August 10, 2013


Hello and welcome back!
On this gloriously sunny summer morning I would like to introduce, or revisit you to Mazatl. A Mexican resident, Mazatl is a print maker, illustrator and painter. How work is beautiful and charged with social, political and environmental justice themes. His work is unapologetic and unrelenting, with the goal of justice and a better future.

This is probably my favorite piece of his. Strong colors, strong composition, and strong message. Short, sweet, and to the point. Not afraid of getting right to the point and in your face. This is a possible scene from the not-too-distant future. Sad but true.
Justicia Climatica (Climate Justice)
Four color Silkscreen print
27" x 16"

But I also really like this series about extinction. For those of you who might not know, current day extinction rates, globally, are 10-100 and possibly as much as 1000 times the background extinction rate. To put this even more bluntly, Earth has experienced five mass extinctions, the last of which killed off the dinosaurs. Today's extinction rates could be an indicator that we are in the midst of the sixth great extinction.

Extincion 1
One color Relief Block Print
14" x 25"

Extincion 3
One color Relief Block Print
14" x 25"

The following is an interesting piece. Both social and environmental, it addresses the United Nations Programme for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (REDD, . The program has been extremely controversial since the beginning. The basic idea is as follows: Forests have a huge Carbon storing and sequestering potential. When forests are cut down and destroyed, the stored Carbon is released into the atmosphere and contributes global warming through the intensification of the greenhouse effect. Many developing countries around the world use their forests as important revenue sources. The REDD program pays partner countries to maintain and protect their forests rather than cut them down. The idea is that if these countries can be compensated for maintaining their forest instead of cutting them down, it will minimize the global warming effects from destroying them

There are many good arguments both for and against the program, and personally I am still on the fence. It is extremely hard to make sure that the program is executed responsibly and correctly, but if it were it could have a lot of positive potential. There are a few aspects in particular that make the program particularly difficult to implement without unintended consequences. Here are just a few:
-Defining an appropriate deforestation baseline. How do you measure if deforestation is increading in a country if the amount deforested changes every year. Do you put your base line at last years rates? 10 years ago? 
-There is also the problem of the payments. Who benefits from the payments? Are the funneled through the central government, which could be a problem in politically corrupt countries? Do the payments trickle down to the locals, who most need the revenue from the forests? 
-Then there is the problem of actually monetarily valuing the forests. Paying for Carbon sequestration is new and there are still many kinks to iron out. The general idea is to pay for tons of Carbon sequestering potential/area measurement. But this leaves out many other values of the forest such as the ecosystem services it provides, climate change mitigation potential (i.e. Maintaining forests means maintaining more stable rain systems which are needed for crop production. Do you value future lives lost from drought and starvation in developing countries? etc)
-If that weren't challenging enough, there is the morality of putting a price on nature. There are some environmentalists and others who deeply believe that the environment is priceless and that it is simply an act of commodification to try to put a price on it. While others believe that since the forests are already receiving a price (lumber and other products) that we must work within the system of trade and commerce to even begin addressing the issue of deforestation and reducing Carbon emissions. 

The commodification of nature is the central, and obvious, issue addressed in NO REDD.  I agree that no amount of money can truly describe the value of forests, and that they are priceless. They are the lungs of the earth, supplying ecosystem services like clean water and clean air, they provide weather and water system regulation, they include habitats and ecosystems teaming with extremely valuable biodiversity, and they have a spiritual value for many that I will not try to describe here. While pricing forests are incredibly complex and possibly impossible, I believe there is value in trying. We are working in a broken system. Forests are being destroyed and their products sold on the market. If standing on the moral ground of how wrong it is to destroy the forests fails, as it appears is the case, is it truly a crime to try for a better system? Dropping REDD seems to me throwing away an attempt for good for lack of the perfect. The program is not perfect, and there are unintended consequences, but I believe that it is a step in the right direction. It is hard to play a game when the players are on different fields and speak different languages.  

Collaboration with Melanie Cervantes
22" x 34"

Here is one last piece by Mazatl. It is more social than environmental, as if these things could be separated. I love the call for collaboration, unification, and standing up for justice. Although not dead, the 99% movement receives much less press these days in the US than it did in the beginning. Despite the lack of press, there are still many throughout the world fighting for justice and a more fair system. 

One characteristic of Mazatl's work that I value most highly is his breadth. Almost across the bored social, political and environmental issues are inextricably linked. Far too often do I see and hear people and programs that try to address these issue separately, trying to fix the symptom rather than the root cause.