Chris Jordan makes art from our excesses and suggests personal responsibility (!) is the answer

This is a great talk about excess, but also about personal responsibility. Chris Jordan’s work takes a number (like 10 million paper cups every day) and makes an image out of it. It’s striking. That Americans use 10 million paper cups a day is almost meaningless. That, on average, every American buys a coffee in a paper cup every 10 days hardly seems like a fact worthy of note. But, in fact, that number translates into an image of a square wall of paper cups as tall as the Statue of Liberty generated every day. It is a strange and uncommon realization that our personal, daily, insignificant choices are (in fact) significant to the Grand Scheme of Things.

From the TED talk by Chris Jordan: Picturing excess:

“My work is about the behaviors that we all engage in unconsciously on a colective level. And what I mean by that is the behaviors that we are in denial about and the ones that operate below the surface of our daily awareness. As individuals we all do these things all the time every day. It’s like when you’re mean to you rwife because you are mad at somebody else… or when you drink a little too much at a party just out of anxiety… or when you overeat because your feelings are hurt.

“And when we do these kind of things – when 300 million people do these kind of things, these kind of unconscious behaviors, then it can ad dup to a catastrophic consequencde that nobody wants and nobody intended.

“How do we change as a culture? And how do we each individually take responsibility for the one piece of the solution that we are in charge of? The answer is in our own behavior. My belief is that you don’t have to make yourself bad to look at these issues. I’m not pointing the finger at America in a blaming way. I’m simply saying that this is who we are right now. And if there are things that we see that we don’t like about our culture, then we have a choice.

“The degree of integrity that each of us can bring to the surface, that each of us can bring to this question, the depth of character that we can summon as we show up for the question of “how do we change?” – it’s already defining us as individuals and as a nation. And it will continue to do that on in to the future. And it will profoundly affect the wellbeing and quality of life of billions of people who are going to inherit the results of our decisions.”