SPECIAL To NewEnergyNews: Mixed Media Art Exhibit Is A Reminder For New Energy
California Desert Mixed Media Art Exhibit Reminds New Energy: “We Are Judged By What We Leave Behind”
Herman K. Trabish, April 30, 2018 (NewEnergyNews)
The massive solar and wind projects scattered through California’s deserts and mountain passes are together a template for turning back climate change. But an exhibition opening May 12 at the Lancaster Museum of Art and History (MOAH) sends a striking reminder to the makers of that template.
In all they build, they are responsible to future generations because “we are judged by what we leave behind,” one of the exhibit’s creators told NewEnergyNews.
“High & Dry: Land Artifacts,” showing May 12 through July 15 at Lancaster MOAH, is a mixed media words, photos, and artifacts exhibition. Writer-desert historian Christopher Langley and photographer Osceola Refetoff match their work with museum pieces recovered from a too-littered desert Southwest to reveal how badly industrialists of earlier eras met their responsibility to future generations.
The exhibit provides vivid evidence of the exploitations by predecessors to the New Energy visionaries now carving out a solution to climate change. The early mining and energy industries left poignant reminders, captured in words and images by the artists, that market forces will not rectify greedy abuses of California’s once-pristine landscape.
The good news is that today’s quest to reinvent the U.S. power system was early on limited to carefully selected, previously disturbed sites, in order to ensure environmentally compatible wind and solar electricity generation. And developers have long been contractually obligated to restore the land, if and when they abandon it.
The work of Langley and Refetoff, which has previously been featured on KCET’s “Artbound,” reveals the failures of the abusers that went before. Their exhibit is intended to be part of a dialogue about what now scars California’s landscape. “The Mojave and other California deserts are polluted with ruins that are ignored and forgotten,” Langley told NewEnergyNews. “But we can learn from what others left behind.”
One example pictured and described in the Lancaster exhibit is the remnants of soda ash plants decaying around Inyo County’s Owens Dry Lake. The images of the parched, dry lake are also a reminder of how Los Angeles pillaged others’ water to serve its own greed.
Another example of what the exhibit teaches are its haunting infrared images of abandoned mines with names that California should never forget, like Trona, Cerra Gordo, Searles Valley, and Red Hill Quarry.
California’s groundbreaking solar and wind projects are the best answer this century has to climate change. There is no going back to caves, yurts, teepees, and igloos. The world only spins forward. Only continuing to build New Energy in the responsible way these technologies were pioneered can keep modernity’s wheels turning and its cell phones charged without boiling the world.
The good news is that, unlike their predecessors, New Energy developers cannot put a shovel into the ground without being thoroughly vetted by stewards of the environment. Courageous environmentalists took on the hard choices necessary to fight climate change while defending the landscape. Their message to renewables developers has always been that they must do the right thing the right way.
Perhaps successors to Langley and Refetoff will someday have an exhibit at MOAH showing before, during, and after images of BrightSource, First Solar, and MidAmerican solar projects and the breakthrough wind projects in the Tehachapi, San Gorgonio and Altamont Passes. Perhaps those images will give a more positive meaning to Langley’s remark that “what we leave behind tells a lot about us.”
“HIGH & DRY: LAND ARTIFACTS” – AN EXPLORATION OF THE CALIFORNIA DESERT COMPRISING IMAGES by Photographer Osceola Refetoff and text by Writer/Historian Christopher Langley
OPENING RECEPTION at MOAH, MAY 12, 4PM TO 6PM
(Visitors are asked to bring a personal artifact for a desert time capsule)