Degrading Environment and Habituation :
The day we started getting used to this.
Angkor Wat, Cambodia. One of the wonders of the world. Over two million tourists a year. At sunrise, a horde of photographers. After sunrise, trash left behind, shamelessly.
Once upon a time, our planet was green. Our planet was clean.
But that was before.
I’m an 80’s child. I did my first travels to the far east in my twenties, the early 2000’s. And I do remember clearly that is it was not perfect, but it was mostly clean. I still have pictures that prove it. Some countries were dirtier than others of course. But it was mostly dust, mud, or organic waste on the ground, and less infrastructures. What I clearly remember, is that it didn’t look like the humankind had given up on the planet.
Now, I have been on the road for over a year, and my daily life has become a world of discovery and exploration. I see new things everyday, and I meet new people.
I know I’m living something that few people will get [or dare] to do. This is an awesome chance, but a giant leap in a lifetime. And everyday, I wake up to murmur to my partner: "we are so so lucky…".
This makes people dream. And for a reason. Some even travel and live on selling this dream to others. The dream of a perfect beach. The dream of idleness. The dream of the greatest hotels. The dream of becoming famous. The dream of other people envying your life.
But traveling has one major downside. You cannot keep your eyes closed on our degrading environment. And what hurts sometimes, is to see these dreamsellers sell places and situations that do not exist anymore. Selling perfect utopia.
Clean beaches in Bali.
Loneliness in the Antelope Canyon.
Contemplative spirituality at the MachuPicchu.
To me, it is still mostly fine... until I see them crop their photos to take the embarrassing stuff away. The crowds. The clouds. The trash.
In my opinion, it is just as off-putting as when a journalist uses a picture of a long-ago war to illustrate the rising violence of a city. Or as hypocritical as when we're being told that electric mobility is clean, while the extraction of rare earths is destroying landscapes and wasting great amounts of water. It sometimes look like the word ethics has been banned from our world. But I miss it.
The planet has once been extremely beautiful, it has been feeding, ravishing, and inspiring. But today, it offers us a new face to see. And just as a person is hard to recognize after too much face surgery, our earth is hard to recognize sometimes.
Beaches are trashed, woods are trashed, monuments are trashed, oceans and rivers are trashed, roads are trashed… But this is not the worst.
The worst is that our eyes are getting used to it. That it is becoming our normality. People swim in the trash, paddle in the trash, they fish in the trash, they drive in the trash, they walk in the trash, they take picnics in the trash. They play in the trash. They live in the trash.
Sites around the world apply for World Heritage recognition by the Unesco and sometimes get listed as such, like Guanajuato, Sian Ka'an, Jaipur, or the temples of Angkor, they take the advantages of the flow of tourism that follows any listing, and never really comply with what "conservation" should really mean. They do not necessarily invest in renovation, cleanliness, or education. And in some ways, I fine this quite unfair to only take advantage without giving back to conservation and protection.
This series of pictures I’m afraid, is bound to grow.
It doesn't have an end. I intend to keep documenting the state of our planet, even though it breaks my heart each and every single time I grab my camera to do it.
The fact that we’re just getting used to it is unacceptable to me. That kids being born today will never know what a clean river is, a clean desert looks like, or a clean street means.
With on one side a strong focus on aesthetics in the consumerist world of today and on the other side places being more and more trashed, everything now has to be retouched or framed on the “good looking”. Selfies, surroundings, landscapes… I wanted to put reality back into its context, for once.
“For once”, because like everybody else, I prefer the good-looking. So I normally end-up traveling to remote enough places where the landscapes are clean. But in the end, even if my pictures show nothing but the truth, they do not always show the whole truth. And I wanted you to know.
I hope this project can act as a witness of one particular moment in the history – the very moment when humans have forgotten to consider their own garden as a treasure and started getting used to the sight of their own trash.
NOTE : These photographs have been edited in a style that is very different from the one I choose for other pictures usually. Here, I used filters that are very contemporary, very anchored into the 2010's.
I wanted to give them a feel that is the one of the Instagram generation, to show what our world of today is mostly not showing : the downsides of everything.
Habituation is a form of non-associative learning in which an innate response to a stimulus decreases after repeated or prolonged presentations of that stimulus. Responses that habituate include those that involve the intact organism (e.g., full-body response) or those that involve only components of the organism.
The broad ubiquity of habituation across all biologic phyla has resulted in it being called "the simplest, most universal form of learning... as fundamental a characteristic of life as DNA." Functionally-speaking, by diminishing the response to an inconsequential stimulus, habituation is thought to free-up cognitive resources to other stimuli that are associated with biologically important events (i.e., punishment/reward).
For example, organisms may habituate to repeated sudden loud noises when they learn these have no consequences. A progressive decline of a behavior in a habituation procedure may also reflect nonspecific effects such as fatigue, which must be ruled out when the interest is in habituation.