Let us begin to shift the narrative focus of the ongoing mass species extinction crisis – from extinction to die-off. Rather than waiting for an uncertain future time, the shift will encourage us to engage with the present. Rather than mourning that which is no more, the shift will encourage us to fight for the survival of the living. The focus on die-off will also bring the crisis closer to home, a spatial shift. And it will help expose more effectively the myriad drivers of the extinction crisis. Banerjee has witnessed and documented in photographs and writing two mass die-offs: one in the desert of northern New Mexico (piñion) and other at the edge of the sea in the Pacific Northwest (sea stars). In both cases, more than 90% of the respective populations perished, one of which, the sea star die-off, was labeled by the New Yorker magazine as the “greatest wildlife mass-mortality event” of our time. When Banerjee started working in Arctic Alaska in 2001, the southern Beaufort Sea polar bear population was stable, but by 2010, 40% of that population had perished – another mass die-off. The talk will include stories and visual material, and interdisciplinary and intersectional analysis. The conversation would be the seed of a global citizen art/humanities/science initiative, “A Living Archive of Mass Die-offs” – to apprehend and avert the Sixth Extinction.
Subhankar Banerjee is a self-trained artist and writer and an accidental activist. He holds the Lannan Chair and is a professor of Art & Ecology at the University of New Mexico. For more information visit his website: http://subhankarbanerjee.org/news.html.