The drawer contains collected and made objects that tell stories of taboo subjects – lost species, lost habitat, zoonotic transfer, replica viruses, ocean trash, forced sea and land farming, pesticides, mining, bones, and more.
“My grandmother used to say that when someone doesn’t want to think about something because it upsets them, or there’s a topic not to be discussed, worrying or too difficult, they ‘put it in the bottom drawer’. No dictionary I have checked seems to note this expression but there are plenty of synonyms; Polish people have an alternative expression to our English ‘elephant in the room’. They say ‘the stink from the dead body in the closet’. An ‘elephant in the room’ can be so confronting to coexist with that it’s better to put it out of sight – in the bottom drawer.
We are dancing on the graves of lost species, lost habitat, lost balance. In our closed rooms we long for a reconnection with Nature. Our Bottom Drawer is full of things we need to pull out, understand, feel and immediately deal with.
The treatment of economy and nature as rival spheres is directly responsible for a number of recent epidemics. Experts argue that commercial intrusion into the deep recesses of nature, especially uninhibited areas has been suicidal at best. Intensive farming, hyper-concentration of farm animals, and the ever-expanding frontiers of commercial aquaculture and agriculture have created new interfaces between humans and animals, between farm and wild animals, between wild animals and other organisms that have no history of co-existence, and between animals and pathogens. This has caused several cases of Zoonotic Transfers that have been responsible for SARS, MERS, Swine Flu, Ebola, and now the Novel Coronavirus. (Zoonotic refers to the ability of pathogens to jump between species. Domesticated animals can be intermediary hosts from wildlife. The novel diseases that emerge are the result of human hosts with no immunity to the viruses carried by other animals.)
Four researchers from Hong Kong have come to this conclusion: “Corona viruses are well known to undergo genetic recombination, which may lead to new genotypes and outbreaks. The presence of a large reservoir of SARS-CoV-like viruses in horseshoe bats, together with the culture of eating exotic mammals in southern China, is a time bomb.
We need to urgently recognise the role of human behaviour, human populations and their development practices as the world faces pandemic disease like COVID-19. The latest coronavirus disease started as a result of humans eating wildlife or otherwise being infected by wildlife caged for human consumption (a cultural practice that the Chinese government has now banned). Within months of the initial event in China, the whole world has gone into lockdown and economies into meltdown thanks to pandemic spread of the virus.
Other recent zoonotic viral diseases, like SARS, that spread through some Asian countries emerged due to similar behaviours. Ebola in Africa is another example of the dangers of eating bushmeat — monkeys, apes in that case. AIDs had similar genesis.
Human mal-interaction with the natural environment has disastrous health impacts.
Governments and communities world-wide need to recognise and address the interactions between environmental change and infectious disease emergence.
Increasing habitat invasion and biodiversity destruction as well as the lucrative and criminal world wildlife trade are the major drivers of a threat to human civilisation as we know it that rivals that other Nature Fightback, Climate Disruption.
Australians are no longer strangers to either the impacts of climate change or to massive habitat and biodiversity destruction for economic gain. It has been harder to ignore the ecosystem loss of the Murray Darling in the past 12 months, or the mounting cost of 200 years of native vegetation and wildlife removal, on behalf of farming and development.
Reaction to a string of novel diseases has been almost totally reactive and human-society focused without looking at the larger picture. Yet 70% of new infectious diseases in recent decades and most pandemics are related to human interaction with wildlife and natural habitat.
Deforestation, expansion of agricultural land, intensive animal raising, and increased hunting and trading of wildlife are driving this ongoing global train wreck.
The explosion of livestock production and intensive animal raising worldwide increases the risk of zoonotic diseases being transmitted by and through domesticated animals — poultry and swine flus being examples.
A new academic discipline, Planetary Health, is emerging as scientists begin to understand better the relationship between increasing human populations, the worldwide destruction of natural systems and their unique biodiversity, and unpredicted pandemic events.”
– Roger Scholes
Wednesday 6 October – Monday 1 November 2021**
**Installation viewable 24/7