Fine Art Photography as Activism
Toxic masculinities are preventing men from engaging with environmentally sustainable behaviours. This phenomenon creates a gendered eco gap, fuelled by the avoidance of behaviours perceived to be green to escape emasculation. Inspired by the actions/inactions of our political leaders, ‘Toxic’ visually explores how these archaic masculinities interact with climate change and consumption. The protagonist is the embodiment of the elite toxic male – the fabricator of doubt, the right wing-neoliberalist, the demographic monetising the next generation’s existence.
1 & 2: Meathead I & II
This part of the series visually explores the link between masculinity and meat. In western economies, beef consumption needs to fall by 90% to keep temperature rise within 2C by 2050. UK citizens ‘bringing home the bacon’ will need to eat nine times less pork.
3. Follow The Money
The network of climate science denial continues to corrupt and influence policy through complex monetary donations and the spread of misinformation. This network consists of polluters, front organisations, and politicians benefiting from a delay in effective action.
One of these organisations in the UK is the ‘Global Warming Policy Forum’ (GWPF), a deregulatory think tank founded by Lord Lawson – an active climate change denier with no professional climate science credentials but a heck load of experience and connections in big oil. The GWPF has been financially linked to a wealth of generous ‘donations’ to Tory MPs, with Bojo accepting a generous ‘donation’ in the most recent leadership campaign.
4. Food Play
Toxic man sits back and releases his oil-fed gut to consume his dazzling tv dinner as he watches his delay tactics of distraction and derailment intersect with the global pandemic.
He is washing it down with the catastrophic cocktail that COVID-19 has created for the war on plastics. A cocktail consisting of a bitter shot of increased global demand for single-use plastics due to the fear of contamination + a little drop in the demand for oil created by the economic slowdown, which has reduced the price of ‘virgin plastics’ - new plastics from fossil fuel production. This has intensified the price war between big oil’s new plastics and recycled alternatives at a time where the climate crisis really can’t afford it.
5. The Male Trail
Inspired by research into waste management which revealed that males in western economies are statistically more likely to litter, leave a larger carbon footprint and less likely to recycle than females.
Analysis suggests that this behaviour stems from the belief that being environmentally conscious is a feminine trait, and thus being a 'wasteman' safeguards an alleged sense of masculinity. Research has also found that males are equally likely to avoid green practices in public and private, suggesting males are more concerned about preserving their own self-perception of masculinity than being environmentally conscious.
6. Out of Sight, Out of Mind
Inspired by the escalating problem of illegal plastic waste exports.
When you pop packaging into the recycling bin, it is actually recycled, right?… Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. The UK exports around twice as much plastic packaging for recycling as it processes domestically - 691,993 tonnes in 2019.
Where is it going? Many businesses that identify as recycling businesses actually only sort waste and then sell it on brokers to undetermined and ill-prepared destinations. Until 2018, China imported most of the world’s plastic waste. When they closed their ports to plastic imports, western economies passed the problem onto unprepared Asian nations – primarily Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand and Turkey.
These nations do not have the infrastructure, regulation, and capacity to safely handle their own waste in a socially and environmentally responsible way, let alone vast amounts of plastics from the richest nations of the world. Unable to deal with the quantity, much of the waste isn’t properly processed. Instead, the plastics are abandoned at illegal dumpsites, where it is burnt at the roadside or ultimately left to pollute previously beautiful environments.
With these nations beginning to recognize the perilous health and environmental risks, the burden must eventually be passed again. ‘The American Chemistry Council’ an American lobby group representing oil and chemical companies - is now lobbying the Trump administration to export plastic waste to Kenya. Where does it end?
7. The Greenwasher
‘Greenwashing’ is the creation of commercial and political propaganda that broadcasts an environmentally conscious public image rather than actually implementing change that minimises environmental impact. With the climate crisis entering the mainstream consumer conscience, progressively more toxic companies and politicians scrub themselves green. Unregulated carbon offsets, falsified political promises, and fake labels such as ‘sustainable palm oil’ are designed to cloud consumer judgement and delay effective action.