A Common Destiny: A Photographic Journey Through a Changing World

Overview

An artful photographic voyage documenting the impact of modern industry and consumerism on our planet, A Common Destiny presents a hauntingly beautiful vision of a world perched on the edge of an abyss. Juxtaposing images of pristine wilderness with photos of mines, abandoned nuclear reactors, large industrial farms, and spaces that exemplify artificiality and our increasing distance from nature—such as indoor ski slopes in Dubai, large-scale suburban housing development sites, and lavish casinos—Cédric Delsaux ...
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Overview

An artful photographic voyage documenting the impact of modern industry and consumerism on our planet, A Common Destiny presents a hauntingly beautiful vision of a world perched on the edge of an abyss. Juxtaposing images of pristine wilderness with photos of mines, abandoned nuclear reactors, large industrial farms, and spaces that exemplify artificiality and our increasing distance from nature—such as indoor ski slopes in Dubai, large-scale suburban housing development sites, and lavish casinos—Cédric Delsaux creates a powerful meditation on our ruthless hunger for mass production and energy.

Industries rarely accessible to the public are shown here in 135 oversized, full-color plates-petroleum fields, quarries, steel mills, meat-packing plants, poultry farms, enormous greenhouses, and assembly lines. Of equal interest are dozens of images that bear witness to today's dizzying pace of construction throughout the world, revealing how our attempt to accommodate an ever-growing population often overlooks the needs of its least fortunate. Glamorous skyscrapers abut the poorest slums, closely placed residential towers block out natural light, and thoughtless sprawl ensures that residents of large cities spend their lives in a maze of concrete.

Each striking, thought-provoking photograph is a work of art that allows us at once to marvel at our own industriousness and be shocked at its ramifications; we are asphyxiating the planet with our own inventions. Guided by thought-provoking essays from prominent environmental writers and activists including best-selling author Bill McKibben, renowned scientist James Lovelock, and Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathaï, the volume takes the reader on a journey from the least populous places on earth to the most densely inhabited, and urges us to reflect on our own habits and to resolve to take a more conscientious, active role in preserving natural resources.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
A Common Destiny is a hauntingly beautiful narrative, a meditation almost, reflective of how each action of our lives results in an impact, a consequence, a reaction somewhere else, near and far. In a decidedly ethereal manner, photographer Cédric Delsaux frames the collision of man and nature and the fragility of their dance together.
—Robert Redford

"Startlingly beautiful and chilling"
Discover magazine
 

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781580932554
  • Publisher: The Monacelli Press
  • Publication date: 11/17/2009
  • Pages: 214
  • Product dimensions: 14.40 (w) x 11.50 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Cédric Delsaux lives and works in Paris, France. After studying cinematography and journalism, he worked as a bookseller and in advertising. He has devoted himself to photography full-time since 2003. He received the Kodak prize for landscapes and architecture with his Star Wars on Earth series in 2005.

Best-selling author Bill McKibben has written several hundred pieces for The New Yorker. His writings on nature have also appeared in The New York Review of Books, The New York Times, Rolling Stone, and other national publications. He and his wife live in the Adirondack Mountains of New York.

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Read an Excerpt

From: Introduction by Bill McKibben

There are no people here. Maybe six or seven scattered throughout these extraordinary images. A tiny figure in a raincoat beneath a waterfall. An out-of-focus worker in some factory. A small cluster of onlookers in a tour boat, busy photographing the icebergs melting around them.

And yet, of course, people are what the photographs are all about. Save for the first few images, which serve as a kind of baseline—river! mountain! ocean!—each pulsates with the waves of human desire, at a frequency not quite visible to the naked eye except in its effects on the world. Some of the desires are clearly innocent; for instance, that of an Amazonian tribe for some connection to the larger world (the outcome of which one can guess at with a shudder). Some, such as the desire to go “skiing” beneath an air-conditioner, are pathetic. Some of the desires are the result of manipulation, but no less deep because of it. Most of the desires are brute, almost inchoate—for food, for energy, for goods on a scale so enormous as to seem inhuman. But the desires are never inhuman—each tire in a vast dump a testament to the thousands of trips it undertook, to the store or the office or the assignation. Each dipping nod of the oil rig driven by the hope for a burst of some particular pleasure, whether speed, light, or warmth.

Our industrial civilization has reached a scale, however, where our desires have become the central issue. Because of our sheer numbers, the size of each appetite is amplified: the trillions of miles covered by car, the billions of airline trips, the size of our houses. It is in our lifetimes—two or three decades out of the full span of human civilization—that those desires have reached a critical volume, large enough to erode all that had seemed safe and solid. And the numbers make the point.

Before the Industrial Revolution, the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide was 275 parts per million. That figure had scarcely wavered over the 10,000 years of human civilization—what it was for Shakespeare it was for the Buddha. It defined the world humans knew: a world, for instance, warm enough that the continental interiors were free of ice but cold enough at high elevations for glaciers to remain and provide a steady stream of summer water to slake Asia and South America and California.

. . . the set of desires we have constructed have done more than damage the planet. They have also damaged us, turning us into new kinds of people who are radically disconnected from each other. Cheap fossil fuel has had three effects: it has made us rich, it has destroyed our climatic balance, and it has created the first race of people who have no practical need of their neighbors. Food—represented here as yellow crates of chicks and sinister rows of hanging tomatoes—comes from some distant and unknown place. Energy comes not from the muscles of your neighbors joining together to raise a barn or bring in a harvest but from some form of destruction. But forget for a moment the destruction of mountainsides or atmospheres and focus instead on the destruction of communities. In America, exemplar of this trend, 75 percent of people have no relationship with their next-door neighbor. The average American has half as many friends as the average American fifty years ago. We eat meals with friends and family half as often as we did fifty years ago. And not surprisingly, we are less satisfied: barely a quarter of Americans count themselves as “very happy” with their lives, despite the insane material surfeit with which we live.

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