The orange backdrop is meant to stand out much like other bright colors in Chicano posters produced since the 1960’s. The second contrast comes in the figure portrayed in the piece. It is a stylized Meso-American indigenous image, and using this image acknowledges a framework of connections with the Earth that predates modern ideas of how we fit into the ecosystem. The third contrast is in the language. It is completely in Spanish, calling not just for an observance but also a struggle: The direct translation is “Let it be not just celebration of Mother Earth, but also a fight against environmental injustice”. The fourth contrast is in that the piece was printed “on-site” and copies were given out to participants during a printmaking demonstration workshop. This process is consistent with the Chicano artist practice of making prints and posters for the community that are practical tools, that is, used as demonstration pieces during marches and protests instead of solely serving as pieces of art to be displayed and curated.
When asking questions about how … relate(s) to climate change, these same contrasts are relevant. What is the language we use in communicating climate change to other communities? How is the imagery relevant to the traditions, cultural, and artistic practices that are inherent to the different communities that are part of the climate justice movement? One way I have approached these questions is through a call for a “Climate Grito”, framing a call to action for climate justice with a direct reference to the “Grito De Dolores” which sparked the Mexican Revolution.
Much like calls to celebrate the planet on Earth Day and bring environmental awareness, a call to bring attention to climate change to “save the planet” is incomplete. It is a privilege to celebrate Earth Day in the way that it has been typically represented and it is an incomplete representation of the many ways that it can be celebrated. Here, “saving the planet” is really a call to save ourselves and pay attention in the ways that negative environmental effects cause harm to communities that do not have the same privileges to “save the planet” for the planet’s sake. The same call has been developing within the discussion of climate change. One can see this when we bring into conversation the framing of climate justice, just like when environmental justice brought a change to the conversation in mainstream environmentalism and conservation.
As it is commonly framed, this conversation includes a focus on the root causes of climate change and making the systemic changes and commitment needed to address the disproportionate burden of the climate crisis on the poor and marginalized. Part of this is a view of participatory democracy required to challenge and change systems such as the fossil fuel corporate power structure—but also the system of framing that communicates these issues.