Street Art in the Shadow of Dirty Coal
Street artist Jetsonorama has created haunting images of a Navajo baby menaced by a piece of coal—a metaphoric black cloud hanging over her head—for the Climate Street Art project by 350.org raising awareness of the harmful effects of CO2 emissions. In researching the Navajo Nation's relationship with coal, he conducted informal interviews with 15 Navajo Nation residents, simply asking them what comes to mind when they think of the word "coal."
"If the Navajo people and coal were to declare their relationship status on Facebook, they'd have to chose the 'it's complicated' option," he writes on his blog, speakingloudandsayingnothing.blogspot.com. "Everyone in my small sample identified respiratory problems associated with burning coal in the home. Everyone acknowledged that the coal mined on the reservation is used to generate energy off the reservation for surrounding megalopolises such as Denver, Phoenix, Albuquerque, Las Vegas and L.A. They found this arrangement to be problematic. It should be noted that the Navajo Nation has the largest coal mining operation in the southwest and one of the largest operations in the world.
"The reservation is home to 170,000 people who live in an area that is 27,500 square miles. It's larger than 10 individual states within the U.S. Over half of the population lives below the USA-defined poverty line despite having land that is rich in coal, natural gas, uranium and water. The unemployment rate is 40%. Mining operations on the reservation provide work for a small segment of the population who are able to realize a middle class lifestyle for their families. However, the cost to the families who burn coal in their homes and to the environment is great."
The baby in the picture is 5-month-old JC, the daughter of a friend. 350.org is a grassroots organization seeking to bring CO2 emissions down to the level recommended by scientists: 350 parts per million. (The current level is 391, according to the group's website.) The Climate Street Art project includes work by several other artists from around the United States, China and South Africa.