Two crises collide, “I Can’t Breathe”

I can't breathe
(c) Betty Butler, I Can’t Breath, Digital Painting, 2020

Ideas for I Can’t Breathe (above) came to me as I heard George Floyd’s last words, which echoed the words of seriously ill and dying COVID-19 patients. Visually, I envisioned unwarranted police violence, multiplying virus particles, facial masks, and a general sense of chaos.

In Minneapolis, MN, Memorial Day, May 25, 2020, four police officers snuffed out a black man’s life. Two days later, on May 27, the US reached a death toll of 100,000 persons from COVID-19. Concurrently, young people, black, white, and brown (mostly wearing masks), took to the streets protesting for justice. Finally, protests continued, until one, then the other three officers were charged with some degree of murder. The President could not help himself but make things worse. He ordered the United States military to tear gas a peaceful crowd of protesters in DC, so he could walk to a nearby church and hold up a bible (upside down) for a photo-op. The nation-wide and world-wide protests continue.

COVID-19 continues to spread

US states have reopened their businesses at different rates. Meanwhile, since Memorial Day, there has been a spike in virus spread and hospitalizations in some states. Let’s hope for a more unified approach to social distancing, mask-wearing, and testing in the future.

Exhibition in the Canary Islands, Spain

I was honored to have three of my prints juried into an international exhibition entitled Lost at Lacuna Festivals, Canary Islands, Spain. The theme could include lost culture, language, and traditions. My three chosen works referenced the Australian fires of 2019-2020, and the loss of life and environment. Then the curators informed the artists that the exhibition Lost was almost lost because of the pandemic. Soon, they found a solution and asked the artists for permission to show their work in an online festival.

The Lacuna Festivals will take place online from June 26 – July 31, 2020.

I can't breathe
(c) Betty Butler, Australian Fires, Digital Collage, 2020
(c) Betty Butler, Kangaroo Escape, Digital Collage, 2020
I can't breathe
(c) Betty Butler, Escaping the Fire, Digital Collage, 2020

COVID-19 and the Australian fires

Australian Fires
(c) Betty Butler, Kangaroo Escape, Digital Collage, 2020
Australian Fires
(c) Betty Butler, Escaping the Fire, Digital Collage, 2020

It is hard to believe that it was only in January of this year that the world finally took notice of the 2019-2020 Australian fires. They had been devastating to the country’s environment and tragically caused human deaths and homelessness. However, the situation also pulled at our heartstrings. The world has witnessed the burning and suffering of Australia’s beautiful and rare animals. Scientists estimate one billion have died. In January, I was moved to create these digital collages relating to the inferno’s effect on human and animal life.

A hotter planet

Yet, by March, the world had turned its attention to a crisis that no one could ignore, the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the two catastrophes could be related by one glaring issue: global warming. Recent studies have confirmed that Australia’s wildfires have now been linked to climate change. Drought and Climate-influenced temperatures raised the wildfire risk by 30 percent.

Concerning the Corona Virus, of course, modern travel can quickly spread a pandemic from continent to continent. Moreover, pandemics like this are expected to rise as the climate changes. Illnesses carried by mosquitoes, ticks, and other animals, will likely increase on a hotter planet. In addition, when humans cramp and stress animals in tight cages, a viral crossover from species to species can occur. This is especially true in wet markets, which create a toxic mix of animal fluids and human beings. These viruses may have been coexisting within the animal species for many years, but people carry no immunity to them.

It seems like the global community is learning painfully, not to wait too long to address a problem like a pandemic. We are seeing how quickly illness and death can mount up in a short amount of time. I hope our world community can learn from this and take corrective steps for our climate NOW. A tipping point for the earth could come sooner than we think.