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Edward Burtynsky’s “In the Wake of Progress”

Back only a day from staring at the lake and already lots going on. I hate to bring you down, but I just came from Edward Burtynsky’s In the Wake of Progress exhibition. He travels the world taking magnificent photographs and film of the devastation wrought by humankind — strip mines, housing projects, car lots, garbage dumps, industrial wastelands. The show opens with glorious footage inside a BC rainforest, and then he pans back to show the horror of clear-cutting. He shows people in third world countries living in the most appalling conditions, thanks to us – people rummaging in garbage in Africa, thousands lined up in factories in China making clothing and electronics. It is to weep.

If you’re in Toronto, I do urge you to see it – it’s at the COC centre on Front Street for a few more days, produced by Luminato. I had one complaint that I passed on to them – the pounding music is way too loud. The film is hard enough to watch, they don’t need to assault us with sound. But see it if you can. It’s depressing as hell, but we need to be reminded. And there are brochures of all kinds of good causes on the way out, including BC’s Ancient Forest Alliance and one to stop Highway 113 that I will definitely sign up for.

And then coming out to the prosperous, increasingly desperate and angry city. Glad to ride home on my bike, polluting nothing. But I confess, on the way home, to cheer myself up, I stopped at Doubletake, where I go once a week. After mourning the devastation of our planet, I stopped to shop. Yes, it’s a thrift store, and my clothes are almost entirely second-hand, but still, talk about “an uneasy contradiction,” as Burtynsky does, above. That’s the problem, the human urge to consume. How to stop? 

I bought a pale blue linen top. It’s beautiful. Do I need it? No. Do I love it? Yes. And had a long chat with Samia, my friend from Bangladesh who works there. I’m happy to report she and her family have moved into affordable housing in Regent Park, a beautiful apartment, she says. So – good news. Thank God. 

Came home and went to prune the tomatoes. Will do my best to care for my little patch of earth. 

Another magnificent show with incredible photography last night — David Attenborough’s The Green Planet, the world seen from the point of view of its plants with mind-boggling time lapse photography. He shows us plant predators and even carnivores, the miraculous way plants adapt in the struggle to survive. Of course, so many plants and their habitats endangered now. 

Did one more silly thing, and I tell you this though I know my friends will make fun of me. A doctor wrote an op-ed in the Star today about how older people are denigrated as past their prime though they often have many good productive years ahead of them – urging the elderly to keep going. He uses as an example of someone who produced brilliantly when young and then sadly faded away … Paul McCartney! Can you imagine? This musician who’s never stopped creating for over sixty years? So I wrote him a letter refuting his article, suggesting that if he’d done a modicum of research he’d see the man, at eighty, is in fighting creative trim. And mailed it to his hospital.

Does this woman know what really matters to fight in this world? Obviously not. Does Macca need me to defend him? Also not. And yet, defend him I do. I know, my energy should go to the rain forests and the old growth forests and fighting Highway 113. I’ll do that too, I promise. Wearing my new top while doing so.



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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

Some Blogs I Follow

Chris Walks
This blog evolves. It once was about travels. Now it’s a reason to be at the keyboard that I value.

Theresa Kishkan
Theresa Kishkan is a writer living on the Sechelt Peninsula on the west coast of Canada.

I walk on. With my feet, and in my mind as well.

Carrie Snyder
Wherever you’ve come from, wherever you’re going, consider this space a place for reflection and pause.


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