Altered Earth

Synthetic nitrogen farming; the consequential machine

When I think of farming, myself and many others think of the romanticism behind it. While beginning my research for my third sculpture in my series on the evolution of farming, I was not prepared for finding out the effects nitrogen has on farming and our environment. The struggle to feed the growing population of the world in the late nineteenth century led to the introduction of synthetic nitrogen farming to increase crop yield. Over half of our population today is fed with the dependency on nitrogen fertilizer. Nitrogen fertilizer not absorbed by crops travels through our water, soil and air leading to contamination affecting our environment and human health.

The core of the sculpture is based on the Native American philosophy of balance in the environment. It is structured using four panels representing the north, east, south and west which balances earth and divides the upper and lower worlds. These worlds must communicate in order to have harmony. The incomplete spheres show the lack of harmony between both worlds.

“Altered Earth” also represents the struggle with the imbalance of feeding the world and protecting our fragile ecosystem. The metal disks represent the nitrogen, symbolizing the contrast between the organic earth and the chemical that erodes it.

Fifty years ago Rachel Carson, in Silent Spring, made us aware of man’s ability to control the natural environment. Carson stressed the balance of nature is critical to the survival of humanity. She also stressed that chemical pesticides will be the death of our natural environment and the human body via cell poisoning (cancer). I am thankful for the awareness she brought the public and ecology movement but very saddened by the slow change and mostly by the lack of individual efforts.

The sculpture was exhibited at the Collaborative Concepts Farm Project 2014. “Altered Earth” stands amidst the mountainous cow fields of Saunders Farm. It is made from 1/8" stainless steel, painted mahogany and aluminum discs.
Measuring 4ft. D x 8ft. W x 9ft. H